First of all, that cover. The cover for this book is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen and I’m so glad to add it to my collection. After seeing a few of my trusted sources on Instagram review this book, I immediately went out and bought it. I am so incredibly glad that I did because it easily made my top 5 list for 2016.
Overall Score: 10/10 (Am I allowed to give it an 11?)
Page Length: 484
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Book summary (From Goodreads)
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.
Review (No Spoilers)
Going in, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. It sounded very interesting but I wasn’t sure how the concept would play out. Kiersten White surpassed all of my expectations and I cannot wait for the second book in the series to see how this all plays out. That being said, even if there never was a second book, this is an incredible stand-alone with an ending that would still leave me satisfied.
Lada is an absolutely wonderful protagonist. She is ferocious, flawed, intelligent, determined, and a woman. The way gender and the advantages/disadvantages you have because of it are explored in this novel was truly eye-opening and thoughtful. Each character was fully fleshed out and seeing even just the women in the harem compared to each other was wonderful. Each woman has her belief in how to obtain power and how to best use herself to her advantage. Huma, Mara, and Lada are all extraordinary characters. The scenes between Huma and Lada were some of my favorites in the novel. I loved seeing how they interacted with each other and how they each sought to control the men surrounding them. Lana was true to herself and her beliefs, despite being constantly reminded that she isn’t a proper woman.
The role that religion played in this book was entirely a surprise for me. Given the setting, I guess it shouldn’t have been though. The way White approached both Islam and Christianity was very respectful and thoughtful. She showed the different aspects of each religion and how individualized religion truly is. It was thought-provoking and very timely. Religion, along with love and politics, shapes how the three main characters interact with each other throughout the entire book. The politics in this book were fascinating. Men fell and rose to power multiple times throughout the novel. The events and power struggles that caused each one were developed and explained. The variety of motives and desires led to a court that truly felt alive and real. Kiersten White made history come alive and made me care about the players.
Love. This book examines love in its many forms, whether between friends, family, or romantic. It also shows how the norms of the time affected this love. For example, the relationship of Mehmed and Lada (also Mehmed and Radu) was altered by the revelation that Mehmed kept a harem. I don’t want to spoil anything but the inclusion of Radu’s love and Nazira made this book even better for me. I can’t wait to see where the story goes and how the threads are all woven together.
This book was wonderful and I would highly recommend it. The characters were beautifully written and the plot wonderfully executed. It was a coming of age novel that brought to life an entire world in shades of grey.