Kiersten White

And I Darken

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And I Darken Summary

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And I Darken (2016), a fantasy novel by Kiersten White, is an alternate history story following the harsh life of Vlad the Impaler’s daughter and her survival as she comes of age in a vicious political arena. White is the bestselling author of the Paranormalcy series, among other books for young adults.

Ladislav Dragwyla, or Lada for short, is born to Vlad the Impaler in fifteenth-century Transylvania. Her father is not pleased that she is a daughter and not a son, but a year later, Lada’s brother Radu is born. Radu is Lada’s opposite in every way: he is handsome and she is ugly; he is gentle and she is fierce. At the time of their births, Vlad is the vaivode, or governor, of Transylvania, but soon he ascends to the throne as the Prince. Lada and Radu have an older brother, Mircea, who is illegitimate.

Lada has a childhood romance with her nurse’s son, Bogdan. They pretend to marry each other because Lada refuses to grow up and marry someone who will take her power from her. She also becomes Radu’s defender, intervening when a group of bullies assaults him.

When Lada tries to fight a group of Janissaries, or Turkish guards, she is punished through Bogdan, who is sent away to train as a soldier. Later, Lada and Radu discover their half-brother Mircea is plotting with the Prince of Hungary to usurp the throne from their father. Hungary’s armies force the Dragwyla family to leave Wallachia for Edirne, the capital city of the Ottoman Empire. Lada and Radu become political prisoners to keep their father in line.

In Edirne, the siblings are tutored in Islam; Radu enjoys his lessons, eventually converting, but Lada resents them. They meet the Sultan’s illegitimate son, Mehmed, and slowly become closer to him. Lada begins menstruation, which means she is now old enough to marry. Halil Pasha, a vizier overseeing the children, tries to arrange a marriage for her to a nobleman. Lada threatens to murder him on their wedding night. Mehmed intervenes, and the marriage does not take place. Instead, he asks Lada and Radu to accompany him to Amasya.

There, Lada begins training with the Janissaries. Meanwhile, Mehmed learns his two legitimate brothers were killed fighting the Prince of Hungary. The Sultan and the Prince come to an agreement, and then the Sultan abdicates the throne in favor of Mehmed, who is only twelve. He, Lada, and Radu return to Edirne.

Lada writes to the Prince and asks him to wage war against the Ottomans, hoping it will force the former Sultan to take back the throne. The Prince, with the Pope’s assistance, begins a religious crusade. Lada discovers unwelcome news: her father is now allied with the Prince of Hungary, betraying the Ottomans.

Mehmed assures Lada and Radu that he will protect them, in spite of their father. His father, refusing to return as Sultan, orders an army raised. He intends to take back Constantinople for the Empire. The Janissaries are uncomfortable with his actions, afraid they will die during the siege.

An assassin makes an attempt on Mehmed’s life, but Lada saves him. She, Mehmed, and Radu hide in the Harem for protection, where they meet Huma, Mehmed’s mother. Huma capably destroys evidence of the assassination attempt. She tells Lada that a woman’s sexuality can be its own kind of power, but Lada disagrees. Huma also admits that she arranged for the murders of Mehmed’s brothers so he could claim the throne.

Radu discovers that Halil Pasha is a traitor and intends to assassinate Mehmed. Radu moves to have Halil arrested, but Lada intervenes, warning that the Janissaries might be more loyal to Halil than Mehmed. With Huma’s help, she arranges a revolt among the Janissaries so Mehmed can flee the city and come back stronger. They go to Amasya, and Mehmed’s father assumes the throne again.

Several years later, the Ottomans are at war with Hungary again. Mehmed has been called to fight. Lada is in love with Mehmed but can’t admit it. Radu has also fallen for him. They learn that Mehmed now has a son, and both are jealous. Then Mehmed marries in a political match. Radu befriends Halil’s son, Salih, trying to gain Halil’s confidence so he can spy for Mehmed.

Lada saves Mehmed from another possible assassination attempt, killing a suspicious guard. Halil puts Lada on trial, pushing for her execution, but Radu intervenes. Lada departs for Amasya while Radu stays in Edirne, becoming more powerful.

Huma, discovering Radu’s feelings for Mehmed, promises that if he kills Halil, she will make Mehmed fall in love with him. Mehmed gives Lada her own army, and she chooses all Wallachians for her soldiers. Mehmed is sent to Albania to fight against a rebellious Janissary and his army. Later, Lada receives a letter that Mehmed is dying and wants her to leave Amasya. She is about to leave when Mehmed arrives, and they realize the letter is false.

Later, they learn that someone else is dying: the Sultan. Halil plans to usurp the throne before Mehmed can return to claim it. Radu, Mehmed, and Lada re-enter Edirne in secret through the Harem. Promising a pay raise to the head of the Janissaries in exchange for his loyalty, he successfully reclaims the throne.

An old friend of Radu’s, Kumal, is dying and asks Radu to marry his sister, Nazira, so she will be provided for. Radu and Nazira marry, making Mehmed angry, but Nazira reveals she is also gay and wants a marriage of convenience.

Bogdan comes back into Lada’s life, and Mehmed is jealous. Vlad and Mircea die at the Prince of Hungary’s hand. Radu should assume the throne of Wallachia, but he doesn’t want it. Lada tries to thwart yet another assassination, but a traitorous Janissary, Ilya, stabs her. Radu continues the fight for her and Ilyas is executed.

Huma admits to killing Mehmed’s baby half-brother years before that so Mehmed could assume the throne someday. Lada talks Mehmed into passing a law making it legal for a Sultan to kill his brother if he poses a threat to the Empire, but Mehmed does so reluctantly, knowing he now has two sons, and one might murder the other.

Radu insists that Lada assume the Wallachian throne because he loves Mehmed and the Empire more than his native land. Lada asks Mehmed to make her the prince of Wallachia. Mehmed asks her to marry him instead, but she won’t. He makes her vaivode instead, and weeps when she leaves. In Wallachia, Lada begins to call herself Lada Dracul, meaning “dragon.”

And I Darken became a New York Times bestseller after its publication, with reviews drawing comparisons to the cutthroat Game of Thrones series. White wrote two more books in the series in 2018, Now I Rise and Bright We Burn.