by Kiersten White5 out of 5
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.
Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.
Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.
The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she'll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.
Lada is the only daughter of Vlad Dracul, the Prince of Wallachia. In a world where girls (especially ugly girls) are of little value; Lada vows to prove to her father and everyone else, that she is just as violent and just as important as any man.
After reading lots of awesome reviews and being enticed by the synopsis, I was thrilled to get a free copy from Netgalley.
I enjoyed this book. I really really enjoyed this book. You know that lovely feeling when you read a book seems to have been specifically for you. It's nearly 500 pages long - the longest book I've read in a while, but also taking the shortest time.
The story follows the premise of Vlad the Impaler (the historic basis for Dracula) being born a girl.
White keeps the bare bones of the historical facts, with the Ottoman empire and the powerful players of the time, then fills it with a glorious fiction.
It doesn't matter if you know the history or not; it is completely it's own creation, whilst being respectful of the time and region.
Lada is the Daughter of the Dragon and she wants everyone to know it. She's tough and very quick to protect herself and her brother. She's quick to anger and has a natural violence within her. She knows the part that a princess is supposed to play and she spends her whole life fighting against that role.
Lada sees herself as just another man in this male-dominated world. From a young age she has no female role-models: after her weak mother abandons them and flees to her home country, only the nurse is present in Lada's life.
There is a love/hate relationship between her and her younger brother Radu.
It is interesting to see the effects of the reversed gender roles between these two. Where Lada is hard, Radu is gentle. As children, despite her useless birth, Lada is seen as worthy of people's attention; Radu, despite the benefit of being born male, is quickly seen as the weak link and is often ignored as an embarrassment.
This softness of character makes Radu quite annoying as a child, but I found his journey to be just as absorbing (if not more so) than Lada's. He is highly intelligent and weighs up the choices and sacrifices he has to make, aware of how it will affect his conscience.
Together Lada and Radu are a formidable force, as they try not only to survive the Ottoman court, but make a name for themselves.
The plot is dark and unforgiving. There is the constant pressure of politics and stopping the dagger in the dark.
The story does cover religions of the area, with Islam being portrayed respectfully and without getting preachy.
There are romantic threads, but they are woven in with subtly. There was a natural progression to them, and there was strife and strength enough that it could sway the direction of the plot with a realness that added to the story overall.
I would definitely recommend getting this book when it is released, and I can't wait to see what White does with the rest of the series. (BTW, I was very surprised to find it's part of a series, it works perfectly as a standalone)