Kiersten White’s sequel to And I Darken, Now I Rise, manages to be even darker than its predecessor, and that will pull readers in even further.
Now I Rise made it onto the Culturess list of 12 sci-fi and fantasy books to read in 2017, which means that yours truly had some high expectations for the book. Kiersten White’s And I Darken was wonderfully engrossing.
So, how does White top making Vlad the Impaler a woman and involving Lada in a love triangle of sorts where she’s not the object of desire? Why, she shows the next major event in Western history: the conquest of Constantinople. Her author’s note at the end notes that she did her best to get things right, but, well, she also acknowledges that this is fiction. The Wallachian who inspired Count Dracula (and White carefully doesn’t use Dragwlya all that often, though she does use “dragon” and “devil” often in Lada’s chapters; no vampires here. Lada’s just that bloodthirsty sometimes) is a woman. We’re in an alternate history at best, here.
But like other interesting works of alternate history, Now I Rise makes a reader want to learn more about the actual history of the interplay between the Ottoman Empire and Europe. Nor does White shy away from tackling religious ideas, which is rather important for the period of history — and the place, especially considering the history of the Hagia Sophia — the book discusses. In other words, there are a lot of different topics that could inspire a reader to dig even deeper into the history.
Of course, all of this isn’t accomplished just by detail or anything like that. Lada and her brother, Radu, don’t have to carry the book by themselves, either, though their narration is equally compelling for different reasons. At times, Radu’s chapters even felt more interesting than Lada’s. But rather than that being a drawback, I choose to think of it as a feature, especially since the book actually opens with Radu, not Lada. Her origins might be the draw that gets you into the series, but you have to have something to stay for. Even if you don’t like Radu all that much, you might very well like Nazira, who could probably lead a book all by herself with her beloved Fatima. (I’d read it. Happily. One might even say gleefully.)
The action parts of this book don’t feel forced or overly gory. Remember, there’s a siege going on one side, and then the other is a sort of re-conquest of its own. White could have gone a lot further than she did. Instead, the scenes move fast enough to keep a reader intrigued, and when there’s a shift to drama, the character work shines through even more.
Yours truly has enjoyed White’s work since her Paranormalcy series, but Now I Rise continues the evolution first seen in And I Darken. This is the kind of book that sucks you in. Between this and Our Dark Duet, June was a fantastic month for strange and different fiction that kind of started as young adult and then went somewhere far more adult in the second effort. Unlike Duet, Rise does have a sequel coming, though.
Strap in, because the ending of Rise will have you setting the book down and deciding you both need and are not even close to being prepared for book three. I would know. I speak from experience.
Now I Rise is out now.