1/30 Book Review: And I Darken


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(Did you miss the 30/30 announcement?)

And I Darken

Kiersten White

YA Historical Fiction(ish)

Apparently this is a gender-bent Vlad the Impaler retelling. I just grabbed the ebook from my library on a whim and had no idea until after I finished. Although I did wonder about the Dracul family name!

Not having a clue what was going on did not hinder my enjoyment of this tale one bit.

Plot Stuff

Lada is a fierce girl burdened with a sensitive younger brother (Radu) and a father who doesn’t notice her. Follow Lada and Radu through the complex politics of the Ottoman Empire and (equally complex) growing up.

(As I’ve noted before, I don’t like much detail in synopses.)

What I Loved

Complex Characterization

Lada and Radu, in particular, are written with exquisite care. Lada is a fierce and wonderful girl/woman, but White doesn’t neglect softer feelings as well. Lada does care about people in her own way. I’m particularly fond of her response to Radu–she flip flops between despising him and being fiercely protective, just the way most older siblings do. Authors seldom balance their “strong female characters” in a way that I can tolerate, much less admire, so I really, really appreciated Lada.

Radu is equally well-developed, although I identify less with him. He transforms from a sniveling child into a young man through delicate character development. He does feel like more of a “type” to me–more familiar, woven of elements I’ve seen before. But perhaps I was harder on his character because I liked Lada so much. His development was accomplished with a light touch and obvious skill.

No Sugarcoating

This book is violent. History is bloody and White does not gloss over it. She’s not gratuitous, but there is lots of blood. I admire the balance. (I’m saying balance a lot here, but it’s a very, very important element.)

An Actually Tolerable Love Triangle/Square/Decagon

I despise love triangles. Frankly, I don’t like a lot of angst in relationships at all. But the love triangle in this book (which also includes a harem, hence the decagon) feels natural and–wait for it–in balance with the other plot points. Kudos to White for writing a love triangle that didn’t make me gag and throw the book!

Lots of Plot

Speak of balance in plot points…

There’s a lot going on in this book. Politics. Violence. Growing up. Love. Learning skills. Religion. Family. Friendship. Vengeance. Intrigue. Betrayal. A lot of plot.

And White handles all of that plot with grace. The book is longish (~500 pages), but not overwhelming. The pacing is excellent and each plot point feels natural, like it’s on beat without throwing the rhythm in your face. (That’s all kinds of mixed metaphor, but I’m sticking to it.) As an avid reader and professional writer, I sometimes get caught up too much in the craft, distracted from plot when I can see the skeleton too much. That was never a problem with And I Darken, because it was crafted so excellently.

Stuff I Didn’t Love

The sequel isn’t out yet.

Conclusion

Read this book. [<–it’s $1.99 on Kindle right now!] And buy me the sequel?

[Housekeeping note: Don’t forget that you can review And I Darken or any of Kiersten White’s other books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and/or Goodreads for a chance at the preorder giveaway. Check out the details.]

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