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.
This book is fucked up (in the best possible way, of course) aND I LOVE IT.
I love love love love heroines that flaunt themselves as ‘anti-princesses’ and in this sense the book did not disappoint. Ladislav ‘Lada’ is the female version of Vlad the Impaler! That literally had me hooked and I was so excited to read this book. Its such a gritty and dark book, and Lada is such a brutal and badass character. An anti-hero. Which is so hard to come by in YA fiction.
Lada is Vlad Dracul’s daughter (Vlad Dracul not being Vlad the Impaler because I made that mistake when I started reading oops). Since she is the first born and a female, they had no use for her. During Medieval times women were used to secure alliances by being married off to other countries or empires. But Lada was different. From the moment when she was born she was more fierce than gentle.
Her brother, Radu (he later becomes Radu the Handsome) is the complete opposite of Lada. He is gentle and beautiful therefore useless to Vlad.
The story follows their life at Ottoman court when they get abandoned by their father. There they have to fight for their survival. Lada is constantly constrained by her gender, and I really feel for her, I like Lada although I felt like some times she tried too hard. She was too fierce and strong. She denies and despises her femininity, she accepts the fact that she is unattractive and she grows up with the idea that she is bread for battle. Although this isn’t a bad thing, some softness never hurts and I feel like it could make Lada a more well rounded character.
Another thing I love about Lada is that since she was a child she has literally fought for everything she has. She’s constantly angry and aggressive, short tempered and super intelligent. There is such hunger in her life for what she wants and what is hers. And what she craves and wants is her country.
I also loved Radu and Lada’s relationship as siblings, as friends. She is his protector, she’s more masculine. While she is a warrior he is a poet. They have a very complex relationship and Radu is often seeking her approval.
The one thing I loved almost as much as I loved the characters was the setting, I’ve always loved to read about Romanian and just Medieval history, since I am Romanian and part of the original country, Wallachia, reading and getting informed about the history is always interesting. And I’ve never read anything about the Ottoman Empire, only listened to tales from my family and history teachers whilst studying in Romania at a young age. Its so strange that here in England I was never taught or heard anything about the Ottoman Empire mentioned during history lessons. Its also fiction, not historically accurate, nevertheless there is some truth to the historical references in the book.
I also like the fact that it explores religion, as it was a huuuuge huge factor in the middle ages. You also learn a few things about Islam, whereas Christianity is mentioned here and there. I feel like this will be explored more in the sequel as it will focus more on Wallachia, therefore less Islam, more Christianity. With all that said, the way that religion is told as just information of those times rather than preachment.
Now lets talk about the romance, because what would a YA novel be without romance. It wasn’t overwhelming at all, and at times I was wishing for more. The relationship between Lada and Mehmed is built over dependency and trust, compared to other YA fantasy books where theres just love and adoration. Lada is not weak and Mehmed respects her for who she is. Then there’s Radu, who can’t seem to find what makes him happy, until he realises that his sister is standing between him and his happiness.
Overall, it was an intensely satisfying read. I did find it kinda slow at the beginning, once I hit 200 pages I couldn’t pull myself about from the story.