As the second volume in Kiersten White’s And I Darken series (a retelling of the Vlad the Impaler legend) begins, the ferocious Lada has fled the Ottoman Court with a band of warriors, determined to fulfill her destiny and secure the throne of Wallachia. Left behind is her brother, Radu, who is still yearning for the attentions of Sultan Mehmed, despite Mehmed’s unabated lust for Lada.
As part of his scheme to expand his empire, Mehmed sends Radu to Constantinople to gather intelligence for a planned invasion. Radu and his wife, Nazira—who has left behind her own same-sex lover—are thrust into a dangerous game of intrigue in the court of Constantine. Meanwhile, Lada’s bloodthirsty drive for power is tempered by unexpected affection for an ally. Nevertheless, she remains true to her dragon nature, outmatching her opponents through a merciless combination of cunning and brutality.
White skillfully interweaves the cultural and political norms of 15th-century Eastern Europe with contemporary empathy by switching up gender roles and maintaining a smoldering undercurrent of romantic tension.
The storylines of Lada and Radu do not directly intersect in this middle volume, which allows readers to bond with each sibling and their respective entourages. This installment is highly recommended for both teens and adults interested in alternative histories flush with imaginative twists.
Diane Colson is the Library Director at City College in Gainesville, Florida.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Kiersten White for Now I Rise.