The idea of taking real people, and writing a story about them, is not something I would usually be drawn to. Considering the widespread positivity, ‘And I Darken’ by Kiersten White soon made its way into my hands, removing any doubt and instead replacing it would a new-found liking of fiction meets reality.
“So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?”
Vlad the Impaler, known for being Prince of Wallachia, and impaling his enemies with wooden stakes (and so I heard the inspiration for ‘Dracula’) is done justice. Although history is a hazy subject for me, unsure of the line drawn between fiction and fact, what I read is a pleasing, thoughtful story nonetheless. Lada, the gender-swapped Impaler, shared half of the narrative with her brother, Radu, a unique twist on historic events. Taken from their father, they are forced to stay within the walls of the Ottoman Empire; there they meet Mehmed, son of the Sultran, and together their lives will be close to breaking point.
These three characters are the centre-point for the plot, with subplots knitted together. Specifically one of romance, a love triangle that is different from what is expected, but welcomed in that it is LGBT. Love plays a contributing factor to the emotive feel and surrounding theme; the protective love between brother and sister, along with the typical hate-love relationship overall; the love of a friend and caring so completely it is impossible to care for someone as much; and—beautifully shown in one character struggling with the concept of love, and another suffering with its unrequited effects—the love of pure devotion.
Power is another, threatening the relationships of many, conflicted between what is best for oneself and what another person wants from you. It comes full-circle, but reflects the idea of independence, even if that does mean sacrificing the things we love.
“You have no more love to give him, and I have no long he will accept. What are we supposed to do?”
However, in ‘And I Darken’ it shows both sides of the coin; for all characters, they choose a path that means being home, but for one while it brings a new chapter of spreading one’s wings, the other brings sadness. It is this divergence that it brought sympathy, but also gratification, towards these remarkable characters.
Although the beginning of the book is too much of a slow-build, and the sudden shift in tone halfway through disrupts the balance, it soon smooths out into a confident middle and end. With the gruesome truth of power, resulting in murder and destruction of family, the unbalanced pacing pales in comparison to those deeper messages. It is the book that I would either want sequels too, or the kind of genre I would delve into in the future.
‘And I Darken’ is a welcoming surprise, focusing on the meaning of love, independence, and sexism, without straying away from the main plot of three characters brought together by war.