Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday #Review - Now I Rise by Kiersten White #YALit #Fantasy

Series: The Conqueror's Saga # 2
Format: E-Galley, 496 pages
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

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.

Now I Rise is the second installment in author Kiersten White's The Conqueror's Saga. The story is once again set to the backdrop of the era of the Ottoman Empire circa 1453 under Sultan Mehmed II aka Mehmed The Conqueror. One of my main complaints about And I Darken was the religious aspects of the story and the characters who were forced into converting against their will. Thankfully, White doesn't get bogged down with the religion this time around, but instead focuses on the character development of Lada and Radu. The story alternates chapters between Radu and Lada who has left on her own conquest. 

“He had imagined Constantinople, had wanted it for Mehmed. It had been simple and straightforward. But now he knew the true cost of things, the murky horrors of the distance between wanting something and getting it.”

Now that Lada has left him behind, Radu has Mehmed all to himself and because of it, he actually shows amazing character growth. Radu loves unconditionally, which puts him in some very awkward positions. His desire and love for Mehmed really does break the emotional bank. His marriage to Nazira is a sham, but she's still his rock. Even more so after he is later sent to Constantinople to spy on the city and she travels alongside him. Radu has had to deal with Mehmed obsession with Constantinople for years. He hasn't exactly muted that obsession, but helped it along by attempting to be part of building the Sultan's navyHe gets a first hand look at the city, and really, I think a better understanding of the people.

Radu's time in Constantinople really pulls not only on his faith, but what's right and what's wrong. There are times when Radu struggles, and this is why I really loved his development. Radu meets with several interesting characters in this book, most especially Constantine XI who's death would mark the end of the Byzantine Empire. The other happens to be a woman named Urbana of Transylvania who claims she can build a canyon the likes of which has never been seen before. Radu most interesting relationship is with Cyprian. Cyprian becomes his stalwart and friend not knowing that Radu is betraying him and the cities residents. 

“Hold hands with the devil until you are both over the bridge. Or kill the devil and burn the bridge so no one can get to you.”

I am pretty sure you know by know that this series is a reimaging of Vlad the Impaler in a gender swap way that makes Vlad, Lada. Lada and her troops are having a hard time getting to Lada's ultimate goal of retaking her home and becoming Prince of WallachiaShe's betrayed, ignored, laughed at, and look down upon. She may only have a little under three dozen Janissary soldiers left, but they are pretty loyal, especially Nicolae, and Bogdan. Lada may have to make a deal with the deal himself to get what she desperately wants, and she is nothing like Radu who has skills in areas she doesn't. Lada is a character who believes in carrying a big stick, and going full throttle. 

Lada's desire of reclaiming Wallachia comes at the same time that Mehmed has stepped up his plans of conquering Constantinople. Lada, I think, has come to an interesting place in her life. Unlike Mehmed, Lada's sex gets in the way of her own conquest. She has to deal with ruling families who want to keep what they have, and take away what Lada has worked hard to gather. I adored this story because it is so intense, so dark, brutal, and historically close to the actual facts of what happened during this time period. I do hope that White goes full throttle in the next book. There is plenty to come if she intends to follow in Vlad the Impaler's path. 

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