Set in the 15th century during the reign of the Ottoman Empire, this book tells the alternative history of Vlad the Impaler, if Vlad was born a woman. Ladislav “Lada” Dragwyla, a warrior princess, and her younger brother Radu are bartered off as royal hostages by their father to live with the Sultan, fa away from their home in Wallachia. As both siblings adjust to their new life in exile, Lada comes to terms with her destiny to take back her country and Radu comes to terms with his faith. Lada frequently confronts the sexist standards upheld by the Ottomans while Radu just wants to feel like he belongs and is valued. Both siblings are drawn to Mehmed, the Sultan’s heir, but will he be enough to make them renounce their homeland? Loyalties and friendships will be strained as Lada, Radu and Mehmed struggle to prove themselves to those who doubt them.
I loved the historical element to this story. Because the setting is one that actually existed at one point in time, the reader can really imagine the setting in rich detail. The characters and their inner desires are what really drive this novel forward. The development of each character over the course of the book coupled with the drama that unfolds at every turn make this a truly entertaining read. Lada is ruthless in the best possible way, bowing to no one and constantly plotting revenge against anyone who crosses her. Radu is quiet and compassionate, which deems him worthless in his father’s eyes. Mehmed expects to inherit his father’s throne, along with all his responsibilities, but the Sultan has other plans. The portrayal of Islam in this book was fascinating to me. I’ve always been interested in other religions and the historical setting of this novel played into the discussion of Islam very well. I think Radu’s conflicting emotions about his faith, in religion and with himself, was very eye-opening and relatable. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a twist!
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