ARC Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: And I Darken
author: Kiersten White
pages: 475
format: Kindle ARC
isbn/asin: 978-0062380876
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 5/5 (from hated to loved) or 9/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Wuthering Heights, Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman, other sweeping, epic, historical dramas.
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.

in depth

  • I knew very little about this book before it appeared in my life, a glimmer on Netgalley.  I was skeptical.  The daughter of Vlad the Impaler?  I wasn't terribly enthused about a quasi-vampire paranormal rewrite, but something about it drew me.  And I'm glad.  First, because it's not paranormal and there are no vampires.  Second, because it's a slow-burning historical, generational epic, vibrant and devastating and deeply affecting.  Lada and Radu will haunt me until their next installment--and ever after.  

  • There's a Wuthering Height feel to And I Darken.  We begin with the birth of Lada, daughter of Vlad, and in alternating chapters we trace Lada and her brother Radu through their painful, grim youth.  Given as hostages to the Ottoman Empire, they battle with the conflicting identities forged by a life in gentle captivity.  It's a slow build.  I felt like I was reading and reading and there was still so much left--but while other readers have found it slow, I enjoyed the careful layering of Lada and Radu's identities over time, the subtle introduction of their friend Mehmed, the setting of the stage in White's razor sharp, yet lyrical prose.  

  • Then the children become teenagers, where the bulk of the story takes place.  Having known them for years now, I felt completely at home in their heads.  Lada is cold, bitter, a ruthless protector of the little she holds dear.  I met her at a difficult time in my life and I ached for her.  She's not the cliche soft-hearted lass in a case of stone. She's stone, through and through.  I loved that White didn't take that out.  Lada does have softness, enough to feel love and loyalty, but it's a softness she fears, doesn't understand, an embattled softness always forced aside.  On the other hand, Radu is all softness, fragility and compassion and wonder--yet time and heartbreak forges steel in him, even as it tempers Lada's iron.  

  • Between them is Mehmed, beloved by both, friend and protector, cocksure but also deeply insecure, and lonely.  Surrounding them are other characters painted in the most exact detail, people who feel dredged up from history, but these three are the center, the core.  The relationships between them evolve into a complex web that entangles and endangers all three hearts.  White spins a gorgeous drama, romantic and quasi-familial, that at more than one time had me racing through pages, steeling myself against foreshadowed pain, desperate to see them happy and mended.  In many ways, they each carried parts of me with them through the story, so vivid are they in White's telling.  

  • White isn't kind to her characters, and it's just as well.  Theirs is a hard world.  Mehmed is the Sultan's heir, thrown callously and too-young into power.  Lada is the eternal exile, thirsting for Wallachia even as she forms reluctant, inescapable ties in the empire.  Radu is the convert, finding strength in the beauty of Islam and the comforts of a new home that embraces him as his father never did.  Surrounding these individual threads are the machinations of power, civil war in the Slavic states, rumblings of rebellion and intrigue in the empire, forces that toss Lada, Radu, and Mehmed cruelly and indifferently.  I don't say this lightly, but in scope and power it reminds me of Dumas, of old romances and epics.  

  • If you want a quick, light read, look elsewhere.  If you want something dense, gorgeous, soul-wrenching and intricate, then buy this book, immediately.  And I Darken is a vast endeavor, a lush drama entwining a rarely elucidated corner of history with the hearts of three young people.  It's the kind of book that brings to mind epic movie scores, hard and glittering wave-swept clifftops, ceaseless battle cries.  It's the kind of book that reverberates beyond the last page and makes you ache with every cut, every heartbreak, and somehow by the end, it's too short.  I need more.  

in a sentence

And I Darken is a masterpiece of historical fiction, a glittering, sweeping epic of a book that carves out a permanent place for Lada and Radu in the minds of its readers.  


will i read this author again?  I guess I'll just read everything she's ever written while I wait for book two.  
will i continue the series?  I needed it like, yesterday.  

Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


  1. I keep seeing this cover everything and hearing how great this book is! I definitely need to pick it up at some point! It's sounds very dark and interesting!

  2. I’ve heard nothing but great things about how amazing this is, so I am so glad you enjoyed it too! Lada sounds like such a complex and vicious heroine and she kind of reminds me of Adelina from The Young Elites in a way. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

  3. Ahh this is such a wonderfully written review! I absolutely loved the characters in this, and I think a part of me wants MORE of them. But unfortunately I didn't like this as much, because it was too dense and slow paced for me haha. BUT I AM GLAD YOU LOVED THIS. I also loved how the author kept Lada as cold, yet determined.

  4. The reviews I've read for this have been largely mixed but I think you've narrowed in on why that is. Clearly, this isn't a book for everyone but I think that it could be a book for me. I'm ridiculously curious about these characters and their darkness. I want to know more. Wonderful review^^