Now I Rise (And I Darken, #2)

Image result for now i riseFirst Lines: Hell was a party.  At least, Radu was fairly certain that whatever hell there was would certainly resemble this party.

So my Twitter feed has been blowing up lately with the release of the 3rd book in this series.  I mean, there’s only so many times you can see it before you go, “Gee, I suppose I should catch up on that.”  Voilá!

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Lada Dracul has lost nearly everyone she could call a friend or ally for one reason: she is determined to call the Wallachian throne her own, no matter the costs.  She has the loyalty of her soldiers, which she deeply values.  But lately, she’s started noticing that brute force isn’t getting her what she wants.  Thinking of Mehmed, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire and her sort-of love, only make her hurt.  What she needs is her brother Radu, who could charm a saint to sin.  But Mehmed has sent Radu to Constantinople as a double-crossing spy.  Mehmed wants the city at any cost, and he trusts Radu to help.  When Radu learns Lada wants his help, he feels torn and rejects her plea.  If she dies, he’ll never forgive himself–but if Constantinople doesn’t fall, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

When I think back on the first book of this series, I remember it being slow and taking forever and not having nearly as much action as I had wanted.

This was the book I had been waiting for.

In this book, Lada and Radu are off on their own story lines. Lada is fighting her way through Hungary to claim the throne of Wallachia. Radu has been working closely with Mehmed to make Constantinople fall, eventually getting to the point where Radu works from behind enemy lines. Both of these stories were equally fascinating because of the action and the differences in the characters.

I’d almost go so far as to call Lada an anti-heroine. She’s brutal and vicious and vindictive. She betrays people that trust her and she kills without a second thought. When you step back and look at everything she’s done, it’s kind of hard to like her.  (She is supposed to be the female version of Vlad Tepes/”Vlad the Impaler”, the historical inspiration for Dracula.) But what this hides is that she’s determined to make a better country than the one she left as a child. She wants to help the poor and she’s driven toward her goal with an intensity she can’t hide. Everyone is either with her or against her and she will act accordingly. And she’s equally determined to prove that women can do great things and be great–without being stuck in the role of wife.

Radu is the far more sympathetic of the two. He is in love with Mehmed, though he can never admit it. It just means he’ll do anything for Mehmed and the Ottoman Empire. He’s religious and kind-hearted. However, he has some darker traits too. He’s also skilled at betrayal because he’s an excellent liar. He’s clever and knows how to maneuver people to just where he wants them for a plan to succeed. It’s just that his intent is never to kill or harm–he’s too kind for that.

Action throughout the story is almost constant between these two. Lada has to do most of her fighting early to even have a shot at the throne. Radu’s comes later after he’s established himself behind enemy lines. So between them, there was always something going on.

I will admit, though, that it took me a while to get into the story. Even with notes, I had a hard time remembering who everyone was beyond Mehmed, Lada, Radu, and Nazira (who became my favorite character in this book). In then end, it almost didn’t even matter. The story reminded us of a lot of what we needed, but since the first book was a lot of Dracul backstory, it just didn’t impact this as much.

This ended up being really good and I’m glad that I (accidentally) waited to read this until the last book was coming out.

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