I should probably refer to this selection of mini-reviews as the ‘badass ladies edition’, as I loved the strong female leads in both of these books!
And I Darken is a book I’ve had my eye on for a long time, whereas The Wicked King is the much awaited second installment of Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air series which has been hugely popular in the book community at the moment. I really enjoyed The Cruel Prince, so I was really looking forward to The Wicked King, and it didn’t disappoint!
And I Darken by Kiersten White
‘”If anyone is going to kill you, it will be me. Understand?”
Radu nodded, snuggling into her shoulder. “Will you protect me?”
“Until the day I kill you.” She jabbed a finger into his side, where he was most ticklish, and he squealed with pained laughter.’
Both Vlad Dracul’s children are a disappointment to him: his daughter Lada is as vicious, violent and wild as he could hope, cursed only by having been born a girl. Meanwhile his son Radu is gentle and kind, in an unforgiving world.
Torn away from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned to the Ottoman court by their father, the two siblings must learn to live with a sword constantly hanging over their head, their lives dependent upon their father’s good behaviour. However, when the two befriend the lonely youngest son of the Emperor, Mehmed, their lives are changed forever. Whilst he may be the son of their enemy, and the very man who threatens their life, they are bound by ties of love and loyalty, and those bonds are about to be stretched…
Prepare yourselves for a lot of excitable ranting, because I loved this book a lot. Like a lot!
For starters, I adored the concept! Vlad the Impaler is such an infamous historical figure, that I think any book about him would be interesting, especially one that makes him a complex character, rather than a two-dimensional madman. Then taking the gender swap into account, this was such an intriguing premise for a YA novel! I also loved the backdrop of the Ottoman Empire, as this was a time and place I knew little about, so it was fascinating to learn more.
But the thing I loved most about this book was easily the characters and their incredibly complex relationships. Lada was a favorite right from the off, with her vicious temper, fearlessness and refusal to accept that as a female, she is seen as ‘lesser’ than a man. I loved the contrast this made with her brother Radu, who whilst seemingly weak and fearful has his own strengths, and I like how Lada grudgingly comes to respect him for this, and is reluctantly protective.
Mehmed himself wasn’t an overly strong character in my opinion, but the way he rounds out the trio and causes tension certainly made for fascinating reading. The way their relationships change and complicate as they grow into adulthood kept me hooked, as did the political goings on, and the way Lada wars with herself over where her loyalties lie: with her homeland, or her brother and friend.
Lada’s actions at the end did surprise me, but I was definitely cheering her on as she finally makes her decision, and I can’t wait to see how things progress in the next book. In all, this was one of the best books I’ve read in ages, and I loved everything from the richly drawn setting, to the historical details, and above all the incredible characters. I’m really hoping to get hold of a copy of Now I Rise soon, so I can find out what happens next (annoyingly though every branch of Waterstones I’ve been in only seems to have books 1 and 3 of this series!)!
The Wicked King by Holly Black
‘”Your ridiculous family might be surprised to find that not everything is solved by murder,” Locke calls after me.
“We would be surprised to find that,” I call back.’
Jude may have successfully seized control of the throne, using her puppet Cardan to hold it for her young brother Oak, but holding on to it is proving more difficult than she could have expected. With the entire court – including her estranged father – playing games around her and vying for power, the King himself is proving the most difficult to manage. Not to mention the Queen of the Sea is stirring, and she has war on her her mind…
The Cruel Prince was one of the biggest deals in YA last year, and so understandably there’s been a huge hype surrounding the release of the second book, The Wicked King. I really liked The Cruel Prince when I read it, but the problem is I read it later than most people, and so in many ways the hype kind of ruined it for me.
I mean, it was a great book, but I guess I’d somehow expected more…like it would be the best book ever, considering how people were going on about it?
So I was excited but also full of trepidation when I got round to reading this book. However, I thankfully really enjoyed it, although perhaps the first one was a little better?
It was great returning to the magical, but rather deadly world of the book anyway, but I feel like one of the books downfalls was not fully evoking that eerie ‘anything could happen in this place’ feeling of the first book. Because we’re already familiar with the world, we’re thrown straight into the plot, which in one way was good because yay, action! But at the same time I kind of wanted to re-experience that strange, fairytale-esque feel of the first book.
However, at the same time I loved the fast pace of this book, with Jude struggling to keep her head above water as the new ruler from the very outset. I still love her as a character and how strong she is, and the lengths she’ll go to to keep her brother safe is admirable.
At the same time it’s expressed throughout the book that she’s secretly enjoying her new found power, and I like this twist as it adds a new dimension to her character. Her love of power is a flaw that only makes her seem more real, and the fact that she realises it and is uncomfortable about it makes for an interesting internal conflict.
Someone else who has a newfound love of power is Jude’s puppet king, Cardan, and it was interesting to see their relationship following Jude’s betrayal in the first book. At first he is reluctant to take on the power he has been forced to assume, and leaves everything to Jude whilst he simply enjoys the lavish lifestyle. However, he’s soon simultaneously working to outsmart Jude and get around her commands, and working with her against outside threats.
One of the most intriguing thing about this series is that, like Jude, you have no idea who can actually be trusted, so you’re kept guessing. Like, is Cardan with Jude or against her? How about Madoc? Has Taryn really made up with her sister or is she some kind of spy for their father? Not to mention she is marrying the treacherous Locke…
Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I especially felt that the ending had some serious impact! No, it wasn’t satisfying, but it definitely made sense for the characters I think. I’m still not really sure where Jude and Cardan stand with their weird relationship to each other…I mean, clearly neither can trust the other or really likes the other all that much, but they have a persistent attraction.
I’m sure all will be revealed in the next book…shame it’s going to be another year now to wait!
So have you read either of these? What did you think?