“She hated the way roses smelled, their sweetness too fragile. She wanted a garden of evergreens. A garden of stones. A garden of swords.”
Synopsis: Lada Dragwlya is a ruthless, cruel princess and she likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the cutthroat Ottoman courts, Lada has known that in order to survive, she cannot show any signs of weakness. Her father abandoned her and Radu, and she knows she has to protect her little brother or no one will. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. He slowly begins to see the Ottoman court as more home than prison. When the two children meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion. The three friends become inseparable and try to navigate the constant shift of power and deceit within the courts.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
Guys this book is EPIC!!! Seriously one of the best books I’ve read in a longggg time. Lada is the anti-hero, but she didn’t annoy the shit out of me like Adelina from The Young Elites. Lada is a badass, a cruel, ruthless badass who will do whatever it takes for her and her brother to make it out of the courts alive; even if that means tearing out her, and Radu’s, hearts out. The plot builds, as does the romance and friendships. This book is dark, cunning and just incredibly well written. The first couple pages had me hooked and I loved every page after that. Some parts are slow, but it’s all about the build up. Every part has a purpose and the gorgeous writing style will keep you turning the pages late into the night.
This book isn’t fantasy, but I still loved it. It’s historical fiction, not necessary historically accurate but believable. (The queen of fantasy is recommending a non fantasy book??? You know it has to be good) Kiersten clearly did her research and all the liberties she takes are definitely believable and well done. I loved the unconventional setting in Eastern Europe (Transylvania) and how White incorporated religion and lack of religion in a non-preachy, very well written way.
Lada is the first ya heroine I’ve ever read about who isn’t beautiful, AND I LOVED IT. I love beautiful women who slay and kick ass but I’ve been waiting and waiting for a ya main heroine who isn’t beautiful and doesn’t give a fuck. Who doesn’t need a man to point out her beauty but a woman who is actually not beautiful. A woman who knows she doesn’t have to be beautiful and can have other strengths. A woman who knows beauty isn’t everything, but still struggles sometimes with her self confidence. A women who isn’t beautiful but people still love her. Lada is that heroine.
“Like her brother, Lada had big eyes, but hers were close-set, with arched brows 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– judging from Bogdan’s angry cries– quite sharp.”
“She felt awkward, ungainly, and uglier than she had ever considered herself before. It had not bothered her, most of her life, knowing that she was not beautiful, would never gain admiration for her looks alone. But Huma used her face as a weapon and a tool in a way Lada never could. Lada had never realized that simply by being attractive, she might have gained more threads of power.”
The character development is INCREDIBLE literally all of the characters grow and change and ugh love them so much. This book is filled with passion, guilt, hatred, happiness, just all ranges of human emotions. Radu, Lada and Mehmed are all cinnamon rolls and I adore them aw aw aw. I really haven’t read anything like this book PLEASE PLEASE READ IT!!