“She plucked a rose and held it to her face. She hated the way roses smelled, their sweetness, too fragile. She wanted a garden of evergreens. A garden of stones. A garden of swords.”
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya 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.
What a surprising read. It was genuinely well-written and I was very drawn to the story and especially the characters (shoutout to Radu for being a pleasant human being). I’ll be honest -I haven’t had very good experiences with Kiersten White’s previous books. They weren’t bad… I just never enjoyed them and I never really cared for the characters. So, naturally, I was a bit skeptical but I read some good reviews and I’m glad I gave Kiersten White another chance.
I think Kiersten White did an amazing job on giving a little twist to the historical figure Dragwlya. Reimagining Dragwlya (or Vlad the Impaler) as a girl and giving Drawgwlya and Radu a backstory as they grew up as hostages was refreshing. It was refreshing because Kiersten White tried to imagine the life of Dragwlya and Radu as they were growing up. There were painful and heartbreaking moments but there were also moments that were heartwarming and stood as a reminder that family love is strong. The relationship between Lada, Radu and Mehmed was executed perfectly and I am still so amazed at how alive the characters became. These historical figures, I’ve never read about that them that much but after reading this book, I felt this longing and interest to know more and more about them. (I’m sure I would probably want to get to know White’s version more than the actual historical figures but still!)
And oh, did I love Lada a lot. What a character and what a strong gal! She makes me so proud to be a girl because she’s tough and vicious yet she still felt. Because of her gender she was belittled and the only usefulness to women were their body. They weren’t particularly respected nor were they taken seriously. Lada was different. She was vicious and she had no interest in what girls were “expected” to do. She wanted to do more than just be the bearer of children. She wanted to rule, to lead and to command.
Radu is quite the opposite. He has a more gentle and sensitive soul and I absolutely loved him. He was full of warmth and so much love. Everything he did, the decisions he made were heavily influenced by his love and loyalty. Radu was an interesting character but he made me happy, very very happy.
At first this book made me skeptical because it seemed like a book I wouldn’t enjoy. But I kept going and going and going and next thing I knew, I was finished. I was so invested in the lives of Lada, Radu and Mehmed. This is a good story and it’s refreshing.