And I Darken

and-i-darken_kiersten-whiteTitle: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Genre: Historical Fiction, Alternate History, YA
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ | 2.0

For a stretch of about 30 minutes, I thought I might actually like this novel. Imagine: a novel about Dracula, but Vladimir is Lada, and Lada is ugly, and brutal, but ultimately sympathetic. Add that to the fact that the novel was super hyped by a bunch of book bloggers whose opinions I usually trust, and I jumped into this pit like there was a feast at the bottom of it.

To its credit, there are things that it does try to do well––Lada is certainly an unconventional protagonist. She isn’t likeable and she’s unapologetic about wanting power. There’s something I love about women who want power––it’s not so much that I think it’s empowering for women to take power, because it’s really not (see: Margaret Thatcher), but because I love that girls can be fucked up pieces of shit and still be worthy of having our stories told.

And insofar as they stay in Wallachia, the story felt nuanced: Lada’s self-hatred, the internalised sexism that she displaces onto her mother, her desperation for her father’s love and her frustration at his inability to protect Wallachia from Ottoman invasion.

Past this, the book goes so quickly downhill. Even if you weren’t concerned with diversity (which if you aren’t, yuck), the writing is extremely dry. There were a few pretty lines, but they felt incredibly false and formulated, just a bunch of words strung together to sound #empowering but lacking any real understanding of oppression or true subversive potential.

And once the novel hits the Ottoman Empire…yikes.

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Vessel

vesselcover_hiresTitle: Vessel
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Rating: ★★★★★ || 4.5

Liyana is raised knowing that she will die. This is a certainty. She is the vessel of the god of the Goat Tribe, Bayla. She has kept her body pure and perfect, avoiding scrapes and injury, trained for years to learn the dance to summon her deity. On the day Liyana is to let go of her soul and go to the Dreaming, so to better make way for her goddess, she is prepared to say goodbye. Yet she doesn’t die. Bayla never comes, and as a result Liyana is cast out to die by her tribe so that they may have the opportunity to try again with another vessel.

But then a figure steps out of a sandstorm: Korbyn, the trickster god, who is one of the few to have found his vessel. He tells Liyana that she has not failed in summoning Bayla, that Bayla and several of the other gods have gone missing, and asks her to accompany him on his quest to reach the other vessels before it’s too late, so that they might find their gods together.

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