No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla 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.
This was truly an epic book. There is a twist in this book, and trust me when I say that you will not see it coming.
It has a heroine who flaunts herself as the “anti-princess” and in that sense, the book does not disappoint. Lada – our “female Vlad the Impaler” hooked (impaled?) me from the start. Even as a child in the nursery, she was fierce.
Like her brother, Lada had big eyes, but hers were close-set, with arched bows that made her look perpetually cross. Her hair was a tangled mass, so dark that her pale skin appeared sickly. Her nose was long and hooked, her lips thin, her teeth small and…quite sharp.
She was contrary and vicious and the meanest child the nurse had ever cared for…In Lada she saw a spark, a passionate, fierce glimmer that refused to hide or be dimmed.
I love anti-heroes, and Lada is as bad-ass as they come. This book is unusual because so rarely in YA fiction one gets a female character who is absolutely brutal.
Lada is the daughter of Vlad Dracul. Upon her birth, she was dismissed. Warlords have no use for a daughter, girls being only useful if they’re pretty enough to be married off. But surprisingly, as Lada grew, Vlad discovered in his daughter the strength and fierceness he himself admired, the qualities in a leader that was completely missing in his son Radu.
Radu is a year younger than Lada, with all the beauty and grace and gentleness Lada lacks. To Vlad, Radu is, frankly, useless.
He embarrased no one. He remained unnoticed and invisible.
It was, apparently, both the least and the most he could do for his father.
This is the tale of two unwanted children, abandoned and left to fight for their survival in an Ottoman court. It’s the story of a girl constrained by her gender, in a time where daughters are little more than chattel, and a young man trying to come out from his sister’s shadow.
I like Lada. I feel like she’s a little bit too much in her fierceness sometimes. This book compares itself to Game of Thrones. I don’t see the comparison at all, but I feel like if I had to pick a character, Lada would be most like Brienne of Tarth. Both are bred for battle, both deny and despise their feminity, both are unattractive, and at times, too severe, trying too hard to deny their emotions. Not the worst thing in the world, considering the number of swoony stupid female heroines out there, but at the same time, a little softness never hurts, a little gentleness would make Lada a more well-wounded character.
She scratched and clawed her way into the world. Since she was a child, she literally fights for everything she has. She is aggressive, angry, short-tempered, intensely intelligent. Her fury is palpable, and she is so angry about so many things. She wants so many things. There is such a hunger in her for life and for what is hers.
I really loved the brother-sister relationship between Radu and Lada. Love and hate is such a fine line. She is more or less his protector, in a stereotypical sense, she has the more masculine spirit, she is a warrior, and he is a poet. Their relationship is very complex, with Radu constantly seeking her approval, feeling (and often being told) that he is inferior to his fierce, strong older sister. An older sister who feels like he is her property.
She sat beside his bed for a long while. Finally, she put a hand on his shoulder and whispered, “You are mine.”
Like her brother, she seeks affirmation. Whereas Radu wants his sister be proud of him, Lada wants her father’s approval.
The setting is interesting and well-built. It’s history-based, and honestly, I don’t know much about the history of the region, but it feels authentic enough! It explores religions like Christianity and Islam (so rare!) without being preachy, only informative.
The romance was not overwhelming, the relationship between Lada and Mehmed was build upon mutual dependency and trust, and not pure blind love and adoration. People are trying to kill them. They have to depend on each other. Lada is no weakling, and Mehmed respects her for who she is.
One of my favorite moments in the book was when Lada had a moment with a lady of the Ottoman court. She learned that there are more subtle ways to wage battle, that women can wield power through means other than fistfights, that everything has a price.
“You see this…as a prison. But you are wrong. This is my court. This is my throne. This is my kingdom. The cost was my freedom and my body…So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let me taken away so that you, too, can have power?”
Overall, this was an intensely satisfying, well-woven tale.
All quotes were taken from an advanced edition subject to change in the final edition.