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Book review: 'Now I Rise' delves deeper into story of a gender-swapped Vlad the Impaler

Posted June 28

NOW I RISE,” by Kiersten White, Delacorte Press, $18.99, 480 pages (f) (ages 15 and up)

Siblings Lada and Radu complement each other, with her fierceness and military training and his talent in social and political situations, in author Kiersten White’s And I Darken trilogy that looks at how history would be if Vlad the Impaler had been female. White helps this complex chapter of history come to life through the eyes of strong characters.

In “Now I Rise,” the second in the series, scheduled to be released June 27, the siblings have chosen different paths and are separated as each sees, and at times longs, for the help of the other.

Lada and her band of former Ottoman soldiers have gone back from Istanbul to her homeland of Wallachia, now present-day Romania, to take the throne after the deaths of her father and brother, while her brother, Radu, has stayed behind to help Mehmed the Conquer, the sultan.

Lada is finding taking back her country’s throne much more difficult than expected and was never one for political niceties — that was Radu’s forte and he doesn’t come when she writes for help.

Lada decides to go a much more blunt — and subsequently brutal and violent — path as she makes her intentions for the throne much more difficult to dismiss or ignore.

Mehmed hasn’t lost his focus on taking Constantinople, and sends Radu there as a spy, which is especially dangerous as Mehmed’s forces surround the city. Rumors are spread of Radu being part of the sultan’s male harem as Radu tries to handle his attraction and devotion to the sultan.

Radu is thrown into the dangerous spy game and many times wishes for Lada’s spying and battle techniques.

Set in the mid-1400s, “Now I Rise” alternates chapters between Lada and Radu as White deftly weaves their parallel journeys in a novel that shares both their frustrations and successes in their situations and also how the choices each makes continues to shape their experiences.

“Now I Rise” includes general descriptions of violence throughout, including war violence, torture and fighting from the era. There are mentions of sexual assaults in the aftermath of war, struggles with opposite gender and same gender attractions for characters, and implied sex, with one generally described encounter.

The third novel in the series is scheduled for summer 2018.

White’s next book, “Beanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales,” will be published by Scholastic in August 2017 and is her first novel for younger readers.

Email: rappleye@deseretnews.com Twitter: CTRappleye

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