I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
When I saw As I Darken being described as “Game of Thrones set in the Ottoman Empire”, I couldn’t wait to read it. This is a young adult novel written by Kiersten White.
Lada and Radu are siblings: they are barely a year apart in age, but they are as different as day and night. Lada wants nothing more than to be a great warrior, but she is expected to marry and have babies. Radu gives off the impression that he is weak, meek, and unworthy of attention- but in reality, he is crafty and introspective.
As the children of a Wallachian prince, they are proud of their heritage. It is quite a shock for them when they are sent to the Ottoman Court. It is presented as a great honor, but the truth behind this magnanimous gesture is harsh; they are hostages, and if their father does not hold up his end of the bargain that he made with the sultan, then they will be summarily killed without any hesitation.
Lada and Radu do not expect to find friendship in such a hostile and tense environment, but Mehmed is just what they need. He is the son of the sultan, and while his mother is only a concubine, it is clear that he is destined for greatness.
And I Darken is a grand historical epic tale. This book is the first in a planned trilogy. The story begins with Lada’s birth, although most of the events take place during Lada, Radu, and Mehmed’s adolescence. I loved everything about this book- the well-developed characters, the political machinations, the lush settings- everything.
I would recommend And I Darken. It is written for a young adult audience, but I think this is one of those books that transcends its genre. There are some slightly graphic descriptions, but they’re not nearly as graphic as they could be- I’m looking at you, GRRM. I would say that this book is the equivalent of a PG-13 movie. I found myself alternating between reading quickly because I wanted to find out what would happen next, and slowing down so that I wouldn’t come to the end. I can’t wait for the next book in this series. I have no idea what the future holds for our trio of friends and their entourage, but I have no doubt that it is going to be amazing.