Publication: July 6th 2017 by Corgi Childrens Pages: 459 Purchase: Amazon | Waterstones | Book Depository 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.
She was a dragon. She was a prince. She was the only hope Wallachia had of ever prospering. And she would do whatever it took to get there.
It’s been an entire year since I read And I Darken, so I was concerned that I would be lost diving straight into the second novel in Kiersten White’s The Conquerer’s Saga, Now I Rise. I needn’t have worried about that, however. White’s writing instantly pulled me in, transporting me into the world she has re-imagined. For anyone who hasn’t come across these novels, they are a re-imagining of Vlad the Impaler as a woman — Ladislav Dracul — and they are wonderful. (In a rather dark and brutal sort of way.) I’m generally not into historical novels, but these books are written in such a way that each detail and every event is incredibly interesting. I find myself predominantly reading fantasy novels, so it really is a treat feeling like I’m learning something while I work my way through this series.
Although I was compelled by the history in this novel, the main draw for me was the characters. White’s character development in this novel is something to behold — her chapters often reading like character studies. It is told in a dual perspective — with chapters alternating between Lada and her brother, Radu’s, point of view. Lada is in Wallachia, ruthlessly fighting her way to the throne, and Radu is in Constantinople, playing spy for his friend and Sultan, Mehmed.
Lada is one determined young woman. She’s a force to be reckoned with, willing to destroy anything and anyone who gets in her way to the throne. However, although fierce, Lada is not heartless — and this, coupled with her strong sense of self, makes Ladislav one of the most interesting YA heroines I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about. She is so refreshing; motivated by a love for her country rather than her love for a man, killing those who seek to ruin her country, and giving to those who will make it better.
Radu, however, could not be any more different from his sister, Lada. He is gentle and loving and wears his heart on his sleeve. His chapters were both beautiful and absolutely heartbreaking to read. Radu has a great deal of inner conflict that he is constantly dealing with, and this is only exasperated further by his position in Constantinople. We see him struggle with his sexuality, his religious beliefs, and the difficulty of being torn between two countries and cultures. This, coupled with how deeply emotional and intelligent he is, made Radu a fascinating character to read about. I liked him in And I Darken, but I loved him in Now I Rise. I just hope that, in the series finale, we see him finally able to resolve some of the inner conflict he deals with.
As much as her main characters stand out, another incredible thing about these novels is the care and attention that White puts into her secondary characters. Nazira — Radu’s wife, for the purpose of appearance only — is one of my favourite secondary characters of all time. She is intelligent and charming and incredibly kind, and I really hope I see more of her in the final novel in this series. Cyprian was a wonderful addition to the cast of characters, too. He brought out so many wonderful qualities in Radu, and I really hope he returns with Nazira so we can see Radu achieve the happiness he deserves. Lada’s men are also noteworthy — especially Petru and Nicholae, and I adored the women Lada met on her journey, too.
Through her characters, White moves from writing about merely history and politics and explores important themes like identity, religion and sexuality. It’s easy to forget while reading this novel that it fits into the Young Adult genre, as it deals with these heavy themes in such a mature way. This isn’t something that’s unique to the genre, of course, but the way it is done in this novel particularly stands out for me.
The only downside And I Rise, for me, was the war scenes. Although this series has resulted in my being interested in a lot of things I don’t usually find interesting when reading, I still found myself skimming a lot of the paragraphs that detailed the siege on Constantinople. These parts were still very well-written but, unfortunately, they just weren’t the sort of thing I enjoy reading. I wouldn’t say that they had huge impact on my overall enjoyment of White’s novel — only that I can’t justify giving this one five stars when I found myself skimming parts.
Now I Rise was a wild ride from start to finish, and I loved it. Kiersten White is such an incredibly talented writer, and I can’t wait to see how she ends this captivating series. I started reading the finale, Bright We Burn, today, and I have very high hopes for it.
If you haven’t read this series, then I would highly recommend doing so — even if you’re not sure it’s going to be your thing. I promise you won’t regret it.
The world will destroy her in the end. Too much spark leads to explosions. But your sister will destroy as much as she can before she goes out. She will go down in flames and blood.