[Friday Flash Review] And I Darken, by Kiersten White

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❧ Title: And I Darken (Conqueror’s Saga #1)
❧ Author: Kiersten White
❧ Publisher: Delacorte Press
❧ Publication date: 28th June 2016
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦✦
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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.

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and i darken❝In A Nutshell❞

✎A re-imagining of the story of Vlad the Impaler, actual man-person and not the would-be vampire of myth. In this, his daughter, Lada, is set to rise to the legendary heights of Vlad in his stead, in a historical revisiting of the setting and his rise to power. Lada is a fierce princess with a very soft, handsome and clever brother, Radu. Lada and Radu are sent into the heart of the Ottoman Empire by their father as part of his politicking, when his own influence and position begins to slip. They are essentially hostages to ensure his cooperation.

✎ Lada is not a typical princess. She is a skilled warrior, violent and even vicious, and she refuses to let her home go. She wants the power and position of a man and refuses to play the courtly games her brother is so skilled at, whereas he shies away from battle and war unless absolutely necessary. They are very close as siblings but the relationship can be strained at times. They will defend one another at all costs.

✎Diverse ☒ (race (the majority of the book takes place in the Ottoman empire with only a few characters from outside), queerness, positive depiction of Islam); not #ownvoices.

✎ History and politics and love and war and a thousand things besides.
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❝What I loved❞
✎ Radu is gay. He is gay and he is a main character. Did I mention he’s gay? G A Y. Also, he’s gay.

✎ Lada is terrifying and brilliant and you want her on your team for absolutely anything ever that involves horrible killing and maiming because she will win and also scare you just a little.

✎ A positive, historical(ly accurate- afaik) depiction of Islam.

✎ This book is rich with intrigue and tension and filled with suspense. It is a luscious adventure into the past where the world comes alive in full colour. The level of detail and research was impressive and shone through, showing how much ground work and reading (and visiting!) White must have done. There is a fierceness to the narrative that Lada conveys and it is at times both horrifying and readable, whereas Radu’s gentler wit weaves an almost poetic story alongside his sister’s. The two are a contrast, yet entirely complementary. Radu’s sexuality is treated as a learning of his own self and it is not badly written. There is a lot of truth to Radu’s slow realisation of his feelings for Memed (not a spolier; sorry not sorry) that really shows how carefully his story was approached by a writer who is very obviously not a gay boy!

And I Darken is so gripping it’s impossible to put down. If we’re not being held hostage by the tense narrative of Lada and Radu’s childhood years, we’re kept at the edge of our seats as we’re invited right into the heart of the intrigue of the court as Lada and Radu aim to, at first, survive, and then eventually, to thrive. This was one of my very favourite books of 2016.
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❝If you liked this…❞
…then you might also like: I don’t read much historical fiction so I genuinely have no idea? Maybe possibly, for “history with a twist” (which is the closest I can come), check out Anne Lyle’s Alchemist of Souls books. They’re not YA, but they rep queer MCs and I enjoyed entering a slightly-alternative Elizabethan England when I read them way back.

[Friday Flash Review] When The Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore

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❧ Title: When The Moon Was Ours
❧ Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
❧ Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press
❧ Publication date: 4th October 2016
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦✦
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To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.
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when the moon was ours❝In A Nutshell❞

 

✎Absolutely gorgeous magic realism romance amazingness!
✎#ownvoices Latina MC, queer romance
✎Diverse ☒ (race, queerness (trans rep!!))

✎ A Pakistani trans boy who makes moons and hangs them everywhere is best friends (and more!) with a girl who came from a water tower and grows roses from her wrist.divider

❝What I loved❞
✎I picked up this book on a whim–and maybe that’s the best way to pick up a book sometimes! It was utterly delightful and beautiful and unexpectedly full of heart and depth and power.
✎Positive trans rep that isn’t attached to the magic realism element but that stands on its own and understanding parent of a trans teen
✎ The prose is stunning and almost achingly beautiful. Not only is the story compelling and magical, there’s a sense of strange urgency that isn’t rushed, but keeps you turning the page again and again, desperate to reach the end, desperate to read another page, another word. wtmwo dedication
✎ Can I say “everything”? I couldn’t get enough of the romance or the imagery. This book was just so breathtakingly beautiful. I’ve never read any magic realism before and I wasn’t sure what to expect at all, but this book was just pure poetry and I adored every second of it. I think that this book taught me what magic realism is.
✎ Special mention for the dedication (above), which is beautiful and magical:
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❝If you liked this…❞
…then you might also like: McLemore’s other books The Weight of Feathers and Wild Beauty as well as Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen and the accompanying sequel A Crown Of Wishes, both of which are resplendent with gorgeous imagery, magic and mythology, with prose that flirts a little with magic realism.