I probably enjoyed this book more than I should have, lol, but it felt refreshing to read something inspired by my country’s history, even though some aspects didn’t feel accurate – historical or not, it IS fiction after all, so I let the author take her story wherever she wants (not that I was too fond of history in school to notice that many anyways). I also enjoyed the switch in gender regarding Vlad the Impaler, I might be a little bit unsure about the feminine variation of the name and its diminutive, but Lada was a strong character and I loved her spiky side, pun intended.
In terms of characters I liked Radu maybe a bit better, because his transformation was more obvious through the story. He might have been the soft one, maybe he couldn’t stand on his own in a fight, but he definitely knew by the end how to set traps with his words, how to turn situations in his favour with a sweet (but poisonous) smile.
On the other hand, I liked the dark and cunning side of Lada from the beginning. She needed to be twice more ruthless than any other man to be taken seriously, with her being a little girl and all, and she delivered all that and even more. I loved how she saw that her vulnerabilities needed to be hidden away, how she hurt in order to protect. She became a bit mellow while infatuated with Mehmed, but her soft side might have been needed to amplify the darker one.
Also, I have to mention that I read this book in Romanian and I absolutely LOVED the translation – more so in the first part, where the action takes place in Wallachia; it had such an authentic ring to it and it sounded so sweet on my tongue.
The story was a bit slow, but I did not have a problem with the pacing. While the beginning and the end felt stronger, the middle part defined and reshaped the characters more. Lada was wild and savage, but she started to contain her anger and make use of it only when needed. Radu used to be all pampered, but pretty soon he learnt that he needed to take matters into his own hands.
The only thing I was not fond of was the teenage drama. There was a lot more than I was hoping for, not to mention all the (many) love triangles of sort. The main love interest felt shallow and I didn’t see the appeal there, but considering the age of the characters that might not be actually worrisome and all that tangle of feelings might be needed in order to make Lada & Radu come to senses: for Lada to be ruthless once again, for Radu to see there is more to the world than feelings. They beautifully danced on the gray side so far and I’m eager for the darkness to come and envelope them.
Conclusion: I was hoping for a more cruel and vicious kind of story, it’s true, but I can’t complain, as this is only the beginning. Now we have the perfect setup for what we’ve been promised in the first pages. Hopefully that will be the case 😉
Book source: the Romanian edition has been kindly provided to me for review by Leda Edge, Corint. Many thanks!