Away from their home, Lada and Radu are growing up at the Ottoman court after their father, leader of Wallachia, left them as a kind of tribute. Lada has always been the strong fighter and tried to impress her father whenever she could though mostly with little success as she is a girl. Radu on the other hand, a little younger than Lada, has never had his sister’s strength and was oftentimes her victim. He more relied on his nurse to take care of him but when they one day have to leave their home in the middle of the night, he only has his sister.
Because their father’s reign is too weak, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire demands them to be educated in the palace amongst their enemies. There, the experience of Lada and Radu is quite different. Radu is finding peace and help in religion but Lada is not really putting an effort into fitting in. She is not afraid not to obey orders and finds herself in trouble more than once.
One day, the siblings meet the youngest son of the sultan, Mehmed, who is left to live his life away from the capital. They from then on grow up together and form a friendship but Lada can never forget her home Wallachia while Radu seems to have found a home in the foreign country. Lada might have to leave one part of her heart behind, her brother, and return to the other part of her heart, her home.
I received this galley from NetGalley to give an honest review. I can’t really describe how happy I am that I was able to read this book before it comes out.
The best thing to begin with: I adore Lada. She is from now on my most favourite character of all time. She is strong, and not just physically. She is the kind of girl/young woman that should be the main character in more stories. She is not pretty, so whenever people like her, it is not because they ‘looked into her face and were captivated by her beauty’. She earns the respect of the people around her by the way she acts and also because she takes decision that are not always the easy ones. She does not shy away from taking responsibility when she has to and she protects the people she loves even if they are not always aware of it. Though, it is so hard to tell how amazing I think she really is without giving away the story.
The second best thing which is everything else because I cannot complain about anything. The story is based on an historic background. So we learn a little about history though it is only based on true events as for example Lada is not a real character. Lada is originally male but I like that the author took this freedom to give us one of the strongest female characters I know. So we get a little history lesson while being extremely well entertained.
The other characters in the story are beautifully developed as well, the further the story progresses, the more we learn about the people and most of them are more than they appear to be. Even though we only get the story from the siblings’ point of view, the other protagonists get more and more layers the more interaction there is between them. Sometimes I did not like one person in the beginning and then over time as there was more information it changed. That happened the other way around as well, I started with a positive feeling for some people which turned out be negative in the end. It was just like in real life and therefore made it so much more believable and realistic for me.
I liked the description of the world and the scenes as it gave me every information I needed to use my fantasy to be able to imagine the world myself. Sometimes it could have used a little more detail but then again I would have had less time with my favourite person!
Oh yes, I realise that I keep coming back to Lada but how can I not?!
So, back to the rest: I first was a little sceptic about religion playing such a big role but after realising the historical background, everything was put into perspective for me. I like that the book does not state that one belief is superior to another but in history, religion is an important issue when it comes to ruling and who has the right to rule so it being part of the book is totally necessary.
Overall it is so difficult to put my thoughts into words and not just because English is not my mother tongue. I probably would not be able to do it in German as well. The book just gave me such an extraordinary magnificent feeling I did not want it to end and I cannot wait for the next one.