Audiobook Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

Note: This review is part of the 2016 Summer Reading Diversity Spotlight.

And I Darken by Kiersten White
Narrated By: Fiona Hardingham
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
ISBN: 978-0553522310
Running Time: 13 hours and 26 minutes
Source: Bought Hardcover + Received Audiobook From Publisher
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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.


Wow. Now that’s how you write a killer historical fiction novel!!!! And I Darken is based on actual historical figures but I am embarrassed to say that I don’t know much about them – however, I am very much excited to go down that rabbit hole and learn more after reading this absolutely phenomenal story inspired by them from Kiersten White.

I don’t read a lot of historical fiction but when I do, I pick the winners. This baby is dynamite. It’s full of such rich and fierce characters, two of which we follow, the brother and sister duo, Lada and Radu as they go from being their father’s leverage to finding and honing the power that they themselves hold. I loved following Lada and Radu, the story is told from both of their POVs, from childhood into their teen years and really following their growth under an empire that is not their own. Under an empire that one embraces and the other never does. Talk about heads butting. Not only do they get in their own way at times, they get in each other’s way at times, are there when it matters most, and aren’t there when the other believes it matters most…and seeing that sibling relationship executed so perfectly brought me such joy to see, oh my goodness. I love a spot on complex sibling relationship at that’s what we get here. Loved it. All this from two siblings who weren’t raised with little to no love from their parents and lack so much affection and respect and seek it in such different ways. Where Radu is soft and kind and open to change, to adapting, Lada is always abrasive, defensive and closed to anything not resembling her vision of home. Oh man, what a journey.

I can’t express enough how much I loved every single character, every single relationship dynamic. Whether it was a tense and strained relationship or joyful one, White nailed it bringing every single character, major and minor to life. I love that the characters were as rich as their settings and the religions and customs they followed.

I loved the themes throughout this story as we follow Radu and Lada as they struggle to find their rightful place in not simply a society but in lands of kingdoms. Talk about a Game of Thrones. If you’re looking for an absolutely captivating and fascinating slow burn of a story that explores what it means to have power and control, loyalty and loneliness, what it means to be betrayed, to be loved, to be ruthless, to protect and be protected and fight vulnerability, what it means to manipulate and be manipulated, what it means to never underestimate anyone – even the people you love most and think you know… And I Darken is the book to read asap.

White says in her author’s note that “The central aspect I wanted to explore was the path a person takes to get to the point where they can justify doing terrible things in the name of good.” She more than accomplished that. And I Darken is riveting. This is Kiersten White’s best novel to date so let there be zero doubt as to whether or not you should add this to your list of books to read. Add it. Read it. You’ll love it.

I can’t write a review and not mention how powerful the character of Lada was, whether you agree with her approaches all of the time, or not, she’s not one to be reckoned with. She is quite a force but not only that, she knows her worth and won’t let any man stand in the way of that. And she doesn’t knock other females to make her strength known. She simply is. Her burns though are brutal and I love it (example: After a soldier tells Lada she isn’t very pretty for a whore – which she isn’t – Lada says “You are prettier than I. Perhaps you could offer yourself as whore instead.” Ooooo! Burn!!!!) Anyway, her strength both physical and mental, her abilities as Lada Dragwlya stand on her own. Talk about feminism in the 1400’s. Go, Lada!

Also, Radu. In this delicately tangled web, there’s a, dare I say romance, because Radu is in love with a man who is not in love with him but is in love with Lada who is not in love with him. So, it’s not exactly a love triangle because love is not reciprocated so the connections in the triangle don’t exactly touch. But what lovely execution of both feminism by way of Lada and LGBT representation by way of Radu. Both in in the 1400s, I might add. Love it. Finally, if I may add, what a beautiful representation of Islam. I am Christian but I must say, Islam really is such a beautiful religion and to see it portrayed as such (in the way that it should be, I can’t even believe I have to write that) brought such warmth to my heart.

I listened to the audiobook for this and absolutely loved it. Fiona Hardingham is fantastic! She also narrates An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Acid by Emma Pass, and The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron to name a few, so if those titles are also on your list of books to read, I’d highly recommend checking out those audiobooks as well. I know that I will certainly be looking out for more audiobooks narrated by Hardingham.

And I Darken is one of my favorite books of 2016 and I cannot wait for book two!


And I Darken by Kiersten White is available today.