Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.
What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?
As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won . . . and souls will be lost.
“It will work,” Radu said. It had to. It would prove, once and for all, that he was the better Dracul sibling. The most valuable. The most deserving of love. And it would prove to himself that he had made the right choice in staying.
This book hurt me in ways I never imagined I’d hurt. And I Darken was brutal and unforgiving, and whilst the atmosphere is not lost in Now I Rise, this sequel is almost bittersweet in comparison.
We spend a lot of time in Radu’s head, since he and Lada split ways. Radu, desperate for Mehmed’s love and approval, is ready to do absolutely anything, including becoming a spy in Constantinople. The goal: befriend the politicians running the city, and exploit the weakest points.
Radu is merciless in his work — from sabotaging food stocks, to dismantling the hard work behind repairing the weakest points of the wall, and even befriending Cyprian, the emperor’s nephew, in order to find out what, exactly, Constantine’s plans are, Radu sees only the end goal.
Bowing his head, Cyprian smiled, his eyes crinkling until they nearly disappeared. Radu thought Mehmed’s smile the best in the world, but he could not deny something about Cyprian’s transformed his whole face in a way that made Radu feel some hope for the first time in days.
However, Radu doesn’t count on being so openly accepted in Constantinople as a traitor to Mehmed, and he certainly doesn’t count on making friends. Even Nazira, his wife, finds Constantinople rich with trusting people — an aspect that would certainly be the city’s downfall eventually. Although Radu begins to second-guess everything he had stood for, his heart lies true: he would continue to do anything for Mehmed, even if it meant his death.
“… I want you to find that same love, and I never want you to hate yourself for any love that is in you.” She [Nazira] pulled him close and he let her, wondering it was possible for him to ever have the clarity and purity of love that she had.
Knowing that with Mehmed, it was not possible.
But how could he let go of the man written onto his very soul?
Treachery is afoot. Radu is unprepared to face the challenges Constantinople poses — and the rumours that have followed him all the way from home. Rumours that could ruin him, and that have dubbed him “Radu the Handsome.”
It’s no secret that when it comes to Radu, I have a huge, smushy spot in my heart that melts and bleeds every time he is on page. Lada, it seems, is very much the same. After forming an unlikely alliance with Hunyadi (the same man that had taken Lada and Radu to the Ottoman Empire in And I Darken), Lada is intent on becoming Prince of Wallachia, even it means killing anyone who stands in her way. I was pleased to see that, although Lada is growing up, her intentions remain the same. Unlike most YA novels, Lada does not let herself be distracted by the promise of romance and although her love of Mehmed could make or equally destroy the Empire, she is happy to kill him if it means securing Wallachia.
And when it comes to her beloved brother…
“Where is my brother, Mehmed?”
He looked at the ceiling of the tent. “Constantinople.”
Lada’s fury at the mortal danger her brother is in spurs her to make a quick decision: become the Prince, and destroy Mehmed.
“You betray my brother with your feigned ignorance of his feelings. You betrayed me. But I will never betray Wallachia.” She lifted the knife, pointing it at him. “If you set foot on Wallachian soil again — my soil — I will kill you.”
Kiersten White penned an explosive sequel, full of treachery, murder and love. I actually found myself caring about characters I didn’t wantto care about: Nazira and the sweetness and purity of her soul; Urbana, the Hungarian cannon designer; Cyprian, who believes the best of Radu and only wants his happiness in return. I found myself flipping the pages faster than I could read, wondering if Radu would betray Mehmed or Constantinople. If Lada would kill the boyars holding her throne, or relinquish Wallachia in order to save her brother. If Constantinople would fall, or stand strong.
But this is a historical retelling, and we all know how it ends. The Fourth Crusade was my favourite in history class, because it truly is as bloody, diabolically schemed and frenzied as Now I Rise depicts. I fell in love all over again, and now my heart lays in tatters.
Is it too much to ask for a happy ending?
Check out my review for And I Darken here!
Thanks so much to Random House Children’s Books for providing me with an ARC to review.
Have you read The Conqueror’s Saga yet? (If not what have you been doing this entire time?!) What’s your favourite historical timeline? Let me know in the comments below!