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, who’s expected to rule a nation, 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.
From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.
This book was nothing like what I expected. I have seen nothing but rave reviews, and I am here to add another, and tell you to go read this now. It’s so unique, takes on so many delicate topics – femininity, sexuality, religion, loyalty – and wields them masterfully. Nothing is overdone or shoved in your face, and the characters are so richly crafted that the subtle shifts and growing thoughts about the above topics are a natural progression for each of them.
The three main characters are so different. And bouncing back and forth between Radu and Lada show us so many different angels on each of them. Radu is beautiful, quiet, optimistic, and has a desperate desire to belong. And we see all his weaknesses when we watch him through Lada’s eyes, but when we are in his POV we also see the cunning moments of his spying and his eagerness to feel loved by his sister and the prince. Lada is fierce and ruthless and selfish through Radu’s eyes, yet there is an undeniable vulnerability within her – driving her to make herself as physically powerful as possible as she fights with what it means to be a woman.
Then the politics of it all. I for got how young they all were in the beginning. Lada and Radu already have skilled minds when it comes to the personal and unfeeling settings of royal courts, and they will do anything they can to protect the prince they are both devoted to, even if it means betraying him. As they all grow up it only becomes more complex. While they learn the intricacies of court and their influences when it comes to ruling an empire, they are also expanding their personal relationships. The strange web it creates between the three is so interesting to watch. You know there is only one way things can end, but it’s still heartbreaking when it does.
Such a phenomenal book, I cannot wait to see where this series goes, and how the relationships continue to evolve. However, this is definitely one of those more mature YA books.