”Secrets gave everything more power, more potential for devastation and destruction.”
And the secrets in here were huge, which is the reason why the destruction was so big at the ending of this book. >_< Both, figuratively and literally. I swear to read this was … quite an experience. I mean I already knew that this series is character driven and that the scheming and plotting never ends but I think “Now I Rise” raised this to the next level. If you know me, you know that I love this in my books though so to read this story was perfect for me. XD
What was very interesting was that we don’t only have two different POVs in the second book but also two different storylines that are a little bit delayed. We follow Lada who is in Wallachia and desperately tries to become the prince of her country and we are with Radu as he follows Mehmed’s order to infiltrate Constantinople as his trusted spy. Both siblings struggle with their tasks and with what is needed in order to achieve their goals. And while Lada continues to be the ruthless dragon that we know her to be, Radu’s heart seems to fissure under the constant weight of pressure.
I swear, the Dracul siblings couldn’t be any more different even if they tried but they still have such a strong connection and you can feel it on every page. Just like in the first book the longing in here is real, but whilst the main focus of this yearning was Mehmed in “And I Darken” it becomes something different in here. It turns into a longing for peace, for hope, for belonging and into a longing for knowing your place in the world, an almost palpable yearning for acceptance and better days. But before I write even more I’ll just get to my characters section and explain all my thoughts in there. 😉
You are now entering the lost city of Constantinople. Where people fight bravely against all odds and spoilers. If you don’t want to fight against a spoiler at every turn I strongly recommend you to leave this place. It isn’t too late; you can still make it out in time. 😉
”Lada smiled. She knew that should not please her, but it did. The prince thought her a big enough threat to warrant an assassin. She still had a chance. Where there was fear, there was power.”
My fierce and reckless dragon child! Gosh, I love Lada. I really dislike a lot of her actions and I disagree with her methods but I still can’t help but love this girl. I think I rarely felt so torn about a fictional character but Lada Dracul is definitely something else. Just like in the first book she knows exactly what she wants and she’s still not afraid of doing whatever is necessary in order to achieve her goals. I just gotta admire her tenaciousness and intransigence. This woman knows the price she’ll pay and yet she’s still not afraid of going through with the bargain. Lada still wants Wallachia more than she wants anything else and I think her and Mehmed are pretty similar when it comes to the craving for a country/city. They would do anything to get it and no price would be too big to pay. Even if it took their souls as payment, they would still readily sacrifice them. Lada is already at the point where she’s crossing a line she’ll never be able to return from and I’m kind of worried what that will do to her in the last book. >_<
”Tonight, she felt the full weight of that loss. The loss of a brother who would have stood at her side and fought this battle of manners and politics for her. The loss of a man who would have laughed at her dress and her hair but also been desperate to be alone so he could undo it all for her.”
”For years Lada had nurtured only hatred for her father, to take away the pain that loving him had left her with. But that night in her tent as she drifted to sleep, she let some of it go. Because she, too, was grateful for who she was. She would not wish any part of herself away.”
”Running and abandoning those who needed her as the weakest, lowest thing possible. Lada would not do that. She could not. Whatever else she was, Lada was nothing like the class who could go on living after turning their backs on those who depended upon them.”
”Without a word she shifted and plunged it into the chest of Toma. The man who had used we to talk about their plans, when he meant himself and a foreign king. The man who had thought that through words and advice, he could take Lada’s soldiers, Lada’s power, Lada’s country without ever fighting her. She watched his face as he died, committing it to memory.”
”Hope was an arrow that never ceased piercing his heart.”
My precious Radu! In my review of “And I Darken” I described him as “beauty with a sting” and that description still holds true, in “Now I Rise” his character changed a lot though. His armour started to crack and to hide his true feelings got more and more difficult. Mehmed asked him to go to Constantinople and to work as his spy and at first Radu is willing to do what he can in order to offer Mehmed Constantinople on a platter. The longer he stays at the city the more he gets involved in the community though. He makes friends and gets attached to Cyprian, Constantine and his family. He suffers alongside them in the siege and he fights against his own people that try to invade the city. Radu starts to question his role and his blind loyalty to Mehmed, but in the end is forced to realize that neither Mehmed nor Constantine deserve his faithfulness. Both of them would have been able to spare their people’s lives, but their pride didn’t allow them to do what would have been the best for their subjects. Radu is so torn by his own actions and the actions of Mehmed and Constantine that he’s breaking under the pressure. At the end of the book he’s a broken man and I was grieving his lost innocence. T_T I really just want my Radu to be happy! Is that too much to ask for?
”What did he hope his future would be? To stand forever at Mehmed’s side, beloved friend, trusted advisor? He had told Nazira it would be enough. It would never be enough.”
”Radu did not know which filled him with more despair – that everyone had heart this rumor except him, or that the mere suggestion of Mehmed loving women and men was seen as evil. His feelings for Mehmed had never felt evil or wicked. They had been the truest of his life, bordering on holy. To hear his love so casually profaned made him sick to his stomach.”
”Again you have never met my sister. She responded to our torments by getting harder, crueler, further away. It made her stronger, but it was breaking me. So when Mehmed – the sultan – offered me kindness, it was like someone had offered me the sun in the midst of the longest, coldest winter of my life.”
”Where was his heart? Where was his loyalty?”
”Radu had been wrong. There were no good men in this city.
And there were no good men outside of it, either.”
Lada & Mehmed:
„Mehmed moved from her lips to her neck, his hands in her hair. “When you left, you took my hear twith you. Kill me, Lada,”he said, with so much longing she could not keep her own hands off him.“
Okay, we legit only got one scene between those two and their sexy time ended rather abruptly when Lada found out that Mehmed could have supported her but didn’t because his own goals were once again more important than Lada’s. I honestly don’t blame Lada for leaving his tent in haste and hating him with a fierce passion. It’s not all hate though and I feel kind of sorry for her because she truly loves him but she can’t get out of her own skin. Those two are the epitome of star-crossed lovers and however their story will end. It won’t end well. >_<
”You could have trusted me and given me those forces instead. Were there ever any troops? Did you ever mean to help me?”
“I am helping you! You are destined for bigger things! With me.” He stepped toward her and she put her hands up.
”She closed her eyes, because she had worked so hard not to think of it. But as soon as she allowed the memories back in, she wanted to kill him. And she wanted to be with him again.
She did not know which impulse was stronger.”
Lada & Radu:
”I ask only what he is willing to do. Nothing more.”
“Then I do know him better, you fool. Radu would do anything for you.”
Mehmed looked away, a dark flush spreading across his cheeks.
“You know…” Lada’s eyes narrowed to thin slits, her fists clenched so tightly they ached. “You know that he is in love with you.”
I love Lada for hating Mehmed because of Radu! *lol* I blame it all on the Slytherin sleeping peacefully inside of me. ;-P But seriously, their sibling relationship is one of the best things about this series. Because they are true siblings in every sense of the word. I hate that Mehmed is still standing between them and I hope that one day they’ll realize that their relationship is more important than any man. Even if it’s the sultan! I really hope they’ll make amends once they meet each other and the Slytherin in me hopes that they’ll both tell Mehmed to go to hell! *lol* I can dream, right?! I guess if it wouldn’t have been for Mehmed their petty rivalry from their childhood would have already been a distant memory, but since they are still fighting for the attention of the same man they aren’t where they are supposed to be. At least not sibling relationship wise. I just hope they won’t realize their mistakes too late.
”Where was he? Was he safe? Of all the things she held against Mehmed, jeopardizing Radu’s safety was the greatest. If Radu was hurt, she would never forgive Mehmed. Radu was not an acceptable sacrifice, not for any city.”
Radu & Cyprian:
”Be careful,” Cyprian said, running a finger as soft as a whisper along Radu’s palm. “We need these hands.” Cyprian looked up and Radu found himself unable to bear the intensity of his gaze. Cyprian released his hands, laughing awkwardly. “We need all the hands we can get.”
“Yes,” Radu murmured, still feeling Cyprian’s finger tracing his palm.
Now that … oh my! Where do I even start?! Radu has got to be one of the most unfortunate book characters I ever came across. This boy has absolutely no luck when it comes to love. At first he fell for Mehmed who only uses him and then he falls for Cyprian whom he betrayed for Mehmed. I can’t with this ship! Honestly! Cyprian and Radu were such a lovely ship and slow burn but ARGH did it kill me to know that Radu was betraying Cyprian every step of the way. It killed Radu too. Obviously! Truth be told, Cyprian is too precious for this world. The mere fact he agreed to protect Nazira and to take care of her even though he was fully aware that Radu betrayed him and was responsible for the death of Constantine… I have no words! Cyprian is an angel! <333 And I really, really hope that he will find forgiveness for Radu in the next book because Radu needs someone like him in his life. But still, the betrayal!!! T_T GAH! Why is their relationship so doomed?!
”I feared for your safety.” Radu embraced Cyprian again, both because it was warm and comforting against the weariness of this long night, and because it was the only way he could hide how touched and sad he was that Cyprian’s first fear had been for Radu’s traitorous life.
”He will not kill me,” Radu repeated, waiting for Cyprian to understand. The foundation in Cyprian’s eyes crumbled like the walls around them.
Cyprian stumbled back, shaking his head. “All this time,” he whispered.
Radu & Nazira:
”You do not need to worry about me.”
“I do not worry because I need to. I worry because I care about you. I want to see you happy. And I do not think Edirne holds any happiness for your.” She emphasized Edirne, making it clear that it was not the capital she spoke of, but what – or rather, whom – that capital held.
Those two! They might only have a fictitious marriage but their friendship and their affection for each other is true and real. I love how deeply they care about each other and how they want each other to be happy! Radu is always watching out for Nazira and tries his best to keep her safe and Nazira has his back and tells him the things he needs to hear. They work so well together and even though their marriage is fake I still think they have a truly beautiful relationship. Nazira is such a precious character as well and I love her so much!! <333 Everyone should have a Nazira in their life. She’s such a nourishing, kind and caring character. XD I love her!
Radu drew her close. “You know I will make certain you are taken care of. No matter what.”
Nazira laughed sadly against his chest. “There you go again, assuming I am worried for myself. You never account for others loving you for you, Radu, rather than what you can do for them. It is my greatest prayer that someday you will know enough of love to recognize when it is freely given.”
”You do not know him. Besides, I do not wish anything more from him than his friendship.”
“You are welcome to lie to me, but please stop lying to yourself. Whatever your hopes are with him, I promise they will never be realized.”
“You have found love.”
“Yes. With someone who could return it. But you refuse to let go of this festering love for a man who is incapable of loving you.”
Radu blinked back tears. “Do I not deserve love?”
She put her hand on Radu’s cheek. “Sweet Radu, you deserve the greatest love the world has ever seen. I simply do not think Mehmed is capable of loving anyone the way you love him.”
”When I am with Fatima, what I feel is pure and good. I cannot imagine a god who hates anything that is love, any way we find to take tender care of each other. I want you to find that same love, and I never want you to hate yourself for any love that is in you.”
”I know it is not rational. None of the people here were responsible for what happened to Fatima. But their mindless hatred of us, their demonizing of Islam, is what let those men do what they did. It was wicked of me to come here with so much hatred in my heart. Hatred makes monsters of us all.”
”You almost make me believe in fate, for how unfortunate yours is.”
Radu & Mehmed:
”I am glad you are here,” Mehmed said.
Radu smiled bitterly. “That makes one of us.”
I hate Mehmed so much for leading Radu on! I guess some part of me always knew that Mehmed was aware of Radu’s feelings for him but to actually get solid proof! To hear that Radu was just the means to an end he used in order to get Constantinople. ARGH! He used and abused Radu’s love and trust and I can’t with Mehmed anymore! Such a foul move! He knew Radu would do everything for him because he loves him and he shamelessly used that love to his advantage. How vile of a creature can you be? Honestly, at this point I just want Mehmed out of the picture so that Radu can finally get the love he deserves. I’m afraid as long as Mehmed is alive Radu will always return to him though. And IT. KILLS. ME.!!! Radu needs to be free of this man but he’s always drawn to him like a moth to a flame. >_< I have no idea how the last book will end but I hope it will end with a happy Radu.
”I thought this would feel different,” Mehmed said, melancholy shaping his words like a song. He leaned against Radu, finally giving him the contact he had craved for so long.
“So did I,” Radu whispered.
”The ambassador, you mean? He quite liked you. I could see it at Edirne.”
Radu realized with a sickening lurch of his stomach that Mehmed was dancing around a question, trying to determine whether or not Radu cared for Cyprian in the same way. Which meant that Mehmed knew Radu had the feelings for men that he was supposed to have for women.
Which meant Mehmed could not possibly be unaware of the feelings Radu had nurtured for him all these years. Shame welled up in him, but a new feeling came, too. Radu felt … used.”
Lada & her men:
She had left behind love and ridden off to a future devoid of power. “I have nothing,” she whispered.
Nicolae nudged hi horse even closer to hers, until their legs brushed. “You still have us,” he said, his voice soft with understanding. “We will figure something out.”
Did I ever mention that I love Lada and her men? I’m so glad she has them with her and they are truly one hell of a nice company. *lol* Nicolae is definitely still my favourite and I really hope that he’ll survive the last book as well. As for Bogdan: I’m afraid sooner or later he’ll realize that Lada is only using him and can’t return his feelings for her and I’m kind of worried how this will end. Love and hatred are two emotions that are close to each other and I just hope Bogdan’s unrequited love for Lada won’t kill her. XD Stefan is so precious too! ❤ Anyway, I’m sure Lada’s men will be loyal in the last book too, but I’m worried about Nicolae and Bogdan. >_<
Lada laughed, patting Bogdan’s knee. Then she tossed a handful of dirt and dry evergreen needles at Nicolae. “No one asked for your opinion.”
“My opinions are gifts I distribute freely, asking neither permission nor payment.”
“Take your gifts elsewhere,” Bogdan grumbled.
”What we do now, we do so that someday mercy will be able to survive here.”
“But the children.” Nicolae’s voice was as empty as a boyar’s promise.
“You said you would follow me to the ends of the earth.”
“Gods’s wounds, Lada,” he whispered, shaking his head. “Someday you will go further than I can follow.”
Lada & Hunyadi:
”Hunyadi’s love and trust was a valuable thing; it meant more to Lada than she had thought possible. But he could not get her the throne. And she did not feel the pull of Constantinople that all the men in her life seemed to. Hunyadi, she cared about. Constantinople was only a city.
Wallachia, though. Wallachia was everything.”
I never expected Hunyadi to become some sort of father figure for Lada but it actually happened and I really liked their relationship. It’s a shame Hunyadi died because he was one of the few people that saw Lada’s true self and accepted her the way she is. She would have needed him to stay at her side for a longer time, but unfortunately he died because of Mehmed’s war strategies. I think with Hunyadi’s guidance she would have never come to the point she is at now, but his influence on her is gone and without it I’m kind of worried of what will become of Lada. >_<
”That is how we are alike. We saw everything that was not ours, and we hungered. Do not lose that hunger. You will always have to fight for everything. Even when you already have it, you will have to keep fighting to maintain it. You will have to be more ruthless, more brutal, more everything. Any weakness will undo everything you have accomplished. They will see any crack as evidence that they were right that a woman cannot do what you do.”
I enjoyed the second book at least as much as I enjoyed the first one. Maybe even more because the pacing felt a little bit faster than in “And I Darken”. It was interesting to see how the characters developed and how they grew. The character arc of Radu and Lada… chef’s kiss! Even though I suffered with them I still love how Kiersten White managed to let them grow. This said: If you already liked the first book I’m sure you’ll love this one as well! XD