As the baby latched on with surprising fierceness, the nurse offered her own prayer.
Let her be strong.
Let her be sly.
And let her be ugly.
And I Darken, a story about an abandoned pair of siblings trapped in a country they want no part in. Lada: the firstborn with fire in her soul, eyes, and fists. All rage and hard edges. Radu: the pretty boy who cries far too easily, loves too hard, and breaks far too soon. The charm to his sister’s brutality.
Heroine who is actually ruthless and not simply a watered down version of a warrior? Check. Character that is a flip on “only the men can be emotionless and angry and unable to cry”? Check. Blood, gore, and violence? Check. Far too inappropriate for a teen novel? Unfortunately, check.
And I Darken started out with so much potential. It steered clear of so many cliches and wasn’t afraid to paint its characters in a harsh or even bad light. The writing was beautiful and the characters easy to love, simply for how flawed they are.
But, alas, content. Always content. They are living in a time of war, and Lada befriends many soldiers. Soldiers whose mouths and minds are not pure in any way. While most of their comments early on are only about how ugly she is (yes, the main character isn’t physically attractive to everyone!), it eventually changed tone to the point where she is groped and her breasts are crudely discussed. The male genitalia is also joked about and discussed, leading to some awkward moments of discomfort for me, the reader.
While rape is prevalent even now and it shouldn’t be made light of, the scene in this book can be disturbing for many readers and possibly triggering. Nothing actually happens and Lada manages to kill her assailant before he is able to do much harm, but for someone not expecting it, it can be a bit much and triggering.
Language wasn’t as big of an issue as I was expecting, so I was pleasantly surprised. Still, words like d*mn and a** are thrown about moderately.
There is, of course, a love triangle in this story. It is between Lada, a soon-to-be king and friend, Mehmed, and Radu. Yes, a brother and sister both are attracted to the same guy. If it simply was mentioned once, it could possibly have been ignored, but Radu sees Lada and Mehmed passionately kiss and disappear into her room and his only thought is that he wishes he was her. He also later makes out with a young nobleman which gets pretty graphic. This was where I put the book down, extremely disappointed.
I understand not everyone will think this is a reason to stop, but I abhor love triangles of any kind, and the fact that this was sprung over half-way through the book made it seem like a poorly executed attempt at “diversity.”
Lastly, Mehmed (one of the main characters) has a harem, and as a teenager, has children with his concubines. He sees nothing wrong with this, and considers those women as “nothing” in his eyes. This is so very wrong, and no one seems to see it like that.
I ended up closing the book just over the half-way point. I just couldn’t continue with all of the obviously immoral and sinful themes that were portrayed as normal and perfectly acceptable. Because of this, I can’t recommend the book or series to anyone.
Rating: One Star