“They had nothing better, nowhere else to go. They were loyal to her, and to the hope that perhaps she would find them a place in the world.”
After leaving Mehmed’s side to carve out her own path to the throne of Wallachia, Lada Dracul finds herself without allies, assistance, or power to speak of, besides the loyalty of her men. When she finds that Mehmed has not been entirely honest or beneficial to her cause, Lada’s rage encourages her to finally embrace the cruelty of her nature and to seek out the throne via any means necessary.
Meanwhile, Radu helps Mehmed plot to overtake Constantinople, but the waters become muddied when Radu is sent into the city as a spy and begins to second-guess his own motives as well as the sultan’s. Will Radu’s love for his childhood friend be enough, or must he, too, find his own way?
FIVE. FREAKING. STARS. The first book was originally 3/5 for me, and then I updated it to 4/5 because I realized that, despite its slow points and problems, it had just stayed with me so well that it deserved more points. This sequel, however? I couldn’t fathom giving it anything less than 5/5. Unlike its predecessor, Now I Rise is non-stop action, death, war, betrayal, and general bad-assery from Lada. She was built into this amazing, fierce little creature in the first book, but her leadership qualities as well as her dedication to Wallachia really shine in this one.
“Why must I always be a man’s servant? If anything, I should be partners with the devil, not his servant.”
See that? Lada. She’s incredible. I honestly just couldn’t help but grin at so many of her remarks and witticisms throughout the book, and I love every second of how devoted her men are to her. She so blatantly refuses to be held down by any man. When it is brought to her attention that her ideals for her people are so vastly different from the plans of the men currently in power, rather than adjust her scheming, she just starts taking what she feels is rightfully hers. It is brutal, wicked, at times shameful, but overall just such solid character development. I could honestly wax on for hours about how much I love Lada Dracul.
Much like the first book, this one’s chapters alternate viewpoints between Lada and her brother, Radu. Let me preface what I’m about to say with one fact: I loved Radu in the bulk of the first book. I thought he was sweet, kind, charismatic, and just an altogether really likable protagonist. After reading this book, however, I take back everything good I have ever said about him. I can’t go into much detail without spoiling massive plot lines, so all I will tell you is that Radu’s opinions of Mehmed are so disgustingly high that it leads him into some very unsavory situations.
That said, Radu is not a bad character. He’s infuriatingly unlikable, in my opinion, but he’s also complex, well-written, dedicated, and loyal to a tremendous fault. Despite how much some of his decisions made me want to scream (one of his choices did make me actually slam the book shut and rant to my poor fiance for twenty minutes about it), I still was able to deeply enjoy seeing things through his eyes, and watching him interact with the world around him. I’d love to shout a gigantic “THANK YOU!” to Kiersten for having grasped the ever-difficult task of writing a character that I can absolutely hate, yet thoroughly enjoy at the same time.
Beyond Lada and Radu themselves, there is such a wonderful and rich cast of characters in this book; we don’t meet many new people, but we get to spend a lot more time with some of the lesser characters from And I Darken, and there are some beautiful developments that take place. The politics are still heavy, but not as overwhelming as I found them to be at times in the first book. I went into reading this with a bit of wariness, as I worried that it would be non-stop world-building for large chunks of text at a time, as the first book was; however, Kiersten did such a great job of building that world in the first book, that she had to spend very little time expanding upon it in this book, which is a big portion of why I loved this so much more than the first one.
All in all, this book was absolutely incredible and has solidified The Conqueror’s Saga as my favorite historical fiction of all time, as well as one of my top series picks. I can’t wait for the next (and final, I think?) release in this series, and to see where Lada and Radu’s adventures will bring them in the end. I would recommend this series to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, heavy politics, plenty of violence, and enough back-stabbing and conniving to last you for ages.
Thank you so much to Kiersten White and the lovely folks at Delacorte Press for sending me an ARC of this book! My opinions in this review are entirely my own.