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Daughter Of The Dragon

Kiersten White’s And I Darken, the first book in her new Conqueror’s Saga series, examines what life might have been like for a female Vlad the Impaler.

Daughter Of The Dragon

BOOK REPORT for And I Darken (The Conqueror’s Saga #1) by Kiersten White

Cover Story: Pretty Deadly
BFF Charms: Caution!, Big Sister
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: She Said, He Said
Bonus Factor: Vlad the Impaler
Anti-Bonus Factor: Ancient Men
Relationship Status: Just Friends

Cover Story: Pretty Deadly

Peonies and spears just don’t mix.

That said, I do really like this cover. It’s simple, but super powerful, and sums up the warring internal parts of the novel’s main characters quite aptly.

The Deal:

Lada Dragwlya is the daughter of the Wallachian prince, a pretty awful guy who proves his true nature when he ships her and her brother, Radu, off as pawns of peace to the ruler of the Ottoman Empire. Far away from their home, Lada and Radu must keep themselves alive while learning how to navigate the politics of the region and affairs of the heart.

BFF Charms: Caution!, Big Sister

Lada is, well, frightening. She’s more likely to beat a person down then hug them, and is always willing to play really dirty. She hates the way she’s treated as a girl—something to be ignored—and that vitriol only escalates as she gets older and finds that life doesn’t get any easier. I feel for her, but that doesn’t mean I want to hang out with her.

Radu has a big sister already, but Lada is not the nurturing type. Radu needs someone to care for him, to show him the proper way to do things without forcing him to learn harsh lessons on the brutality of life along the way. I think I’d get annoyed with his simpering nature—there’s gentle natured and then there’s being a wuss—but what big sister doesn’t find themselves in this position on occasion?

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

From a young age, Lada pretty much swears off all men. But sometimes feelings sneak in, no matter how hard one tries to avoid them. Still, she fights against them—hard.

Radu, too, isn’t really looking to get married. Particularly because he cares so dang much about his best friend. … Perhaps a little too much?

(Although there are relationships in this book, they’re not really that swoony. I’d almost go so far as to say they’re actually way too complicated and not at all healthy.)

Talky Talk: She Said, He Said

And I Darken is told half from Lada’s point of view—in which we learn how much she struggles with being a young woman in a “man’s world”—and half from her brother Radu’s POV, who has struggles of his own. The two are polar opposites, and reading about the same incident or situation from both of their very different perspectives is interesting. The other characters in the book, however, suffered a bit from being seen only through these two flawed characters’ eyes. It was often hard to tell which one saw more clearly; both had very skewed ways of seeing the world. I don’t feel I really got to know anyone else, aside from on a very surface level.

And for a book that’s the first in a series called The Conqueror’s Saga, I felt a little let down by the lack of actual conquering. Lada and Radu are dropped off with the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire to serve as collateral for peace, and although Kiersten White assures readers that their lives are in danger, I never truly feared for them; they frequently got out of “dire” situations with great ease. The region in which the story takes place (the Ottoman Empire) is in a constant state of fear of conquering, but the main battle that takes place in the story is a siege that fizzes out with a mere whimper. The book’s action is slow to build, and never really reaches any sort of climax. I suppose that future books will be more action-packed, but I would have liked more in this introduction.

Bonus Factor: Vlad the Impaler

The story of Vlad the Impaler is a fascinating one, both historically and literarily. (In case you were unaware, his life was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.) And I Darken is a fictionalized, genderbent account of Vlad’s—in this case, Lada’s—early life.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Ancient Men

The struggle of being a woman in a world ruled by men has long been a problem. But it was even worse back in the 1400s where women were supposed to be seen and not heard. The double standards in And I Darken are so (time-appropriately) frustrating. Radu, because he is pretty and a boy, can do little wrong. But Lada, who acts “more like a man” than many of the men she knows, is seen as something to be belittled and ignored. I could practically feel her seething through the pages.

Casting Call:

We “meet” Lada and Radu when they’re quite little, and then watch them grow to be teenagers, but I went with casting their older selves. (And yes, I know that Austin is older than Cara. #hollywood)

Cara Delevingne as Lada

I don’t love Cara as an actress, but she’s got that rough around the edges, not typically beautiful quality that Lada has, too.

Austin Butler as Radu

He’s nothing if not pretty. (And Radu has blond curls, so …)

Relationship Status: Just Friends

The history you brought to our date, Book, intrigued me, but I was disappointed when it wasn’t a major part of your stories. Also, your characters aren’t the most likeable of people, nor did I feel a connection to them or their relationships. I think I’d be willing to give this another go, but maybe it’s best if we keep it casual for the time being.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Delacorte Press, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. And I Darken is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
K