And I Darken poses the concept of Vlad the Impaler as a woman, and I was not disappointed. It was initially billed as Dracula meets Game of Thrones, but that is a bit misleading. Don’t expect any vampires and understand the comparison to Game of Thrones is really based on children being used as pawns in a game of corrupt politics. If that sounds like your cup of tea, prepare yourself for an immersive read that takes you to the rich and exotic Ottoman Empire where every ally can turn into a fierce enemy, and the sacrifices you choose to make can brand you a slave or a powerhouse. I thought it was a five star read.
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
Excellent read with enough action, adventure, and bloodthirsty ambition to keep any reader entertained. Lada is the daughter that her father never wanted, but she has all the qualities of the son he needs. She is ruthless, fearless, and feral and she is exactly the character I wanted from the woman who would become the Impaler. If you love your strong female protagonists holding a sword in one hand and a dagger in the other, she will be exactly what you want, too. Some readers will see her as heartless because she is frighteningly calculating and, at times, purposefully cruel, so, if you are looking for a gooey core to your warrior woman, you can pass on this one. However, if you like your antihero fierce and smart, step right up. Radu, Lada’s younger brother, does play as a nice foil, and he provides the softer perspective to the narrative, so it isn’t all hard edges but there is a very sharp learning curve in this deadly game of power. It is definitely going on my high school classroom library wish list because it will definitely be a big hit with my readers. I can’t wait to recommend it to fans of Throne of Glass, Graceling, The Young Elites and Rebel of the Sands. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+, but adults will find this just as engaging.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.