Thank you to netgalley and Random House Children’s for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
To put it simply this is a historical retelling if Vlad the Impaler (also known as Vlad Dracul, the namesake of Dracula) was born a female. Lada (Vlad) and her brother Radu grow up together in Wallachia, their father clearly favouring Lada, until they get sent off to the Ottoman Empire after a lot of political moves and betrayal. This novel follows the pair as they try to build a live for themselves in their new empire with their new found friendship with the heir to the Ottoman empire: Mehmed.
I had some really mixed feelings about this book. I was disappointed in that there was a hell of a lot less impaling than I expected, but it is the first in a trilogy and I assume there will be a lot more blood in the next instalments. It felt like a first book as well, it was quite slow and it seemed to be all about the set up. However, by the end of the book I found myself desperate for the second part so I clearly ended up liking it.
I really struggled with the first half, I couldn’t really get to grips with the characters and didn’t really get what the fuss was about, but then the second half happened and everything I thought was blown out of the water. I really began to understand these characters and why they acted the way they did.
White has clearly done a lot of research; I looked up Vlad the Impaler as I read this and everything seemed to be fairly correct in terms of historical accuracy, well, as much as it could be with the whole gender bend thing.
There is a love triangle in this book but my god it’s not your typical love triangle and it really hurt my soul but I don’t want to talk about it too much because it was such a surprise to me when I noticed where things were heading and I don’t want to spoil that for anyone. The relationships between the main characters are really impacted by the triangle, especially as the grow up. The way the society in this book is also makes things so much different to the kind of love triangle that comes up in most YA books. Personally, of the two siblings, I found myself leaning more towards liking Radu rather than Lada but I guess what can you expect when she’s based on a nasty piece of work.
What really made this story was the characters and the plot between what was happening with them rather than what was happening in the world they were in. There wasn’t as much action as I expected but the connections between the characters really made up for that and the ending has completely broke my heart and I don’t know if I can wait for the second part.