Book Review: Now I Rise by Kiersten White (4/5)

22817331YA Fantasy (Alternative History)

#2 in the Conqueror’s Saga

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.

First – the cover of this book is beautiful. The picture does not do this cover justice. The gold and teal of the jewel are beautiful together – it’s one of the most attractive book covers I’ve seen in a while.

This book… I was on the fence between a 3 and a 4 (it’s not a 5). It has the same problems as the first book, (long-winded narration that chops the action into tiny pieces and often feels disjointed; a slow-pace; and a lack of setting-sense) but it read with the same epic adventure as Lada fights to survive without compromising herself or her dreams.

However.

This book didn’t feel like a YA book. There was so much political talk and war-talk between faceless adult characters that it lost me in some places. Radu took the center stage when he goes into Constantinople as a spy – which leads to him making friends, making him doubt his loyalties, and adds a nice twist to his internal strife.

(Radu is gay, but he’s in denial. He is in love with Mehmed, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, but Mehmed is in love wit Lada. It’s a strange but satisfying love triangle that has caused tension between brother and sister.)

In book 1, Radu married a girl who is in love with another girl – because they’re both gay and neither has expectations of the other one and they can understand each other. But. Radu is married; this is supposed to be a YA book. With the MC being married… it just feels less YA and more A.

And then.

The tension goes slack. Lada is wondering for a very long time, meandering to find allies; Mehmed doesn’t have much of a role; and Radu is whining about how Mehmed doesn’t love him, can’t love him, and how he’s been pushed into a traitorous role, and how people are talking about him, and Radu’s chapters are exhausting. Yes, there is plot unfolding, but it is BURIED beneath his whiny attitude.

The book felt more about Radu than Lada, because all of the character development was happening to him, not her.

And THEN.

The book is set up with alternating chapters from Radu’s POV and Lada’s POV. I don’t mind multiple POVs, but these chapters are happening along different timelines, and I found it exhausting to try and keep up with WTF was happening and when. I didn’t even notice that the chapters weren’t consecutive in the timeline until almost the end. Because I didn’t notice, I don’t see how effective the dates at the beginning of each chapter were. It might have been White trying to tie this book in with history, but I don’t care about that. I don’t care about the history aspect of this series; I’m in it for the story.

The story is what kept me reading. I know that Lada will eventually start impaling people on her lawn, because that’s what happened (alternative history).

I, as an intelligent reader, get the love triangle thing – I understand Radu’s complicated feelings. I do not need to be reminded every time he comes onto the page. And again, this book could have been cut by a third by a good editor, getting rid of the useless words, repetitive exposition, and long-winded narration.

But hey, maybe the next reader will be more into it. I’m not.

I feel closer to Lada than anyone else in this series. I like that she is unwilling to compromise what she wants in order to get where she wants – she wants power, she wants the country she was born into, but she doesn’t want to sacrifice herself, her dreams, or her independence to achieve it. THAT is what keeps me reading; I understand that completely, because I feel the same way.

But (again),

Lada’s monthly “girl” problems only happen a few times a year? That’s not normal. Convenient, but not normal.

Radu’s problems were interesting, but… there was too much of him and his whininess.

And I don’t really understand Lada and Radu’s obsession with Mehmed. (That what it feels like, because every time either of them though about him, it had a little bit of a serial-killer-obsession vibe.)

So, overall – 4 out of 5.

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