Bright We Burn

Rating: 
Author: Kiersten White
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Pub Date: Jul. 10, 2018 (read Jul. 2018)

An excellent conclusion to a fantastic series! I gotta say, the cover art for this finale is super odd and seemingly unrelated, I have no idea why they picked a pomegranate, but whatever because Kiersten White is awesome!

I really liked the first two books in this series. They are bloody and brutal and so so much fun to read. This is basically re-imagined history with Vlad the Impaler as a teenager girl and centers around her relationship with her younger brother, Radu, and their friend, Mehmed the Conqueror. Essentially, Lada and Radu were taken hostage by the Ottoman Empire as children and developed a relationship with Mehmed. They all eventually go their own ways, with Mehmed and Lada chasing after power, while Radu gets stuck in the middle, conflicted by his growing feelings for Mehmed and his love and reverence for his sister.

In this epic conclusion, Mehmed has taken the city of Constantinople and Lada has taken the Wallachian throne. In an effort to protect her people, she goes on a bloody rampage through Bulgaria, attracting the attention of the Ottomans. Though Mehmed loves her, he cannot let her insolence stand and asks Radu to aid him in meeting Lada in war.

I admit, I remembered the general gist of the last two books, but I forgot who a lot of these characters were outside of the core 3. I have always loved Lada’s character, but this book was all about Radu for me. It kind of reminded me of Lord of the Rings a little bit where you think Frodo is the protagonist of the story, but really Tolkien had always intended Sam to be the hero of the story. I feel like I was always so focused on how insane Lada is that I totally missed out on what a hero Radu is in this trilogy! Lada and Mehmed are so focused on power and will do and hurt anyone to get it, while Radu’s strength comes from his unending kindness and heavy conscience.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about the conclusion. It’s just as political as the first two, but also just as bloody. It is incredibly heartbreaking, but it also has a very satisfying conclusion. I would definitely recommend and could see myself binge reading this entire series again in the future.

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Now I Rise

Rating: ⭐
Author: Kiersten White
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Re-imagined History
Read: July 2017
Series: The Conqueror’s Saga (Book 2)

 

I couldn’t quite decide how I felt about this series when I read And I Darken, but after reading Now I Rise I am totally on the bandwagon!

This series is quite unlike anything else I’ve ever read. I love historical fiction and I love fantasy – The Conqueror’s Saga is a perfect mix of both genres! I would call this re-imagined history, focused on Kiersten White’s re-imagining of history if Vlad the Impaler had been a woman and in love with Mehmed the Conqueror.

The series takes place in the Ottoman Empire in the mid-1400’s when Lada and her younger brother Radu, heirs of Wallachia (part of Romania), are abandoned in the Ottoman courts and strike up a friendship with a young Mehmed. I won’t go into detail on the plot of And I Darken because it was a while since I read it, but Now I Rise follows Lada’s quest to take back the throne of Wallachia and Radu’s uncover spy mission into Constantinople during Mehmed’s attempt to take the city as one of his first accomplishments as the new sultan of the Ottoman empire.

I didn’t know much about the Ottoman Empire, so I found the historical aspects of this series fascinating. History remembers Vlad the Impaler as a villain, but to many Wallachian’s, he was a hero. Lada is completely ruthless and unforgiving, but you can’t help but love her as she does whatever it takes to restore Wallachia. She recognizes that she will always have to fight for power as a woman, but also acknowledges that the hardships she’s faced and the fact that she has to fight twice as hard as a woman is what gives her so much strength.

I liked how the series explores the different ways in which women could have power in the 1400’s and that power gained through marriage or children or even prostitution is still power and no less than that which is gained by traditional feats of strength or dominance. I love the scene where Lada is alone by the river, dealing with having her period, and is set upon by 3 men. She uses her femininity to her advantage and ultimately saves the lives of many of her men by doing so.

This series is dark and there is so much tension between the characters as they fight to gain power. The plot is strong, but the characters are really what really made this story wonderful. They are all so gritty and real. They do horrible things and make terrible choices and yet you understand their motivation and drive. I love the complicated relationship between Lada and Radu and felt such sympathy for Radu as he struggled with his feelings both for Lada and Mehmed. The secondary characters were all so wonderfully realized as well. Nazira is my hero and I loved Cyprian, Nicolae, and Hunyadi. I also enjoyed the exploration of religion in this book and Radu’s relationship with Islam.

Well done Kiersten White, can’t wait to read more!!