I’m in a probably biggest reading slump in recent years but finally, I’ve managed to finish the book I was really looking forward to. For all of you who don’t know, Now I Rise is the second part of The Conqueror’s Saga and the first part, And I Darken was one of the most talked about books last year, which is well deserved, really.
Now, this is (partly) historical fiction and it tells a story of Vlad Tepes’ children, his daughter Lada and his son Radu. The author mentions many many times that this is a work of fiction and you must keep that in mind because even though her father was an inspiration for Dracula, Lada didn’t have a role in history that’s even close to the one she is said to have in this book. The author simply decided to make a female character who could have been a historical figure and it’s glorious.
Lada is a child of the ruler of Transylvania. She has two brothers who are destined to rule the throne but she never feels like her being a daughter should stop her from being a prince. This is how she’s growing up in a castle, with distant parents and an older brother, with only her brother Radu by her side.
Everything changes when she and Radu are sent to the Ottoman court. Lada longs for her home but everything points to the fact that she will probably never go back. Lada’s brother Radu never felt the desire to rule, he was always a gentle soul. On the court, they meet Mehmed who is to inherit the throne and they both fall in love with him.
The first book finishes with Lada finally leaving the court where she was held against her will since her childhood. She finds friends who are ready to help her win her home back and, with her oldest brother and father dead, ready to become a prince, nothing less. Her going away means also leaving her brother Radu and Mehmed behind. There is some romance in the first book, Lada actually falls for Mehmed but she’s not ready to give up on her country because of that like her brother is. While Lada goes to fight, Radu stays with Mehmed, unable to leave his side, with a small hope that someday maybe Mehmed will love him back.
Lada’s story in the first book is the more interesting one, even if there are no gay characters like her brother (and his lesbian wife!) anywhere in historical fiction. But in the second book, Lada’s story is somehow less interesting than Radu’s. Now completely separated, Lada and Radu don’t share anything but a couple of moments alone with Mehmed. We follow their separate stories as Lada uses different tactics to win people over and get her throne and Radu acts as a spy for Mehmed’s cause. The story suffers a bit because of the lack of interaction between two main characters but a couple of letters they exchange are glorious. I was expecting this to be the last part of the story but as I passed half of the book I realized there’s a lot more to look forward to.
I recommend this book for everyone searching for some great female characters and to those who are tired of always-the-same fantasy novels. Rarely does a book celebrate the beauty of Ottoman empire and Islamic art and culture. People tend to forget about the Balkan countries in renaissance and this can be a good start for those who feel curious about it (again, this is a work of fiction and only inspired by real people and events). I look forward to reading the last part!
*I received this book on NetGalley and wrote my honest review. Thanks so much for sharing!