And I Darken Raises the Stakes in Historical Fiction
April 25, 2019
“Her spine was steel. Her heart was armor. Her eyes were fire.”
What if Vlad Dracula, also known as Vlad the Impaler, the ruthless prince of Wallachia in the 15th century and supposed inspiration for Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire Dracula, were a girl?
Author Kiersten White answers this question in her trilogy, The Conqueror’s Saga. And I Darken is the first book and is largely set in the glittering Ottoman Empire. But remember, all that glitters is not gold.
Lada Dragwlya and her younger brother Radu are forced to abandon their home of Wallachia and are sent away by their father to be raised in the opulent, powerful, and dangerous Ottoman Empire. Their father used them as a trade to appease the Empire. His only two legitimate heirs for the Ottoman Empire’s promise to overlook Wallachia in its conquests, for the time being at least.
Lada quickly learns that her ruthlessness is key to her and her brother’s survival. She nurses her anger and schemes of the day she can escape the Ottomans and return home to Wallachia to claim her throne. Radu, on the other hand, finally feels safe and begins to view the Ottoman Empire as more of a home for him than Wallachia ever was or ever could be.
Eventually, the siblings meet the young soon to be sultan Mehmed. The three form a strong bond. Lada begins to hope that she has finally found someone with as much passion, drive, and fire as herself. Mehmed and Lada’s love for each other develops, even though there is a constant nagging in the back of Lada’s mind that she is falling in love with the powerful ruler of the Empire she swore to hate.
Radu values the softer side of Mehmed and falls deeply in love with the sultan. However, Radu knows Mehmed will never reciprocate that love in the way Radu wants him to. Mehmed highly values Radu as one of his most trustworthy and beloved friends. Radu is extremely jealous of the passion that Mehmed and Lada share. Thus, a deadly and heartbreaking love triangle forms.
This book absolutely blew me away. I fell in love with the dark and rich story set in a time period during history that has always captivated my curiosity. This book is brutal, yet tender. It brings up many interesting topics, such as gender then and now. It is filled with action, love, betrayal, sacrifice, grit, and so much more.
I felt like I was reading some grand, epic, sweeping, fictionary tale. What really cemented this book as one of my favorites was that everything was very historically accurate. I found myself reading up on the actual history of these people, and I was amazed by how accurate everything was. The author had definitely done her research. This book taught me so much about the Ottoman Empire and made me want to learn so much more.
I love that historical fiction books like this can show the reader, almost better than any movie or television show can, what it was like to live in that time period. And I Darken gets into these characters’ minds, and shows history through their eyes.
When asked in an interview with USA Today about what inspired her to write this series, author Kiersten White said that “it was a combination of things, as all books are. First was my love of Romania and its history. Second was wondering how good people get to the point where they can justify atrocities in the name of their goals. And third was wanting to explore a really complex antihero. Vlad Dracul came up in conversation, I thought — what if he had been a girl? Then everything came together in a rush!”
I highly recommend this entire series. And I Darken and the rest of the Conqueror’s Saga is available for checkout in the Pelahatchie High School library.