I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: The Conquerors Saga #1
Published by Delacorte Press on June 28th 2016
Source: the publisher
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.
I’ve been SO excited for this book ever since I first heard about it. A YA historical? YES, PLEASE! A “what if?” YA Historical? EVEN BETTER! But a YA “what if?” historical about Vlad the Impaler.. As a girl?!?! GIMME GIMME!!!!!!!!!!! And this book did NOT disappoint. I enjoyed it SO MUCH and I can’t wait for book two!
In a Q&A Kiersten did for her launch party at Mysterious Galaxy Books (and which was transcribed in Stacee’s recap on her blog, Adventures of a Book Junkie), Kiersten discussed the insane amount of research she did for this book – and it definitely shows! This book takes you back in time and makes you feel as though you’re living in the Ottoman Empire in the 1400’s-1500’s. It was so atmospheric, the story so richly detailed.. I fell into this world with ease.
The characters were intriguing and complex. It’s hard to say whether I liked them or not, but I don’t think the author’s goal was for the characters to be likable. It was more about understanding them and their actions and decisions. As Kiersten said in her Q&A for Mysterious Galaxy Books, “If you get to the end of the series and you’re wondering why you like [Lada], I’ve done my job.” This statement is SO TRUE – not just for Lada, for all the characters. But especially our main three: Lada, Radu and Mehmed.
To be blunt, Lada was bratty, scary, nasty, mean and stubborn.. She BITES people. But through all that, she’s fierce, feisty and determined. She refuses to let the fact that she’s a woman stop her from doing – and getting – what she wants.
Poor Radu started off as the runt of the litter – ignored, picked on and beaten up. But he changes SO MUCH, it’s not even funny. He goes from being a scared, crying, sheltered little boy to… This man. This strong, clever, cunning man with a heart of glass who covets what he can’t have. His boyishness still comes through at times. But otherwise, from beginning to end, he becomes a completely different person. His most interesting quality? The diplomatic way in which he talks himself into and out of various situations. He inserts himself into people’s lives and conversations in such a smooth way, they don’t even realize what he’s doing until it’s too late.
The unshakeable bond between Radu and Lada is proof that home is not a place, but that it is where your family is – and that family is what you make it. They might not have always shown it in words or gestures but they loved each other – and it was very endearing.
There were a LOT of other characters that I could talk about, but then we’d be here forever! So instead, I’m going to offer shout-out’s (whether for good reasons or not-so-good reasons) to: Bogdan, Nicolae, Nazira, Kumal, Lazar, Ilyas and Salih. I’m sure there are other characters I could shout-out, but these are the main ones I was either truly intrigued by or truly despised (give or take a few I left out).
Again, it’s hard to say whether or not I liked these characters, but I definitely liked their interactions with one another, as well as their various relationships. I especially loved the way Radu’s relationships – and everything that goes along with that – were handled.
I read a lot of mixed reviews about this book (before I read it) and I think I know why: This is unlike anything Kiersten has ever written. It’s pure historical fiction. That means it’s a little slow to get through because there’s SO much world-building involved. And I admit, it had a slow start and was a bit too long. But otherwise, it’s intriguing and absolutely a coming of age story – finding one’s place in the world, etc. And Kiersten did SUCH a great job with it.
Overall, if you couldn’t tell from my review, I LOVED this book SO MUCH and I CAN’T wait for book two – which you can get a sneak-peak of here! I HIGHLY recommend this for fans of historical and “what if?” historical. If you’ve read Kiersten’s previous books, prepare yourself for something COMPLETELY different than you’ve ever read from her before!