Final thoughts and an interview... And I Darken by Kiersten White (Read-Along Wrap-Up & Giveaway)


Dena over at Batch of Books and I have enjoyed this read-along for And I Darken! If you missed the author's fun facts, check that out here, if you missed our thoughts half-way through, go here, and make sure you check out the interview with the author, my final thoughts, and enter the giveaway below!

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You can check out Dena's kick-off post here, her thoughts at this mid-point here. and her post for today here.

Now on to the interview with author Kiersten White (and check out my thoughts below as well)...

Author Interview

It's always so fun to get to chat with authors about their books. Dena and I definitely had fun asking Kiersten some questions. Enjoy!

Dena: How long did it take to write And I Darken?

Kiersten: A year from the start to the end of the first draft. And then a few more months of edits. Not my longest, but definitely one of my hardest!

Tressa: What was your favorite part of writing it?

Kiersten: I like feeling devious, and every step of the way with this book I’ve felt like I was getting away with something. Historical fiction from someone with a previously blisteringly modern voice! Gender-swapping a relatively obscure historical figure! Writing a sensitive, gentle boy and a brutal, violent girl! Maybe it’s my inner teenager, but I’m always having the most fun when I think I’m misbehaving.

Dena: What kinds of challenges did you face when writing the book?

Kiersten: The research was pretty daunting. The thing about writing historical is you can always, always do more research. And it can easily turn into a procrastination tool. So I had to find the right balance of doing enough research without letting it take away from the writing.

Tressa: What did you find most interesting/cool/surprising while researching Vlad the Impaler?

Kiersten: The same thing that was most interesting about researching Mehmed the Conqueror—the way he was remembered depended entirely on who was recording it. National hero and brilliant military leader, or depraved cannibal mass murderer! This is why using a wide range of sources is so important. But there is a cool (totally apocryphal, probably nowhere near the truth) story about him cutting open his mistress to prove she was lying about being pregnant. Wait, did I say cool, I meant horrifying?

Dena: Was it difficult to re-imagine Vlad the Impaler as a girl?

Kiersten: Honestly, Vlad made so much MORE sense to me once I thought, “What if he had been a girl?” Because that level of single-mindedness and brutal relentlessness is what a girl would have had to have to survive and compete for power in the 15th century (slash today to an extent as well!). The question of why and how someone would become that way made a lot more sense to me if that person was a girl.

Tressa: What do you think is the best thing about that historical period?

Kiersten: We talk about the medieval times like the whole world was stagnant and terrible, but in reality it was pretty much just Europe stumbling around in the dark. That’s part of what attracted me to the Ottoman Empire. They were doing incredible things—advancing science, math, philosophy. And they were a very open society. If there was something good, they invited it in. In most cases, you were better off as a Christian under this period of Ottoman rule than under other Christians! All that being said, I’m a huge fan of modern medicine and would literally be dead in any other time period, which makes it difficult for me to romanticize them.

Dena: Who was your favorite character to write?

Kiersten: I always loved it when Huma or Nicolae were on page. Nicolae because he’s funny, and Huma because she unnerves Lada so much. I love Nazira, too, and she has a much bigger role in book two that wasn’t originally planned. She just deserved it!

Tressa: Do you have a favorite line or scene from the book you can share?


Dena: Are all the characters based on real people?

Kiersten: The three main characters—Radu, Mehmed, and Lada (who was actually a man named Vlad) are all based on real people, as are their relatives. And a lot of the history is accurate. But a lot of the side characters were invented.

Tressa: What would you like readers to know?

Kiersten: I’m so thrilled to have this book out in the world. I love it so much and worked so hard on it! It’s the best thing I’ve ever written. Book two will be out next year, and book three the year after! And I’ll be so, so happy when those are out, too, because it means I’m finally done writing it all, ha!

And I Darken
And I Darken
(The Conquerors Saga #1)
by Kiersten White
YA Fantasy, Historical
Hardcover, Paperback & ebook, 496 Pages
June 28th 2016 by Delacorte Press

Summary

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.

   
(Affiliate links included.)

Final Thoughts

I missed updating my status during the week, but I did take some notes that I then added to Goodreads and here they all are (including those from last week):


THOUGHTS ON THE CHARACTERS

Last time I gave fairly specific thoughts on many of the characters and that list grew during the second half of the book. Lazar, Nicolae and Kamal all played stronger roles, although still in support of the main characters. There were other characters who could have been stronger or maybe more defined, but who still feel a little fuzzy, like Mehmed's father, Illyas, and the eunuchs.

Then you have the main characters: Lada, Radu, and Mehmed, particularly the first two. They grew into better focus as the story progressed and as they begin to come into themselves. I loved all three, but especially Lada and Radu. They are so opposites in so many ways, but compliment each other. I love their friendships even when they don't act like friends, because you still know they are loyal to each other. I especially love that Lada is so fierce and firm in not wanting to give up parts of herself and her country.

MY LEAST FAVORITE PART SO FAR

So, I thought it might happen, but I was hoping I was wrong... I get grossed out by same-sex stuff. I get it, I do, and I get how accepted it is. I also know other bloggers who totally go for that. It's just not for me and I don't like reading it in books, especially when it's fairly blunt (which it is here) and it's from an author that I've always been able to recommend and now will not be able to, especially as I share my books with tweens. There is also a lot of references to other sexual content. Some of it is contextual (I mean the sultan does have a harem and it's expected that he has several heirs with them), but then other stuff went beyond or was more descriptive than I like. So, those of you who don't care about that stuff won't have any issues and those of you who do, have been warned.

MY MOST FAVORITE PART SO FAR

There were some great moments in this second half. There's a part where Lada sees more clearly what life would be like without someone and decides to make her own path that I liked. There is also a fabulous fighting scene towards the end that was done really well. Then there are some sweet and humorous moments, like one between Lada and Nicolae when she asks if he wants to kiss her... It totally cracked me up, but then tugged on my heart when Nicolae reaffirms his loyalty.

Here's a line that really stuck out to me and I felt summed up this book:

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

This second half was even more interesting than the first. The characters and writing were all well done even with a few misgivings. I felt the plot finally start to form and it led to a good place. The ending was so perfect... a slight cliffhanger, but a strong ending to this initial book. I'm curious to see what the future will hold for Radu and Lada, especially.

And feel free to check out my full review here.

About the Author


KIERSTEN WHITE is the New York Times bestselling author of the Paranormalcy trilogy; the dark thrillers Mind Games and Perfect LiesThe Chaos of Stars; and Illusions of Fate. She also coauthored In the Shadows with Jim Di Bartolo. She lives with her family near the ocean in San Diego, which, in spite of its perfection, spurs her to dream of faraway places and even further away times.

Coming June 28th is And I Darken, an epic historical based on a gender-swapped Vlad the Impaler. It's filled with love daggers, which are like love triangles only much sharper and way more likely to kill you.


Giveaway

2 Print ARCs of And I Darken by Kiersten White
Provided by the publisher
Ends August 5th

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So, have you read this? Did you like it? Or will you be reading it?

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