If there was any series that has been a pivot to me as a reader, it is this. This was the beginning when I began to tread into a new genre. And I picked it up because of the premise and the cover. Not because of how I have heard and known about the story. The best I got was a very famous quote by Lada when I looked at it the first time.
But it was the best decision I will make in my lifetime. This was a series that deserves the title name, a series about kingdoms, plots and schemes. And beneath it all, was filled with themes and a story of power against people.
Which will you choose if given the choice?
But here are the main reasons why I liked it.
#1 It never held back
Lada is a very misguided form of feminism. But does it matter? No, we have awesome women like Mara, a woman who fought for her freedom within the boundaries she was allowed. Nazira who seeked ht choices regardless of what it will have costed.
And for Lada, she will shatter all of the expectations. Attaining the title of prince, even when she was a woman, becoming one of the most feared people to ever live. She is not correct, neither is she wrong. She is simply one form of representation. And simply, she was a flawed person who was born to power. Not a woman who attained it, or by luck stumbled into the inheritance.
And I appreciated that she was human first, and her priorities were dictated by her own mind not her sex.
As for the other more queer characters. Such as Radu, and his eventual coming into. His ability to finally become his own person and making the choice, a choice that will set him out from both Lada and Mehmed. He chooses to form bonds, Lada breaks them all, Mehmed isolated himself.
And this is why I loved it. The characters acted according to their own convictions.
#2 Everything has a price
This is a story where something has to give, where people will not see eye to eye with the other. Where one will delude himself into thinking that he’s prince charming when he’s not (Mehmed) and where heads will roll.
Choices here are not clear cut. There are many paths, but which one will they choose? Radu will choose the path of least bloodshed, choosing to utilize etiquette, court games to his advantage. Lada will choose to cut her way through everything no matter the consequences.
Even when it might be better for her to do so otherwise, make peace with the boyars. Not anger them, not murder them. For that will isolate her. But if she did it, she will fall into the same trap her father and forefathers did and let herself be put at the mercy of others.
Radu could have chosen to kill Constantine and end the siege before it even began. It will have saved many lives, but at what cost to him.
#3 No true villain
Mehmed seemed to take this the most. But he is not an idiot, he is not a scheming villain. He happens to be Sultan, and he has an empire to look after. He is also the same person who thinks Lada can be easily swayed from Wallachia.
But by the end, he is a man who has seen quite a fair bit of horrors. And then, willing to make peace.
Radu refuses to see Lada, even when it might be to her advantage as well. Because he was now a weary soul, someone who has seen a siege happen right before his eyes. And it was anything but a nice one. Lada will commit some atrocities at the end, and won’t stop from there. But she released herself from the same situation that shackled all her predecessors.
And this is why I liked it, they were all villains and heroes in their own ways. They all had to lose something as much as they gained. Alliances will shift, cities fell, Empires grew and fall. This is the story that this trilogy will tell. And why I will always wholeheartedly recommend it.