Allgemein, K - O, N, Reviews

Review: Now I Rise (Kiersten White)

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Rating: 4 Pfoten

”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. 😉

2

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:

”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.”

Radu:

”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.”

3

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.”

4

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

A, A - E, Allgemein, Reviews

Review: And I Darken (Kiersten White)

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Rating: 4 Pfoten
 
Book 17 on My Book List 2020
 

She sat beside his bed for a long while. Finally, she put a hand on his shoulder and whispered, “You are mine.”

If you’re looking for a fast paced book with lots of action and historical accuracy you better turn around and leave this review, because I can guarantee that you won’t get either of those two things if you start to read “And I Darken”. If you’re looking for a slow paced and very character driven story that has quite a unique setting and lives and breathes intrigues and machinations… Well, you’re welcome to stay! 😉

I really enjoyed this story because it was something different and even though there were some things you could argue about – for instance Lada’s full name being Ladislav which is definitely a male name that could have easily been changed into a female one – Kiersten White never claimed historical accuracy or well, I suppose just accuracy in that particular case. *lol* This book is placed in the genre of historical fiction after all and even though it borrows a few names and facts every now and then the story and the characters in it are clearly fictional. Just to put it out there as information for the people that might take offence when they read this. XD

And speaking of historical facts: Yes, Vlad II had two sons named Vlad (equivalent of Lada) and Radu who served as bargaining chips and were captives of Sultan Murad II. Funnily enough Mircea was actually Vlad’s elder brother and Radu (who was indeed called “Radu the handsome” or “Radu the fair”) was his half-brother. According to historical facts Vlad and his half-brother weren’t able to stand each other. Also Mehmed II (named Mohammed before he became the sultan) was actually Murad’s and Huma’s son. So there you go with the historical facts. History geek that I am, I probably could go into even more detail, but I’ll just leave it at that and talk about the fictional book instead. ;-P The history lesson is officially over now! You can breathe again. *lol*

2

So this is the moment when I welcome you to Edirne where machinations and plots are brewing as thickly as a Mercimek Çorbası. If you don’t want to be spoiled you better leave now! If not: Be my guest and eat soup with me. 😉

Lada:

”Lada had a sense for power – the fine threads that connected everyone around her, the way those threads could be pulled, tightened, wrapped around someone until they cut off the blood supply. Or snapped entirely.”

This girl is fierce, relentless, unapologetic and tenacious. And she’s driven! Driven by her love for Wallachia, her brother and yes, even Mehmed. I think I rarely met a bookish character that was so self-assured and knew exactly what it wanted. Lada wants to go back to her homeland and her deep love for Wallachia trumps everything else. I think she’s kind of similar to Aelin when it comes to this, only that Aelin’s Terrasen is more like a vague idea of something that used to be and Lada’s Wallachia is everything that’s out of her reach. She’s longing for her country and her people and she’s ready to do whatever is needed in order to get back there. But she’s also conflicted. So very conflicted. She refuses to give up on her religion, she doesn’t want to adapt to Ottoman customs and she fights against her tutor, yet there is one thing or rather one person she can’t seem to be able to refuse and his name is Mehmed. Throughout the entire book it felt like she was torn inside and I suppose she was. Between what she wanted and what she needed or craved for. I’m not sure the ending solved that problem but she made a choice and she’ll have to live with it. For better or for worse. >_<

”She had to be the smartest, constantly surprising and delighting him. She was terrified that the day she stopped amusing him would be the day he remembered he had no use for a daughter.”

”She kept a pleasant smile on her own, kept her hands loosely folded in her lap, kept control. Control was power. No one would make her lose it. And eventually the tutor would realize that she would let him hit Radu over, and over, and over.
And only then would Radu be safe.“

”On our wedding night,” she said, “I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife and therefore not a widow to be pitied.”

”Why was she still here? What had become of the girl who was the daughter of a dragon? Was this it, then? Had she reached the pinnacle of her potential? A command of fifty men in service of a man she loved, who ruled an empire she loathed?”

Radu:

”Radu had gotten all the beauty their father had wished on his daughter. His eyes were framed by thick lashes, his lips full, his gentle curls kissed with a hint of Saxon gold.”

To say Radu is a precious cinnamon roll would be kind of insulting because even though he is, the Slytherin in him is still strong! *lol* I really loved that about his character because it made him so much more intriguing. There is this beautiful and sweet boy that knows exactly how to use his good looks and charisma to his advantage and he never even hesitates to do just that. As long as it helps him to protect Lada and Mehmed he won’t have any qualms about his actions. If I’d have to describe Radu in a brief sentence I’d say that he is: Beauty with a sting. XD But despite all his good cheer and easy nature he’s also a very lonely and insecure character which is easy to see whenever he’s around Mehmed. At first he doesn’t even realize that what he feels for Mehmed is love and once he figures it out he’s trying to suppress it. Because of his good looks and friendly nature he was always teased and I think the fact that he harboured feelings for his best friend only made it even harder to come to terms with himself. His father basically thought he was soft and worthless so it’s no wonder he’s super insecure about his feelings. Especially at a time like that and in a country where the Sultan has an entire harem of women. It’s no wonder poor Radu is lost and I’m kind of afraid of what will happen to him in book two. =S

”And then, seeing the relief shining in Mehmed’s black eyes, Radu knew what he hoped for: He hoped for the best for his friend. Regardless of what that meant for himself.“

”What had Lazar seen? What did he suspect? Could he tell simply by watching Radu that something was very wrong with him, when even Radu did not understand what it was? All he knew was that there was some light, some pull, some fire that Mehmed carried, and Radu only felt truly alive when he was nearby.”

”You have both been so busy learning tactics and studying battles, you have failed to see the truth of where thrones are won and lost. It is in the gossip, the words and letters passed in dark corners, the shadow alliances and the secret payments. You think I am worthless? I can do things you could never dream of.”

”I know it would help you, to have someone you could trust on that throne. And I want to serve you, to do whatever I can to help you gain Constantinople and be the sultan your empire has waited for. I will do whatever I can. But please, I beg you, do not ask this of me.”

Mehmed:

”The more I pushed, the more they looked the other way. My father never saw me, my mother could not be bothered to take so much as a meal with me. No one cared who I was or what I became.”

Dare I say it? Yes, yes I do. Don’t kill me but I think in comparison to the complexity of Lada and Radu’s characters, Mehmed was actually pretty… bland? *lol* Ahh it feels good to get that off my chest. XD I really don’t know why both of them fell for him because aside of his occasional kindness there is actually not a lot that speaks for him. He’s as spoiled as you’d expect the son of a sultan to be and even though there was an obvious effort to show that he was never loved by his father he still had it so much better than anyone else. Mehmed might not have been happy about his role but he still played it and used his harem to father children. I guess in some way he was as torn about this as Lada and Radu were about their allegiances, but this certainly didn’t stop him from seeking out his harem and for using his power as he saw fit. So yes, underneath it all he’s still spoiled and carries some sort of entitled arrogance with him. Which ultimately didn’t make him all too likeable in my opinion. I DID appreciate his efforts to protect his infant brother though and I was as heartbroken as he was when Huma arranged for him to be killed. T_T

”I want you to think of an amount you feel is fair but generous. It is important to me that your soldiers – and you – know that no one values you or can take care of you as much as I can.” Mehmed’s smile dropped off, his eyes becoming as shard as his tone. “No one can offer you what I can, and if anyone tried, it would be treason.”

”He knew then that his posterity, his wandering, homeless people, would rule the world. Is how far we have come not a testament to the truth of his vision? I have inherited that, Lada. It is a calling and a dream I cannot deny. The tree is mine to spread, and I must.”

3

Radu & Lada:

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.

In some way this is such a typical sibling relationship and then again it isn’t. I think everyone who has a brother or a sister can relate to the rivalry between those two and sometimes even to the animosity they feel at the beginning of the book. Lada realizing that she loves and cares about her brother deeply is something very typical for siblings. When you’re little they are always there and steal the attention from you, so you try to get some of your parents attention too, but the older you get the more you realize that the person you took for granted is very dear to you and that you wouldn’t want to miss them for the world. So regarding their early years this felt very relatable. Their relationship as they grow older is something entirely different though. Where normal siblings would have gotten along by then, Lada and Radu are still struggling. It’s obvious they love each other but at the same time they also kind of hate what they’ve become. Lada can’t forgive Radu for embracing their new home and Islam and Radu doesn’t understand why Lada is holding on to their old ways. This by itself is a pretty interesting dynamic and if you add Mehmed into the mix it gets even more complicated. At first it was their father that sowed the seed of discord and later on it’s Mehmed. Lada knows about Radu’s feelings yet she also knows that Mehmed has only eyes for her, and Radu is painfully aware that Mehmed only wants his sister and not him. Despite all that their bond is strong and when push comes to shove it’s Lada, Radu rescues. XD I really wish those two siblings would have talked more and that Lada would have explained why she let their teacher hurt Radu. *sighs* What being apart will do to their already strained relationship I dunno, but you bet I’m ready to find out. 😉

”But they were both silent in the shared secret of their escape, the truth that Mehmed could never know. Their secret was deeper and darker than the pool in the woods. Lada took her brother’s hand and squeezed it, a grip as painful as their new bond. They had betrayed Mehmed.”

”You – It does not seem like you. I never thought you could do something like this.”
Radu stiffened. “You may have been the one who stopped the dagger last time, but I am the one who will know before the dagger ever comes close to Mehmed.”

”You saved me,” she said.
“Of course I did.”
She shook her head. “Not when I was falling. When Ilyas had us both on the floor. You chose me over Mehmed.”
“You are my family,” he whispered. Lazar had been right, after all.

”She did not acknowledge it or the immense gratitude welling in his eyes. She owed him a debt. Nothing was more important to him than Mehmed’s trust. Perhaps it would have been kinder to break that trust and force a removal. Maybe then Radu could be free of the impossible love he carried. But she could not do that to him, not when it was so easy to take this blow on her own shoulders.”

Lada & Mehmed:

”Would you command me to stay? And if I refuse? Will you have me beaten? Whipped? All that and more I have faced in your father’s courts. I did not bow before your god or your sultan then, and I will not now. Why did you bring me here, Mehmed? I will not be ruled.”
Mehmed’s face fell. He lowered his hand, and the line of his back – so straight – curved. “I have never wanted to be your master. I have servants. And teachers, and guards, and a father who despises me. I want you … to be my friend.”

I think this relationship was doomed from the beginning because neither Lada nor Mehmed are able to change the way they are. Lada’s first and only true love is Wallachia and Mehmed is the sultan of the Ottoman Empire and has responsibilities he’ll never be able to escape. If Lada would have given in they might have had a chance but she’s too independent and stubborn to give up her dreams. Also I probably would have disliked her if she would have chosen Mehmed over everything she loves. If you break it down to the basics all Mehmed can give her is being one of many women to bear him children, always standing on the sidelines, designated to be nothing more than the shadow of the sultan. Lada has to go her own way and even though she had to rip out her heart in order to do so, she made the sacrifice willingly because she knew it was necessary. She’ll never be a docile wife and Mehmed should have realized this way earlier than he did. Their cultures and stances just clash too much. So I think this ship has sunk even though I doubt that we’ll have seen the last of them together. *lol* There’s still book 2 and 3 after all so I’m sure they’ll meet again eventually.

”And the harem, I – It is not real, Lada. I visit, and they flit about like phantoms, like paintings. None of them are real to me.” He paused again, placing a hand flat against the door. “You are the only real thing in my life.”

Mehmed blinked rapidly, then shook his head. “Lada, I was not talking about my son. Do you think he is the only thing here I value?”
“Then what?”
“You! I will not take you into battle! You have no idea what the conditions are like, no idea how many ways there are to die.”

”Say you are mine.” He trailed his lips down her neck. She arched into him, digging her fingers into his back.
“I am yours,” she whispered. The words cut like knives, barely out of her mouth before he stole them, sealing them with his own lips.

“Because thinking like that is the only way to keep from losing our minds.”
“What about our souls?” Mehmed whispered.
Before Lada walked out, she paused at the door. “Souls and thrones are irreconcilable.”

Radu & Mehmed:

Mehmed put a hand on his shoulder, his smile healing the hurt of Lada’s mocking. “I know what you meant. This pool is as old and as pure as that story, I think.”
“It will be ours, then.” Radu beamed.
“Our secret,” Mehmed agreed.

First of all I’ve to say: DAMN IT!!! How could Mehmed not realize that Radu didn’t come along with them?!!?? Like seriously!! He’s his best friend and he didn’t realize his absence until about an hour or so has passed?! WTH??  Poor Radu! T_T It broke my heart! As did Radu being in love with Mehmed. I was constantly wondering if Mehmed is even aware of it but considering that he didn’t even notice Radu was missing he obviously only has eyes for Lada. It’s like Radu is some sort of afterthought and I hurt for Radu because he deserves so much better than that. I still don’t know how I feel about Radu’s marriage with Nazira but I suppose in some way it will be good for them both. I mean Nazira can be with her maid Fatima and be happy and maybe she’ll be a good companion for Radu. Someone he can confide in when he feels lonely and lost. That he had to kill Lazar because he betrayed Mehmed made me very sad but I understand why he did it. >_< Still, Lazar was an old and trusted friend that only tried to protect Radu so that he died at his own hands was a cruel twist. =(( I wish I would have gotten Mehmed’s POV because I think some part of him is aware that Radu loves him and even uses it to bind him to his side… His POV certainly would have been helpful in that regard. *lol* And I don’t even know who that guard from Constantinople was that held Radu’s gaze for such a long time but I’m pretty sure he would have been way more healthy for Radu than Mehmed. XD I’m kinda disappointed nothing happened between those two. *lol* But I’m pretty sure sooner or later Radu will meet a guy that will reciprocate his feelings and hopefully he’ll be ready to take the leap. =) He deserves to be loved and I hope it will happen in book two. XD

”He wanted Mehmed to look at him the way he had looked at Lada.
He wanted Mehmed to kiss him the way he had kissed Lada.
He wanted to be Lada.
No, he did not. He wanted to be himself, and he wanted Mehmed to love him for being himself.

„Radu knelt beside Mehmed, putting a hand on his shoulder. Mehmed looked up in surprise, but whatever he was about to say died on his lips as he squinted at Radu. Without a word, he threw himself forward. He wrapped his arms around Radu’s torso and buried his face in his shoulder.”

”She is lovely and a good match. And you will still be here.” He stopped and looked up. A hint of fear mingled with the trouble behind his eyes. “You will still be here.”
“Of course.”
“I depend on you. I trust you as I trust no one else.”
Radu smiled, lifting a hand to his heart. “And I you.”

After she was gone, Radu held Mehmed as he wept, Radu’s joy at cradling Mehmed was like a kick to the stomach, overpowering and destined to linger with bruises long after it was over.
“Never leave me.” Mehmed’s grief-choked voice still rang with command.
Radu closed his eyes. “I will never leave you.” Mehmed was in his arms, but he knew Lada was the only thing in Mehmed’s heart.

4

Kiersten White took historical names and spun her own story around them and what a marvellous tale it turned out to be! If you like historical fiction and books with a slow plot and multifaceted, independent characters this one certainly will be for you. Add a little bit of love, jealousy, an LGBTQ rep and lots of intrigues and you’re all set for a while. ;-P