Author: Kiersten White
Series: The Conquerors Saga #1
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this novel from the publisher for an honest review.
“She would stay for the way she felt when his mouth or eyes were on her. And she would stay for the power it gave her.”
Even from birth, Lada is unlike the other girls her age. She is not content to simply follow the status quo. She doesn’t bow down blindly to authority. In fact, she hardly bows down at all – a fact that often finds her in trouble. And she and her childhood friend, Bogdan, take almost a twisted pleasure in tormenting her younger brother, Radu.
This novel jumps very quickly through time between chapters in several places, leaving me feeling a bit disjointed at times. And though we move quickly through time, the pacing of the plot seems to drag its feet in other areas, especially when romance gets involved. To give White credit, however, the romance in this novel doesn’t completely overpower the plot. And I have to admit that this is the most unique, and perhaps dysfunctional, love triangle I think I’ve read lately. It’s not even just a love triangle, though it certainly has its root primarily in one. While there is a love entanglement between three of the main characters, there is also a harem of women – which I guess what customary at the time period – to contend with as well, which puts a lot of resentment into the plot, even if there is no love involved. Feelings of love and friendship are tested time and time again in this story. This aspect feels interesting and tense at times and a bit tedious in others, as it seems to be a bit of a revolving door.
I seem to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Lada throughout this story. At times, she just seems too callous and too mean to relate to. White also pushes the limits of realism with some of Lada’s stronger moments in the story. Then again, I will fully admit that I am not a scholar of the Ottoman empire, or of that time frame in general. So perhaps men really were that cruel back then, which would make Lada’s actions more realistic. Though I love the power and strength that Lada often shows, she can grind on my nerves at times. For instance, she claims to want to protect Radu, and yet she definitely doesn’t have the best way of showing it, a byproduct of these extreme characteristics. She’s almost two sides of a coin when it comes to her brother – fiercely protective but indifferent to him personally as well. It’s an odd dynamic. The same goes with Mehmed.
But I have to tip my hat to White for the ending. The ending feels true to Lada’s character and is a natural progression, though I do question a few of the plot points added to push her to her decision. While it feels like it took a while to get there, she holds my attention for most of the novel. It certainly isn’t a novel I found myself skimming through at length. And while Lada might be a bit extreme when it comes to some of her characteristics, I will take her over most of the other YA “heroines” we’re given these days. The book is even interesting enough to make me want to do a little research into the history of this time period to see what actually happened.