When I heard about And I Darken I was super excited. I’ve done a few papers on Dracula and Vlad and all the history there, and really I just wanted to see where a female Vlad would have ended up.
I’m not sure how I feel about this book, as excited as I was for it. There was so much opportunity and so many things didn’t happen that could have.
I really wanted to love this book. I actually listened to the audio, and while sometimes I think that the reader impacts my feelings about the book, it didn’t this time. Even though she pronounced Wallachia, Targoviste, and just about any other Romanian word incorrectly and it drove me ABSOLUTELY INSANE.
I have rarely wanted to hit a reader of an audio book this badly and kept listening. But damn did I want to slap her every time the pronunciation was off.
Lada, full name Ladislav (a female form of Vlad), starts out as this wonderfully fierce child. She defies everything anyone tells her. She ignores gender customs, and insists on being trained as a man, insists on learning everything that her brother learns, and just being entirely revolutionary.
It was really a great start. I liked that it kind of bought into the general assumptions of what Vlad would have been like as a child. A large portion of the story is told from Lada’s point of view, so you really get why she’s doing the things that she does.
As she grows up, though, Lada loses some of that fierceness. She becomes a little soft, and it was definitely a little disappointing to me. Once her father leaves her in the care of the sultan and basically abandons her and her brother, I wanted her to just go ham and refuse to cooperate with everything thrown at her like she had done for the rest of her life.
She doesn’t do that.
She just kind of…goes with it. It makes me sad. I still want to imagine her running around with her knife threatening anyone who even seems to consider crossing her.
What happens, though, is kind of almost okay with me. Lada starts figuring out power. How to get it, how it works with men vs. how it works with women, and what kinds of power she can and cannot have. Of course she wants the power she is told she cannot have, and she almost gets it exactly the way that she wants to.
Radu seemed far too soft for me. I wanted him to have some little bit of the fierceness of his father and sister, and yet he’s depicted as the biggest growing baby in the world.
He’s weak, he cries at the slightest provocation, he’s just the polar opposite of Lada, and it’s just disheartening.
He was abandoned just as Lada was. He was equally as expendable. And, in spite of his bloodline, in spite of what he grew up seeing in his sister, in spite of what he’d been taught by his sister, he just cowers like a puppy who peed on the carpet.
You grow attached to him, of course, both he and Lada are well written. Just he’s not what I really expected or really wanted out of him. I wanted him to have some kind of a spine, and I guess he eventually gets a bit of one, but it’s just not enough for me.
The Love Triangle
Yes. There’s a triangle.
I did not see it coming, and I just…I didn’t hate it as much as I usually do. It comes about as kind of a stretch to me. Like, the way that the focus of the triangle is talked about by the two interested parties doesn’t scream LOVE. It definitely read more as friendship to me until JUST KIDDING THEY’RE ALL IN LOVE TRICKED YOU.
It definitely surprised me. And I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I honestly cannot decide if it makes perfect sense to me or if it feels like it was put in just to further the plot.
All in All
Honestly I don’t know what to think about this book. Like I said, I was excited for it. I love the idea of a gender swapped Vlad Tepes. It seems like so much could be done with a concept like that, and yet so many things weren’t done in this book.
The only thing that I’m still kind of looking forward to is that this is going to be a series. I have hope here that there will be redemption in the continuation.
I think probably you should read this, just for the concept alone. Also, like, a lot of people loved it, so maybe I was just too close to the subject matter. I just need someone who has read this to tell me what they THINK so I’ll know what the hell is wrong with me on this one.