April 27, 2016 by Zoë
And I Darken tells the story of Vlad the Impaler, if he were born a girl. Lada is not a boy, but she is headstrong and stubborn and willing to fight any boy (even if she doesn’t always win). This doesn’t stop her father from trading her and her younger brother Radu so that he can maintain control of his kingdom. Lada feels trapped, by her father’s deals, by a society that favors men, and by her own emotions–which she would rather not feel. Then she and Radu fall in with one of the sultan’s heirs and things become even more complicated.
This book is advertised as being akin to Game of Thrones, but in my opinion the similarities are fairly superficial. Game of Thrones (as far as I know) has a lot more to do with court politics than And I Darken. Sure, there is some politicking, but it’s pretty standard: scheming mothers of sultans-to-be, eunuchs secretly pulling the strings, etc. Nothing terribly new or interesting in terms of struggles for power.
More interesting were the characters. The book centers around Lada, Radu, and Mehmed–third in line to become sultan. All three of them are deeply flawed, but still feel quite human. I liked Lada as a character and sympathized with her frustrations even when I didn’t agree with all of her decisions.
However, even though the characters are interesting and not written to be perfect, I still had some trouble getting into the book. There just wasn’t enough detail for me. Lada wandered through the harem and I had to picture harems I’d read about in other books. Really building the setting was sacrificed for other things–mainly elaborating on the characters’ emotions. I don’t mind this so much, but I would have liked both.
There’s one other aspect of this book that I want to talk about: the gay and lesbian characters peppered throughout the story. I liked this so much that I’m actually going to tag this book as LGBTQ. One main character is gay, others are ambiguous, and there was a lesbian secondary character. It may be sort of a thing right now to have a lot of diversity in terms of characters’ sexualities, but I’m not complaining.
Overall I did enjoy this book. It felt like a standalone, but apparently it’s the first in a trilogy. I’ll probably read the next book because I do like completeness. I won’t rush out to find it, but it will be on my ever-growing to read list.
“Souls and thrones are irreconcilable.”
I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley.