Now I Rise | Kiersten White
Hardcover: 471 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
“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…more“
“Hold hands with the devil until you are both over the bridge. Or kill the devil and burn the bridge so no one can get to you.”
Now I Rise is a massive improvement over the first, which is saying something since I loved And I Darken. Unlike its predecessor, there is barely a dull moment in this intensely satisfying sequel. Dare I even say it was…”unputdownable.” I raced through this book because I was desperate to see what would happen next, not just in Lada’s narrative, but in Radu’s as well. Both their storylines were equally entertaining and fierce.
Lada’s fierceness increased tenfold. She not only becomes a leader, she becomes a dragon. A dragon spewing fire and destruction, burning down all those who stand in her way. Her conquest is paved with blood and bone. Despite this, I can’t label her as heartless, for she still cares deeply for her brother Radu and her former lover Mehmed, she is just ruthless, tipping further into the territory of merciless by the conclusion.
“No one will be more brutal than me. No one will be more ruthless. And I will never stop fighting.”
During her journey to become vaivode (warlord prince) of Wallachia, Lada is willing to make sacrifices, sometimes at the expense of her own men and people. Along the way she demands the respect and loyalty of her men as well as those who wish to join her cause, particularly women. Lada is a proto-feminist in her own right as she gathers confidence in her own ability and builds up the confidence of other women by highlighting their strengths and giving them positions of power.
As for Radu, he is much changed since we last parted from him in And I Darken. In this sequel, Radu has most certainly come into his own. His relationship with Lada is now precarious and confusing, yet he still cares for her in his own way. His loyalty, though, still remains with Mehmed and the Ottoman Empire. His Islam faith is now unshakable.
“He had imagined Constantinople, had wanted it for Mehmed. It had been simple and straightforward. But now he knew the true cost of things, the murky horrors of the distance between wanting something and getting it.”
For the sake of his religion, his country, and his king, Radu is now more than willing to lie and manipulate both good and bad individuals of all ages during the battle for Constantinople. He becomes untrustworthy and ruthless in both the political and social sphere. His goodness is compromised, but his heart remains fundamentally benevolent despite the deaths that he causes and the harm that he carries out himself.
He struggles to reconcile his sympathetic self with Mehmed’s ferocious ambition and vision, and so his narrative proves a constant platform of contemplation and guilt. His blind devotion to Mehmed was just as frustrating as before, but at least his loyalty and love towards his friend is challenged and shaped by the events that take place. There is another love interest that appears. and while I wholeheartedly support this new union, I think that even Radu must redeem himself before he attempts to move on.
“Perhaps, looking out over it, Mehmed saw what the beginning of his legacy would eventually lead to. Whatever Mehmed did, whatever he built, the greatest city in the world was irrefutable evidence that all things died.”
I’m still not a huge fan of Mehmed; however, I appreciated how his character matures. He develops into a manipulative and relentless leader with a one-track mind to overtake Constantinople. To achieve his vision, he is willing to place his people in danger, including poor Radu. I may not like him as a person, but I now enjoy the role that he plays as both a national power and the driving wedge between Radu and Lada.
The characters carry this story and the action conjured through battles, sieges, and war keep the story going at a blazing pace. The ending is positively cruel and wicked and pure perfection. This book was fire, I tell you. FIRE. Lada and Radu’s character development in this book was insane. I fear for both Lada and Radu (and Nazira) and I wonder what will become of them in the next book.
“The world will destroy her in the end. Too much spark leads to explosions. But your sister will destroy as much as she can before she goes out. She will go down in flames and blood.”