And I Darken, by Kiersten White | Book Review
The Children’s Book Review | October 27, 2017
Written by Kiersten White
Age Range: 14-18
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Ember (2016)
What to Expect: Historical, Violence, Strong Heroine, Romance
The story of Dracula has been told many times, and each retelling (from the fantastical Hollywood supernatural thrillers of the 1950s to historical horror such as The Historian) seems to add something new to his legend. Kiersten White’s And I Darken, first book in her new trilogy, is no exception to this rule. Rich with historical detail and brutally believable characters, And I Darken represents the best of both the historical young adult fiction genre.
Vlad Dracul is disappointed when his wife bears him a daughter instead of a son; named Ladislav after himself, the little baby girl grows up almost forgotten in the care of the household nurse. He is even more disappointed, however, when the second child – a boy this time, Rasu – turns out to be a sensitive, shy, delicate child. His disappointment is tempered, however, when he discovers that Lada, the daughter he initially dismissed, is spirited, fierce, and intelligent. Vlad devotes time and resources to rearing her as a boy and a ruler, instilling in her a passionate love for her land and country of Wallachia, of which he has been made the Prince. Unfortunately for Lada, Vlad himself is no hero: as she grows older, Lada comes to realize that her father’s passion is not for Wallachia and his people, but only for his own status and safety. When he is forced to subordinate himself to the Turkish Sultan to regain his throne from his treacherous eldest son, Vlad trades Lada and Rasu to the Sultan as hostages.
While Rasu comes to love Muslim culture and his new home, Lada can think only of how she can return home and raise her country to the place of power it deserves. However, there is no escape from the brutal Sultan, who keeps them alive only on condition of Vlad’s continuing good behavior, and soon a further complication will arise when both young captive catch the attention of Mehmed, the brash and handsome young heir to the Sultanate. A toxic love-triangle arises, forcing all three of them to make sacrifices for what they hold dearest.
The best part about And I Darken is the way in which it breaks free of genre conventions to present protagonists who are not only historically accurate and believable, but also strong role models for modern readers. Lada is intelligent, caring, and passionate, but she is also neither beautiful nor stereotypically feminine: her propensity for ruthlessness, cunning, and violence is tempered by her care for her brother and people, presenting readers with a female character who is neither criticized nor punished narratologically for transgressing typical gender stereotypes. Together with the touchingly honest exploration of Rasu’s homosexuality, this story is not only a gripping thriller, but a daring break from circumscribed gender roles that can only be beneficial to young readers. Brava.
About the Author
Kiersten White is the New York Times bestselling author of And I Darken, Now I Rise, the Paranormalcy trilogy, the Mind Games series, The Chaos of Stars, Illusions of Fate, In the Shadows with artist Jim Di Bartolo, and the upcoming Beanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales. Kiersten lives with her family in San Diego, California. Visit her at www.kierstenwhite.com.
And I Darken, by Kiersten White, was reviewed by Dr. Jen Harrison. Discover more books like And I Darken by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Books with Violence, Heroines, Historical Fiction, LGBT Books, Romance, Strong Female Characters, and Thrillers.
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