Title: Now I Rise
Author: Kiersten White
Series: The Conqueror’s Saga #2
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA
Published: June 27th, 2017 (Delacorte Press)
Synopsis: She has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself.
After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada Dracul 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.
Now I Rise was, to put it simply, amazing. I completely adored this book!
Lada has returned to Wallachia with a small group of loyal men in hope of retaking her birthright. After several unsuccessful attempts to gain allies among men who see her as merely a girl playing soldier, she reaches out to her brother Radu, still with Mehmed in Edirne, recognizing that it is his skill in diplomacy that she requires.
But Radu has his own woes. Along with secretly advancing Mehmed’s plans to take Constantinople and wrestling with his own feelings, Mehmed asks him to act as if he has turned traitor to the Ottomans in order to spy on Constantinople from within their walls. Radu agrees, but meeting the handsome ambassador Cyprian, Emperor Constantine’s nephew, makes him begin to question his actions. Both Lada’s and Radu’s loyalties are severely tested as they each struggle to decide what is most important to them – and what price they are willing to pay for it.
The characters are really what make this story though the plot and setting are very good. It is still somewhat faithful to historical events, but that is all secondary. The characters are what make this story come alive.
Mehmed comes off as really selfish, to be honest. We find out that he is well aware of Radu’s feelings and yet is simply using them. Now I Rise shows a rather different side of Mehmed, one willing to lie and manipulate in order to get what he wants, even if he must betray his friends for it.
Radu on the other hand, might just be my favourite character in this series now (funny, considering how annoying I found him in And I Darken). The inner turmoil he faces at every turn is beautifully portrayed. He is torn between his commitment to his new faith, the Ottomans and most of all, Mehmed, whom he is blindly loyal to. His side of the story, while more engaging than Lada’s, is also far more painful. His raw emotion is palpable as the fall of Constantinople is described through Radu’s eyes. The way that Radu has grown as a character in this book is definitely praiseworthy.
Lada is more or less the same, bloodthirsty as ever. Frustrated by her lack of success in gathering allies to take the throne, she unleashes her anger on the countryside, leaving a trail of destruction through Transylvania. Her inner circle of ex-Janissaries from Amasya – Stefan, Nicolae, Petru and her childhood friend Bogdan are a strong support system and bring in the rare humourous moment in this narrative just as dark as the last.
As for that ending…well, it was pretty much exactly what I expected of Lada and it was perfection. Now I Rise is much, much, better than And I Darken, and completely worth the read. I’m eager to see where Kiersten White takes her interpretation of this tale, especially considering what happened to these characters in history. It was everything I expected and more!