So this is the second book that I completed during March 2017, and that was purely down to the start of Read Your Bookshelf A Thon. And I Darken by Kiersten White is a young adult fantasy retelling of Vlad the Impaler, and this was wonderful.
When I first picked this book up, I thought it was going to be extremely dark and gruesome; when in fact it wasn’t that dark. I’m not going to lie, there is a little bit of gore in there (hello, head gardener) but honestly it isn’t stomach turning or keep you up at night. And with a tag line ‘Heads will roll. Hearts will be broken.’ you expect quite a bit of gore, if not a bit of romance as well.
A great element of this book was that it has some good representation; firstly it is a gender swap retelling, where Lada is the female version of Vlad. Now, the rest of the representation, especially LGBTQ elements, cant be discussed without spoiling a big turning point. However, what I did love was that Lada’s little brother (and also the second viewpoint) is shown to have tender and ‘feminine’ characteristics.
I loved the characters in this book, you can tell that thought and care went into their development. You see them grow and develop across the span of the book, whilst also leaving plenty room for further development in the upcoming series. The two main characters Lada and Radu may be brother and sister but they spend majority of the time developing alone, however I do love the fact that the family bond is not broken even after everything that they are put through in this novel- and they are put through so much.
I thought I had predicted the end of this book at the half way point, there is some great foreshadowing but there are so many twists and turns that I really couldn’t see some things coming. There is betrayal and heartbreak, there is a slight romance- and I really mean slight. There is loyalty and fealty. There is uproar and chaos. I loved this book.
Although I thought that this book would be mainly gore, I would highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoyed The Winner’s Curse Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski; as this has very similar political intrigue and power struggles involved. Although I found I enjoyed The Winner’s Curse more than I did And I Darken, it is still a great novel and I remember having similar issues with pacing and action whilst reading The Winner’s Curse which were then washed away by the remainder of the trilogy. I definitely think that if you enjoyed The Winner’s Curse you will definitely find yourself enjoying this!
Overall, I gave And I Darken 4 stars. I only lowered it from 5 stars as I found the pacing slowed incredibly during the middle third of the book; however it picked up and I flew through the end. I honestly cannot wait until the rest of the series are here so I can devour them.
I honestly recommend checking this book out!