Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Published Date: June 28th 2016
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Page Count: 475
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
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.
"He had no names for a girl... He had already named his bastard Vlad, after himself. He would name his daughter the same. "Ladislav", he declared. It was a feminine form of Vlad. Diminitive. Diminished."
Ladislav (Lada)- Vlad's daughter
Bogdan- nurses son and Lada's best friends
Radu- Lada's baby brother
Mehmed- Friend of Lada and Radu, Ottoman Empire son
Huma- Mehmed's mother
Nicolae- soldier and Lada's best friend in her teenage years
Kumal- Kind man who helps Radu
From the time she was born Lada was expected to be nothing by her father. Instead what he got was a daughter that was tougher than his sons, and who would end up protecting one of them time and time again. She not only makes her father slightly proud at times but also seems to shame him at times as well when she acts un-lady like in front of others.
Then we have little Radu, the child that Vlad really seemed to not care for at all. He is weak and terrified of everyone in his families eyes. Yet Lada protects him with everything she has, while also picking on him. She does what she has to to make sure they stay alive even when it causes Radu to get hurt.
"People respond to kindness, Lada. They trust a smile more than a promise that you will leave them choking on their own blood.""Yes, but my promise is more sincere than your smiles."
Lada and Radu are so different, but yet both still want the same things for the most part. The way they go about getting what they want is extremely different with Radu becoming everyone's friend and Lada using terror to get what she wants.
One thing that unites these two siblings the most though is there hatred for Vlad. He left them as bargaining chips in order to keep the small empire that he had.
"I did not love him. I worshiped him. And then he betrayed us by being human - so worthlessly, weakly human. He left us here with nothing and made it impossible for us to return home."
That was also when Lada realized that woman were seen as nothing and were just used as pawns to get what the men wanted for no regards to them or how they will survive. This is something that makes her become even fiercer and even more determined to get home to her country that she was taught to love so much, by the man who would treat her as if she was nothing.
With Radu we see him question not only who he is being in a foreign land with a sibling who he is terrified of, all while falling for someone who he can't have and knowing that he can never go home. We see Radu make friends of his own yet still be completely alone. He is an interesting character in the way that he would do anything for this other person he can never have, all while making sure that he also plays the part of pleasing so many other people. I might actually like his tactics for getting information more if he wasn't so busy trying to hide from Lada instead of just standing up to her.
"His heart sank as he realized that by taunting her that she could not leave, he had virtually guaranteed she would do exactly that."
Overall I really loved this story. Lada is a character that makes you dislike her and love her all at the same time. She does things that make you want to hate her, but then she does and does things like protecting Radu or slowly falling for someone who is keeping her someplace she doesn't want to be.
I also loved how we see things from both Lada and Radu's perspectives. Because of this we not only get to see how terrifying Lada can be, but how loving as well for the people she cares about.
We also get to see Radu and Lada grow up and change over time. They go from being two powerless children to some of the strongest people in the Empire. They find ways to not only get inside the military, but how to become the Emperors right hand man and confidant.
"You have him Lada. You have his heart and his eyes and his soul. I have seen the way you wait for him to look at you, the way you relish his attentions. You pretend you do not love him, but you cannot lie to me.""No one will ever love you as he does-as an equal-and you know it. You will not leave that. You cannot."
As for the love triangle it was interesting and one that I haven't really seen before. I wanted each of the characters to be able to be with one another, because of how it changed them when they with said person, but on the other hand I think they could do so much better than said person as well. Its a tough call, but I am interested in seeing what happens with everything in the next book.
To me this wasn't as dark as I thought it would be. But that could just be because I read several thrillers before I started reading this book.
I can't wait for the second book and to see what happens next!