May I begin by saying how devastatingly GORGEOUS this cover is??? Kudos to the designer!
Anyway, I've taken a departure from my preferred genres. I typically do not read historical YA fiction. I'm not sure why. I have nothing against it at all. It's just not my cup of tea.
With that being said, the reason I picked up this book was because 1.) It had gotten a ton of buzz on YA Twitter. 2.) I really liked the author's interview on 88 Cups of Tea. 3.) I wanted to analyze how to write a successful book with an "unlikeable" MC.
Lada is the daughter of Vlad Dracul, a noble who ruled one of the territories in Romania during the 15 (or 16th?) century. She and her younger brother Radu were born into a cruel world where they were used as pawns in a dangerous game violence, betrayal, and conquest. They meet a young man named Mehmed who was destined to be sultan, and the story takes a breathtaking turn.
I'm not going to spoil it for you, but the little blurb up there pretty much sums it up. The book is very well-researched and I believe the author wrote about Eastern Europe with great sensitivity and respect to that culture. The biggest strength of the book by far is the character development. Although there is a lot going on with respect to political intrigue and war, the main focus is the characters. Lada and Radu are such rich, vivid characters. Lada is powerful and struggles to reconcile the gender norms of her time with the rage and ferociousness burning within her. Her younger brother Radu is a beautiful, gentle, clever soul who burns with his own unspoken passions.
Although I really enjoyed the gorgeous intricacies of this story, it wasn't really something I'd revisit. It was a brilliant study in character development, but my tastes lean more towards fantasy and sci-fi. I do not regret reading this book at all. I learned so much from it, and I would really recommend it to othe readers.