A historical reimagining that asks: what if Vlad the Impaler had been a woman?
This history diverges at the birth of Vlad Dracul’s daughter, a Ladislav instead of another Vlad. Young Lada is ugly, vicious, and borderline feral, especially in comparison to her sensitive, sweet younger brother, Radu. While beautiful Radu’s tormented for his weaknesses, Lada’s brutality makes her a natural at their court. But when their father’s precarious position forces him to flee to the Ottoman sultan for help, the sultan takes Lada and Radu hostage to ensure their father’s loyalty. Lada hates everything about the cultural–melting-pot empire that’s brought her own country so low; Radu takes to it well, finding comfort in converting to Islam. Both siblings are drawn to Mehmed, the sultan’s third son, who’s suddenly the heir. These three primary characters repeatedly learn the hard way how slippery and illusory power is. Lada—so ugly and mean that readers will adore her—stubbornly rejects gender roles, yearns to liberate her country, and yet also falls for Mehmed for seeing her as an equal. The political mechanisms are endlessly twisty, and the characters, though they sometimes don’t read as their given ages, benefit from complex motivations and an unconventional love triangle.
Addictive intrigue that will send readers to history books as a balm while waiting for the sequel. (dramatis personae, glossary, author’s note; not seen) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)