Published by Delacorte Press
Published on June 28th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Historical Fiction
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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.
Female Vlad the Impaler. I was in. Nothing else, just that and I wanted to read it. Oh, and the pretty cover didn’t hurt matters.
This book covers so much ground literally starting with our MC Lada is born. We follow along as she grows, giving us enough in certain years to understand who she is at each point, which was a huge plus; Lada is a bit rough, and having her story – her backstory – really develops her character. Plus, things of importance were happening early on; very intricate story.
The world is lushly described and I feel like I could have been there – which is good, since I wasn’t the best history student. I knew next to nothing about the Ottoman Empire; the extent of my knowledge there is that Vlad spurred the Dracula story. The lands change as the story progresses, and the characters grow as they move around. Her original home of Wallachian is where she feels a sense of home and connection. When she is away from there, she always sees the Ottoman Empire as her prison – even if sometimes the prison isn’t so bad.
Lada was a strong character for me, and I enjoyed her immensely; she voiced or thought many of the same things I was thinking when I was reading. I normally don’t read historical fiction all that often; being one who doesn’t take well to the whole “a women’s place is to be used for trade like cattle and having no rights” and such. She doesn’t agree with that either, and refuses to be defined by her gender. I adore this! The way she interacts with everyone – from servants to people who are supposed to be her superiors – she understands the world, and how it works. She is cruel but she is also cunning, and smart as a whip; she is made for this world. Including her interaction and dedication to the Janissaries – specifically my favorite one, Nicolae!
“The sooner you stop fighting, the easier your life will be. That is what your purpose is.”
Lada stood so abruptly she nearly fell backward. “No.”
Another POV we see through is Lada’s younger brother, Radu. He is much the opposite of Lada. While she is brawn, sheer might, and a force to be reckoned with, Radu is more of a quiet force working from the sidelines playing long games. I remember reading and likening him to Littlefinger or Varys on Game of Thrones in the way he can change and adapt. My favorite thing about dual POV books is seeing how different halves see the same event so vastly differently and you get tons of that here.
This book has lots going for it; from the history and world, to the diverse and complex characters – even before diving into the action of a world at war with battles to be fought on many fronts. Both from outside forces, and within. It’s a political story, where there is always a power play happening with thrones and leadership. With all this going for it, and the ability to keep me on the edge of my seat, it also held some romance as well – romance that conflicted my emotions.
What held this book back for me a bit is also something that – despite my issues with it – kept me hoping for more, and wanting so desperately to root for it: romance. The romance was well played out, and I could see how it naturally fell in so many different forms throughout the book. My biggest issue is more a cultural one; I couldn’t really ship the ship I wanted so badly to ship. I wanted to, but any feelings expressed from one party – while they seemed so sincere – they lost that when he would say this, then visit his harem full of wives and concubines. I understand that is a cultural thing and what is to be expected and such, but I don’t like it. Still the fact that I wanted so badly to want to ship it even when it would ruffle my feathers says a lot.
This is the first book in a new series and I do intend to follow up with the next book for sure, and recommend this one! Lada, Radu, and Mehmed have a lot more story in them to be sure, and I’m excited to see where it will take them.
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