Bright We Burn
by White, Kiersten






A tumultuous conclusion to the best-selling series finds Radu returning to Mehmed's side to help him become the sultan their people need, while Lada's obsession with rendering Wallachia invincible escalates into war.





KIERSTEN WHITE is the New York Times bestselling author of the And I Darken and Paranormalcy series, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, Slayer, and many more novels. She lives with her family near the ocean in San Diego, which, in spite of its perfection, spurs her to dream of faraway places and even further-away times.

kierstenwhite.com
Follow Kiersten at @kierstenwhite on Twitter and @authorkierstenwhite on Instagram.





This rich historical novel concludes the trilogy that started with And I Darken (2016) and Now I Rise (2017), focusing on bloodthirsty Lada Dracul the Impaler, her obsession with ending Mehmed's control over her, and her thorough vengeance against any foe, perceived or real. Lada and Mehmed continue their strange dance of love and aggression, enacted through their political rather than personal lives. As the narrative unfolds, Lada's small, fierce country of Wallachia rages against the powerful Ottoman Empire, and her thoughtful brother, Radu, is caught again between the two people he loves most-eliciting the questions, when is it important to fight or to compromise, and how much personal sacrifice is enough? White balances tender moments with vicious acts of war, and Radu's sensitivity is a worthy foil for the violent excesses that are Lada's defining character trait. Although the powerful heterosexual couple (Lada and Mehmed) can't seem to figure it out, there are not one but two same-sex couples that provide lovely, welcome examples of devotion and family. A worthy end to a powerful saga. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The first two novels in this trilogy have been best-sellers. Expect nothing less from its much-anticipated concluding volume. Grades 9-12. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.





In 1454, conflict between the once-inseparable Lada, Radu, and Mehmed comes to its inevitable bloody fruition. Prince Lada Dracul consolidates her power to stand against the Ottoman Empire's demand that Wallachia return to being a vassal state. She does this both by stirring up trouble in other states and by her usual brutal violence—so brutal that Sultan Mehmed, busy rebuilding newly-conquered Constantinople, must respond. Meanwhile, Radu struggles with his part in Constantinople's fall and his guilt over Nazira and Cyprian, who vanished after sailing away. To bring Lada to heel, Mehmed sends Radu to capture her so they can negotiate; Lada also plans to kidnap Radu, viewing him as fundamentally hers. Neither gets what they want. The subsequent invasion features force that is massive on Mehmed's part and depraved on Lada's. Mehmed may have the money and numbers (compared to Lada's shaky alliances), but Lada is clever, terrifying, and has cultivated a near-worship among the peasants whose lots she's improved—even as she turns her country into a giant deathtrap. Politics, battle strategy, and betrayals thrill, while the toxic dynamic keeps the focus on the intrinsically linked trio. Most characters are Central or Eastern European or Turkish; Islam has a positive portrayal, as do same-sex relationships. An intense, engrossing read that never loses sight of its passionate characters' humanity, especially when they're at their worst. (map, dramatis personae, glossary, author's note) (Historical fiction. 15-adult) Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.





1454, Wallachia

 

 

Lada Dracul had cut through blood and bones to get the castle.

 

That did not mean she wanted to spend time in it. It was a relief to escape the capital. She understood the need for a seat of power, but she hated that it was Tirgoviste. She could not sleep in those stone rooms, empty and yet still crowded with the ghosts of all the princes who had come before her.

 

With too far to go before reaching Nicolae, Lada planned to camp for the night. Solitude was increasingly precious-and yet another resource she was sorely lacking. But a tiny village tucked away from the frosted road beckoned her. During one of the last summers before she and Radu were traded to the Ottomans, they had traveled this same path with their father. It had been one of the happiest seasons of her life. Though it was winter now, nostalgia and melancholy slowed her until she decided to stay.

 

Outside the village, she spent a few frigid minutes changing into clothes more standard than her usual selection of black trousers and tunics. They were noteworthy enough that she risked being recognized. She put on skirts and a blouse-but with mail underneath. Always that. To the untrained eye, there was nothing to mark her as prince.

 

She found lodging in a stone cottage. Because there was not enough planting land for boyars to bother with here, the peasants could own small patches of it. Not enough to prosper, but enough to survive. An older woman seated Lada by the fire with bread and stew as soon as coins had exchanged hands. The woman had a daughter, a small thing wearing much-patched and too-large clothes.

 

They also had a cat, who, in spite of Lada’s utter indifference to the creature, insisted on rubbing against her leg and purring. The little girl sat almost as close. “Her name is Prince,” the girl said, reaching down to scratch the cat’s ears.

 

Lada raised an eyebrow. “That is an odd name for a female cat.”

 

The girl grinned, showing all the childhood gaps among her teeth. “But princes can be girls now, too.”

 

“Ah, yes.” Lada tried not to smile. “Tell me, what do you think of our new prince?”

 

“I have never seen her. But I want to! I think she must be the prettiest girl alive.”

 

Lada snorted at the same time as the girl’s mother. The woman sat down in a chair across from Lada. “I have heard she is nothing to look at. A blessing. Perhaps it can keep her out of a marriage.”

 

“Oh?” Lada stirred her stew. “You do not think she should get married?”

 

The woman leaned forward intently. “You came here by yourself. A woman? Traveling alone? A year ago such a thing would have been impossible. This last harvest we were able to take our crops to Tirgoviste without paying robbers’ fees every league along the road. We made two times again as much money as we ever have. And my sister no longer has to teach her boys to pretend to be stupid to avoid being taken for the sultan’s accursed Janissary troops.”

 

Lada nodded as though hesitant to agree. “But the prince killed all those boyars. I hear she is depraved.”

 

The woman huffed, waving a hand. “What did the boyars ever do for us? She had her reasons. I heard-” She leaned forward so quickly and with such animation half her stew spilled, unnoticed. “I heard she is giving land to anyone. Can you imagine? No family name, no boyar line. She gives it to those who deserve it. So I hope she never marries. I hope she lives to be a hundred years old, breathing fire and drinking the blood of our enemies.”

 

The little girl grabbed the cat, settling it on her lap. “Did you hear the story of the golden goblet?” she asked, eyes bright and shining.

 

Lada smiled. “Tell me.”

 

And so Lada heard new stories about herself, from her own people. They were exaggerated and stretched, but they were based on things she had actually done. The ways she had improved her country for her people.

 

Lada slept well that night.






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