Title: Bright We Burn
Author: Kiersten White
Series: The Conqueror’s Saga #3
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA
Published: July 10th, 2018 (Delacorte Press)
Synopsis: Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever . . . and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed . . . and would he even want it?
Lada’s rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won’t rest until everyone knows that her country’s borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed’s peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince.
But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister’s indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before–including her relationships–can Lada truly build the country she wants.
Claim the throne. Demand the crown. Rule the world.
“She was a dragon.
She was a prince.
She was a woman.
It was the last that scared them most of all.”
Lada is her typical bloodthirsty self single-mindedly working towards her goal of establishing a Wallachia beholden to no one, but it is really Radu who makes some rather shocking choices in this dramatic conclusion to The Conqueror’s Saga.
Constantinople still weighs heavily on Radu’s conscience, most of all his betrayal of Cyprian, even as he attempts to forget and return to normal life. Not for long though, as Radu finds himself back at Mehmed’s side, a close friend once more, but he has finally realized that it is never meant to be between them.
Lada’s open defiance against the Ottomans has finally forced Mehmed’s hand, though he takes action unwillingly, still hoping to convince Lada to return to his side. The girl prince meanwhile, knows what the consequence of her defiance will be, and she is prepared for war. Going to war against the power of the Ottoman Empire however, requires allies, something she is sorely lacking in. The reputation Lada has established for herself does her no favours, endearing her to few beyond the borders of Wallachia. A shaky alliance is formed with her cousin, Stephen of Moldavia and Matthias Corvinus, but neither of them can be truly trusted.
I went into this book knowing the full historical context of the story, so I thought I was prepared for whatever Bright We Burn had to throw at me. I was so wrong! I literally read half this book through my fingers, wondering which of Lada’s missions was going to be her last. She is forging ahead on sheer willpower and determination to see her cause through after a point as one by one, her closest and most trusted are taken from her. As a reader, Lada’s journey is really hard to get through, as is Radu’s, in this book particularly. Their thoughts and desperation, showing quite clearly how torn they are, were very well expressed and it makes it really hard to decide who to root for. The glimpse into Lada’s more strategic side was quite interesting, a method to the madness, so to speak. It is impossible not to sympathize with Lada, even though she is teetering on the edge of anti-heroine and straight-up villain.
Now Mehmed on the other hand…was surprisingly not as prominent as I expected. From the first two books in the series and the way the story was evolving, I was looking for a finale more focused on the three of them alone, things finishing where they started kind of thing. Instead, Mehmed just kind of faded into the background after a point. I just thought there was so much potential for Lada, Radu and Mehmed to come face to face properly once more before the end.
As for Radu, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – his character development is one of the best things about this series. The biggest thing about Radu is that he is actually able to let go and move on, unlike Mehmed and Lada, which is I guess, why he alone got the semi-happy ending. Radu and Lada’s sibling relationship is by no means typical – they are polar opposites in every way, but still, in their own way, they do care about each other, especially evident in the fact that Radu tries so hard to stop Lada before she goes too far, and never wants to really kill her despite all she’s done.
I surprised myself when I actually liked the ending. There was really no other way for things to be wrapped up, but the epilogue was a nice touch. Historical fiction has sometimes been said to be boring, but books like The Conqueror’s Saga prove otherwise. Kiersten White has done a wonderful job of making the story her own unique take while still staying as close to history as possible (or as close as can be when Vlad the Impaler is a woman), telling the tale in such a way that even if you are knowledgeable about this time period and the events that occurred, each twist is still just as surprising. This series has been everything I never knew I needed in YA. Long story short, was this book dark? Yes. Was it violent? Totally. Outright horrifying at points? Absolutely. But it was also unquestionably epic. I absolutely loved this explosive conclusion to an amazing series!