I will say this about Kiersten White's novel, And I Darken, it has a beautiful cover. I'm not gonna lie, I'm a hypocritical reader. I often tout the age-old adage "don't judge a book by it's cover" yet here I am, a judger of covers. There were two main reasons I picked up this stunning hardback, the first because it was making its rounds on booktube and the YA reading blog-o'sphere and the second, I love a book with a gorgeous cover.
As mentioned countless times already it seems, I'm a flawed human. I love a book with a nice cover, and the best covers are the books that tend to break my heart. I am so torn over this book. Its like I didn't particularly enjoy it, but I am also invested enough that I want to read the sequel. Ultimately, I ended up giving the book three stars on Goodreads because I just didn't know what to do. I didn't hate it, but I also didn't love it, so 3 felt like a solid middle ground.
To provide some background on the story in case you don't know about it: Lada Dragwlya and her younger brother, Radu, are traded to the Ottoman empire as collateral to keep her father, the Prince of Wallachia, under control. While there, the siblings befriend Mehmed, the young and largely irrelevant, middle son of the sultan. Both of these things makes them targets in the court and their lives become a game of survival, with Radu choosing to fight with his mind and Lada, her fists.
And I Darken is the first book in a trilogy with the second novel, And I Rise, released this past June, and the finale of the trilogy to be released the summer of 2018. Its an alternative historical fiction printed in June 2016.
Now for the review: the beginning of the book was pretty dull for me; the first hundred or so pages are told from Lada and Radu's point of view when they're children and though I understand why this was used as a literary device, it was so incredibly boring. I'm honestly not sure how I finished the book, I mean I was 136 pages in and I still didn't know if I liked it yet or not. Lada is an anti-heroine in this book and I love having someone bad to root for. But Lada is annoying, and it seems as though White is trying to portray her as intelligent but she seemed largely ignorant and thoughtless. Radu on the other hand was shown to be conniving and far-thinking despite him being a bit of a weakling.
I didn't really like Mehmed, he was a primary character despite never seeing his point of view. He was selfish and irritating and much of the novel revolved around him which was off-putting. I would switch back and forth between liking him and hating him. He just sucked which to be fair he had in common with most of the characters. Character-wise, I found myself supporting Radu mostly because he was the least awful. Again Lada is an anti-heroine, but if its well written I should still want to support her that fact be damned.
White did a fairly decent job laying the ground work for their growing roles in Mehmed's political life as they grew older. I would say the book would be better served by having it split into two distinct parts. The first 200 pages would stand as part one, the introduction of characters and a making of a considerable sacrifice. Despite being catered to a young adult audience, the first half read more like a middle grade novel, whereas, the next 200 pages felt more young adult and contained most of the action and character development.
A considerable majority of the book lacked action to the point I was practically catatonic when it appeared in spades on page 376, three-quarters into the book. Unfortunately, it was short-lived. Nevertheless, the way the book ended hooked me enough to want to read the sequel, so lets hope this next book picks up before page 300. Something this novel failed to accomplish.
If you read it, what did you think?