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Bright We Burn (The Conqueror's Saga, #3)
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Young Adult Fiction Buddy Reads > Bright We Burn BR Starting July 13th 2018

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Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Join us for a buddy read of the third novel in the The Conqueror's Saga.




Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever . . . and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed . . . and would he even want it?

Lada's rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won't rest until everyone knows that her country's borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed's peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince.

But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister's indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before--including her relationships--can Lada truly build the country she wants.

Claim the throne. Demand the crown. Rule the world.


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Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter Three (pg 21)

Sorry, off to a slow start.

Usually when I start a new installment in a series, it takes me a while to remember what the previous novel was about, even if I read a synopsis or my own review of the book. I have to admit, I didn't look at either before I started this book yesterday. And I'm surprised at how much I remember, considering we read it eight months ago. But the little nuggets of backstory that White weaves into the opening chapters has been enough to jog my memory without being annoying in its detail and depth, it that makes sense.

Haven't gotten far, but my initial impressions:

- it's interesting what Lada took away from the stories of the new prince. She's ruler of the realm now and fighting on all fronts to keep hold of that title, yet she really seemed interested in the stories her people tell of her rule so far. And yet, she's able to joke about them as well, like when she says cutting a baby in half doesn't take long. It'll be interesting to see how her character arc finishes in this final installment to the series. She went a little off the rails on the humanity scale last book if I recall correctly, so we'll have to see how she course corrects (if at all) now that she has the title she's longed for.

And Radu. Poor Radu. And yet, it already seems like he's starting to forgive Mehmed and fall right back into his old patterns. I have a haunting suspicion this is going to be a sad novel for him =(


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Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments Sorry. REALLY been struggling with being able to focus around the pain.


Spoilers for previous books in series not tagged.

Up to Chapter 5 (12%)

This book is going to break my heart. I can see it coming. No book has really done that in a long time. I think it’s going to be sad for all the characters.
I don’t usually cry over books (or movies)- the last three Harry Potter books really got to me of course, and the third Twilight book hit me right in the feels (I loved Jacob and really felt his heartbreak), but I’m trying to think of anything recent… Daughter of Smoke and Bone did, but in a more general, war is bad, way than in a specific, character you love being killed, way.
Anyway, it doesn’t happen often that a book manages to affect me that deeply emotionally, but if White plays it right, this could be a really devastating book. I’m half-trepidation, half-excitement over that likelihood. I’m glad we’re buddy reading this so I can get all my feelings out!
Although there’s a possibility that seeing it coming will mitigate a fair amount of its impact. We’ll have to see. I think I have a fairly good idea where she’s going with things, especially given what I read about Vlad the Impaler’s history when reading the first book, but I have no idea how close she’ll stick to that. Probably not too closely, since I think she’s condensing things to fit in three books and stay in the YA genre.
I’m a bit envious of you having read less about the real history (for example. what would ultimately happen to Constantinople was not a surprise in the last book), but I have also really enjoyed learning about the real events, so I don’t regret it too much.
Despite having some idea how I think things will end (although I could turn out to be 100% wrong), there are other things I’m very curious about. Will Lada marry? (Vlad the Impaler did, but that’s unsurprising since he was a male ruler.) I can’t quite picture it with Lada... I can’t imagine her giving up that much control, unless forced because she was already pregnant. But I think she’d do everything in her power to end the pregnancy- I can’t imagine her giving up that much control over her body or hindering her ability to fight willingly for any reason, at least at this stage in her life. And how would she maintain her fledgling power? I also think that would bring in a lot of additional factors, themes, etc. for White to wrap them all up in this book. But it would also be interesting how Lada would deal with marriage and/or motherhood, so I would be fine with that turn of events.

We didn’t end up talking about how the last book ended, so I want to bring up a few things.
I just finished it like two months ago, so I totally understand if you don’t remember all the details.
I don’t understand why Radu, after the fall of Constantinople and being so disillusioned, didn’t consider leaving and following Lada to Wallachia at that point. It still pains me to think how good a team they could have made. But maybe they were always too polar of opposites to see eye to eye, to have a relationship of mutual respect. Each’s weaknesses are the other strengths. Radu is unwilling to make the hard decisions, as witnessed by him refusing to just choose a side and end all the suffering in Constantinople, but is empathetic and sees all human lives as largely equal. Lada is the opposite.
And what was Radu thinking with that letter? I know he isn’t aware of everything that went on between Lada and Mehmed, but how did he think she’d react to Mehmed commanding her to come to Constantinople? He has to know she balks at authority and that was the completely wrong way to approach her, especially given his people skills. If he wanted to see her, why didn’t he write her just from him asking if he could come visit? Or was the letter still him attempting to drive a wedge between Lada and Mehmed, afraid of her coming back and regaining his affections? I’d think he’d be over that and have some idea the potential consequences of conflict between two leaders. I am just really baffled. (Although having read a bit further, (view spoiler))

What do you think of how Lada has been developed and the choices she has made since returning to Wallachia? I don’t understand her insistence on including the children in their parents’ punishments, especially over Nicolle’s strong objections. That’s what bothers me the most.
I can’t decide if part of the immorality of her decisions is mitigated somewhat by the harshness of the world at that time, specifically with regards to making examples of thieves and other criminals. When just traveling to a nearby town held a decent chance of a regular citizen being murdered for their horse or the clothes on their backs, does that make it ok for Lada to use such deterrents? It’s not like she has enough men or money to make the roads safe in other ways.
At this point, I predict she’s on too slippery and too tenuous a slope not to keep sliding. With no power base, she has no way of keeping power except through more killing. She may have felt that she was doing it for the good of her people, but sometimes it was just easier in the short term for her. Especially since she didn’t even have to deal with anyone really calling her on her decisions- if only she respected Nicolae enough to listen to him despite Bogdan’s unquestioning obedience. I do have to give her some credit for working with the tools she’s got, but her pride, temper, and impatience have also played major parts in pushing her too far into bad decisions
I was strongly reminded she’s still just a teenager with regards to the (view spoiler)
Normally I’d really give her credit for her insistence on (view spoiler)

I really didn’t expect that (view spoiler)


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Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 5 (pg 42)

Yeah, this one does not seem the series for a happy ending. I've been impressed with White's character development so far throughout the series, so I think she's got the skills to make us sob into pints of ice cream.

I don't think Lada will marry. She certainly would never be happy in a marriage.

Radu stayed to protect the two heirs from the previous rule, right? He stayed behind with the boys, because he was afraid Mehmed would kill them. And they were trapped up in the bell tower or something and couldn't escape to take the boys with them. Though it seems like he hasn't kept complete tabs on the boys since Mehmed's rule, so he could have gone to join Lada like you mentioned.

I think Lada always have to go to measures twice as extreme so she feels like she has power and is in control. She's not just defending her right to the title of Prince, but for every woman's right to hold the title. I think she carries the torch of feminism like a heavy burden. And that she time she "slips" and has a moment of weakness where she asks selfish or generally human, she works twice as hard to make up for it.

I did find it interesting that though she ordered (view spoiler) I thought that left her with a spark of humanity still attached, however dim the light. But then I just read further in your post and understand your point too. I'm not sure she does it to desensitize herself, I think she honestly tries to keep some kind of moral compass, no matter how crocked, but I agree that it will have that affect in the long run. And I can definitely see the plot playing out that way. By the end, she could stand in a field of embers, having watched an entire village burn without a moment's hesitation. I wouldn't put it past her.

Nazira and Cyprian headed to Italy right? I was so proud of myself in my last post for remembering so much, but now I think I was a bit full of myself hahaha. I want to say they were headed to Italy, which is a straight shot by sea from Constantinople, but it's still some distance. Maybe something happened when they're boat landed (I'm thinking they left by boat) and they haven't been able to get back. But I am interested to see where that subplot leads, since Cyprian's still fresh on Radu's mind, almost as if that decision - between Mehmed and Cyprian, between the different types of relationships each man offers - is going to be what makes or breaks Radu in the end.


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Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Italy is actually really far away. Now I’m thinking maybe they went to Greece? My brain was not 100% last night lol.


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Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 7 (pg 55)

Well, that didn't take long. Wow. (view spoiler)

And I like how Radu's chapter pointed out the juxtaposition between him and Lada that you mentioned in your post. The whole metaphor (view spoiler) worked really well for him. He's lost and sad and has always been overshadowed by her, and he doesn't know who he is, what he stands for, or who he wants to be. But at the same time, he has sparks of his true nature. Like when he (view spoiler).


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Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 10 (pg 79)

I have to start with the cover since I haven't mentioned it yet. It's very pretty, but every time I see it I wonder what it has to do with the book at all. A pomegranate? What does that have to do with Lada?

Okay, back to the story.

I really liked this line:

"They rule because we allow it. No more." (57). I think that's a perfect summation for every uprising. I watched part of the Inconvenient Truth sequel a week or two back and saw the similarities between the cause. If we don't fight back for our beliefs, if we let those in power stay in power when we won't stand up and oppose them, then aren't we in part to blame? Now I realize not all causes have the manpower to overthrow those in the question, but I look at the recent bans on plastic straws and the movement of Plastic Versus Planet, and I have hope for my cause. Then again, you also have to be strategic with your cause. While Lada got what she wanted out of her attacks up and down the border, it's hard for me to say she did the right thing. seems a bit excessive.

This line from the same page also stuck out to me:

"Those of us who actually do things have no need of falsehoods." (57). I think Lada's ego and her sense of responsibility are going to be her downfall in the end. The further I get into this book, the less I see the possibility for a happy ending.

Shifting to Radu, this line resonated with me:

Every time Radu thought he had found a place in the world, the world changed around him, and he was once again left alone (63)

While people change, we are all dynamic and fluid in our personalities, I liked this line because I think Radu is intent in his change sometimes. He changes himself to please others, or to be more pleasing to others. And when you do that, you're never going to find happiness, because you aren't being yourself.

Now that (view spoiler)


message 8: by Emily (last edited Jul 30, 2018 04:51PM) (new) - added it

Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments To refresh your memory about the ending of the last book:
Yes, Radu made sure that Nazira and Cyprian were able to escape the city in a stolen Ottoman boat, then returns to the city to protect Constantine’s two young nephews, both from the general pillaging that was going on (because the city was conquered, rather than surrendering, the Ottoman troops were allowed time to sack the city and do what they liked- this involved destroying and taking property, as well as people being killed and raped and captured to be sold into slavery) and from being killed because they were the heirs. He holes up with them at the top of the Haiga Sophia, unable to leave the city with so much violence going on, and is found there by Mehmed. Mehmed takes charge of the boys and promises Radu they will be safe. So, yes, your memory was correct.
After which it seems that Radu returns to Edirne. He has realized that Mehmed is aware of his feelings and has been manipulating him. So in this disillusioned state, I would think he would consider going after Lada. But maybe he felt he couldn’t leave (view spoiler)

As for Cyprian and Nazira, (view spoiler)


I wanted to talk about the cover too and ask you what you thought. I think the pomegranate is because it is often a symbol of fertility. Which again raises some questions about whether Lada might get pregnant… But could just be to indicate her total shattering of traditional female roles. Also, in Greek myths, the pomegranate is the “fruit of death/the underworld”- Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds in the underworld, condemning her to have to spend six months of the year there with Hades, if you are familiar with that myth. So it might be suggestive of all the death Lada is dealing out as well.
I’ve liked the covers, but after talking to a YA librarian who is in my second bookclub, I’m not sure they were a hit with the intended audience. She said teenagers didn’t really pick up on their symbolism, seeing the flower on the first cover as meaning it was a typical YA romance-y book. You definitely have to look past the prettiness of the covers to the symbolism for them to make sense with the story. The librarian likes the other cover for the first book better- And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1) by Kiersten White - but I have problems with that one. A) At least so far, Lada has never painted her face like that at all- it’s totally wrong for the region. B) That isn’t really indicative of Lada until this book, even if it gives a more visceral feel of what the books are like.

I haven’t read the rest of your “Up to Chapter 10” comments yet, but should be caught up with you tonight.


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Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments I DID NOT BOTHER TO SPOILER TAG MY COMMENTS BELOW, since you’re ahead of me.

Up to Chapter 9 (19%)

I agree that I don’t think Lada could ever be happy in a marriage. She always has to be the one in control- I don’t know if she has the ability to have a true partnership with someone. She might be able to be married to someone like Bogdan, who was totally subservient to her, but she would never be able to really respect or love such a man. I’m not sure she’s truly capable of fully loving someone- she sees it as too much of a weakness.

And yes, Lada definitely holds herself to a higher standard, always feeling the need to doubly prove herself, be twice as tough. And as she is seeing the potential effect she can have on the lives of other women and girls, it’s definitely spurring her on more.

Yeah, I am very curious about what has happened to Nazira and Cyprian. I think losing them would be a major blow to Radu and his humanity. Nazira has been his best friend and kept him grounded, given him some perspective. Cyprian showed him joy and what it might be like to be loved back- giving him at least a little hint that he deserves that. If they are lost to him, all he will have left is his tortured feelings for Mehmed and Mehmed’s “great mission”. Which could push him down a dark, single-minded path. We will see.
Mehmed seems to be being squirrelly to me regarding Nazira and Cyprian and their fate… I did find it surprising he hadn’t found out where they’d gone since they escaped on a pretty-much-stolen Ottoman boat. But maybe he actually does know where they are/ what happened and doesn’t want to tell Radu for some reason?


Lada’s motives are always very complex- brutality and generosity hand in hand. I could see it being an effective, if very harsh, way to rule her own people, if it weren’t for all the outside influences. But the fact that she had some arbitrary number of people to kill in retaliation is problematic to me. Once you turn people into numbers, you can rationalize a lot of horrific acts. And that she used innocent Bulgarian villagers as part of that quota is really horrifying. Like they aren’t real because they aren’t Wallachian. That they are guilty just for being Ottoman subjects. She doesn’t see that what she is doing is just as bad as the original offense. She no longer has really any lines she isn’t willing to cross- the ends justify any means for her. Which I don’t think was all that unusual a mindset for many leaders at this time- she certainly learned some of it from the Ottomans and the “head gardener”. I think most leaders at this point used abhorrent, violent methods more sparingly not because they were more moral, but because they had other means at their disposal, different skills, and could see the big-picture consequences of such public, unjustified, and heinous acts (ie being removed from power in one way or another).
Your observation that it is all like some game to Lada between her and Mehmed is very astute. She wants his attention on her and to know he cares about her, while wanting to hurt him at the same time. Like all of this is her way of proving some point to him- that she doesn’t need him, that Wallachia should rule itself. Some part of her has to know that she is courting complete disaster. Her country simply doesn’t have the men or money or resources to stand against the Ottoman Empire, no matter how clever and resourceful she is. (She is smart enough to be collecting allies and attempting to get money from the Vatican, but things are still very much tilted in the Ottomans’ favor.) But she’s so wrapped up in her hormonal and very conflicted feelings over Mehmed that she’s very much not thinking clearly. She doesn’t seem to realize that what she sees as shows of strength and deterrents against anyone harming Wallachia will make her wholehearted enemies. Will make others see her and her country as a threat that they cannot allow to continue.

I thought it odd that Lada specifically asked if the villagers were Christian. That didn’t really seem to fit with her disregard of religion up until now. I get she’s trying to appear more pious to appeal more to her subjects/the Pope, but this didn’t seem to me to be because of that. I think White might have created a bit of a problem for herself here- I seem to remember that the real Vlad the Impaler was quite religious, so now White seems to be trying to combine that with how she’s written Lada’s relationship with religion until now.

I thought this was an interesting quote, said by Kumal when discussing Lada near the end of chapter 8: “Instability creates cracks through which death seeps in.”


Poor Radu. I can’t imagine how it would feel to have the person you love not choose you over and over. Although I also can’t understand why Radu hasn’t learned from it and stopped putting himself in a position where Mehmed can repeatedly treat him that way.
And Radu is trapped in such with this cycle of hesitation, guilt, and fear ruling him psychologically. Constantinople really did a number on him, though he was already prone to self-doubt and recrimination over his sexuality, his relationship with Lada, etc. Mehmed has to know this tendency and have known Radu wasn’t cut out emotionally for being a double agent. Which is why if Mehmed really cared for him, he wouldn’t have forced Radu into situations where he would have to make heart-wrenching choices. But how DOES Mehmed feel about Radu? I can’t quite figure that out. Mehmed clearly wants his loyalty- is he a stand in for Lada? Does Mehmed just need to feel close to someone and Radu is safe because he is trustworthy? Is Radu simply a dependable tool who is easy to manipulate because of his feelings for Mehmed? Does Mehmed think Radu is the key to winning the “game” he is playing with Lada (whatever the endgame is of that- and I don’t think either Mehmed or Lada really knows what their aim is at this point)?
As you talked about, I was also thinking about how influenced Radu is by those he is close to. Definitely a little too much, in my opinion. Although he does seem to be slowly finding bits of his core self, as you mention. Lada, on the other hand, refuses to be influenced by others at all, to the point where it is difficult for her to even form true relationships. She sees any affection or willingness to be convinced of anything by others, any concession, as weakness. Again, they are both too much to the extremes.


Mara is an interesting character who I did not expect to play a role after the first book. She’s a great foil for Lada- playing the game by the rules, but managing to win a life on largely her own terms. A much more subtle, and probably more likely example of an independent woman in that time. She keeps all the outer trappings of propriety, dress, femininity, etc. and is always composed, and I wonder if this allows men to accept her more easily, despite her flouting of arguably-more-important societal gender conventions (having no husband, no children, getting involved in politics and the world of men). As opposed to Lada, who rubs the face of anyone who meets her in her refusal to follow expectations.
I’m not quite sure what Mara wants to get out of this situation. Is she advising Mehmed of what she believes is in his/his empire’s best interest or in Serbia’s best interest or in her best interest in some ambitious political maneuvering? It’s possible she just wants to stay unmarried and maybe have some excitement in her life, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she has another goal as well.
Mehmed hiring Mara is an interesting factor when considering Mehmed’s seemingly two-sided views on women. And on how Lada might have impacted them. On the one side, he has a harem and apparently feels no guilt over that and churning out heirs. On the other, he does seem to accept that women can be as capable as men and be intelligent (Urbana being an example as well). I think this dichotomy might have been inevitable given his culture vs. spending his teenage years with Lada. But I wonder how he reconciles it in his own mind.


My second bookclub discussed And I Darken this month. (I probably wouldn’t have suggested it now that I know that group better, but we have to pick books way in advance for that bookclub since it’s library sponsored and they want to plan ahead. I recommended it a whole year ago right after joining the group.) They actually liked it better than I expected they would. There was some really interesting discussion about freedom and whether anyone in the book is really free. There’s a lot of societal, familial, religious, etc. obligations on all the characters- Lada imposes a lot on herself in taking responsibility for (and believing herself entitled to) Wallachia. Which lead to us wondering if people in that time period would even think about freedom in an at all similar way to the way we do as Americans, and if they would rank it high on their list of priorities when compared to things like food and safety. And if the author is somewhat inserting our ideals into that time period with Lada’s character. An interesting question, I thought.


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Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 12 (pg 92)

I loved your point about how turning people into numbers can help rationalize horrific acts. The first thing that came to my mind when I read your comment was the numbered tattoo system the Nazis used in concentration camps.

And your point about how she was at least smart enough to try to ally herself for the fight against the Ottomans, but didn't really grasp the whole concept. Her alliances are tenuous at best, and it won't take much to turn them against her. After all, as she pointed out, they aren't making a joint effort and attacking together. They are simply planning their attacks in a concentrated event. So if/when they would turn against her, it's pretty easy because they don't have much of an alliance to break. Just wait for Mehmed weakens her military, then go in for the kill.

I think she asked them about religion almost out of spite. Religion helped tear Radu away from her. And now Mehmed is calling himself the Hand of God. I think she hoped they were Christian so that she could prove religion couldn't save them. That their God couldn't save them from her. Kinda just let an 'F# You'.

And Radu. Poor Radu. Not only does he not get chosen, but he gets cast aside for his own sister, who is already everything he isn't. A double whammy. I see him almost like a battered housewife. I think, deep down, he knew how it would end. And he allowed himself to open up to the possibility of something better for himself, to get out of the toxic relationship with Mehmed (Cyprian), but yet he kept coming back. An old habit he could not break.

I think Mehmed just needs him as someone to feel close to, since he can't have the person he wants. Someone who is always loyal to him, no matter what. And someone who can remind him of who he is, where he came from - but always proves who he has become (I saw this in Radu's return early in the book and the comments on how ruler Mehmed was so different from his friend Mehmed).

Very interesting question raised in your bookclub. I can't say from context, of course, but I would lean toward people (including in present-day civilizations around the world) care about their freedom, but are more concerned with not dying first. I've heard stories recently of the crisis in Venezuela and how people are so starving that they are eating garbage out of the street. Yes, they are probably irate that their dictator mocks them with his weekly dancing evening with his wife, but they're just trying to get food and safety and their main priority, before they can think about overthrowing the government. Kind of makes me think of The Hunger Games. How Katniss and Gale put their names into the reaping over and over as a means to get food to help their family survive. They thought about running away, but providing for family always came first. Makes you feel spoiled as an American, right?

Quote that stuck out to me:

'... men like Kumal were the same as everyone else - they simply chose to be better' (pg 80)
Not sure I 100% agree with it, but it made me pause and think, which I can appreciate.

What I'm interested in now is (view spoiler).

I did not write down the exact line, but I LOVED how White used a weapon (a serrated blade) as a simile. Was such a good choice. Fits perfectly with the overall novel. I have the hardest time using proper metaphors and similes. And I've been reading the Temperance Brennan novels; Kathy Reichs is terrible with them. White hit it spot on.


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Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments Up to Chapter 11 (23%)

Oh no. (view spoiler)

Lada is having issues with (view spoiler)

It’s a little hard for me to see Lada’s cause as as just as you view it. Not that I can’t see your point- her countrypeople fully deserve to have rulers who care about their welfare instead of exploiting them. But Lada’s not really taking over power to give to the people, she’s fully taking it over for herself. Yes, she wants to improve the common person’s life, but to me it’s more of a coup or a take-over than an uprising. One that is potentially just, but given her methods and how she has killed and mistreated numerous of her people so far, I’m not so sure.
I also view the Ottoman Empire’s control of Wallachia a bit differently due to the time period and Wallachia’s geographic position. Every country definitely deserves the right to govern itself and decide it’s own future. But what is the likelihood Wallachia would be able to stay independent even if the Ottomans allowed it? Having read a tiny bit about the regional political situation at that time, it seems like different countries were constantly fighting and trying to expand, some of which were much larger and more powerful than Wallachia. It’s not like now where borders are much more stable and a new nation fighting for independence could find powerful global allies to help protect it while developing. Lada might be able to become allies with enough neighbors and secure truces to ensure Wallachia’s survival, but it would be difficult, particularly given her people skills.
As I discuss above, I do think it might be smarter to stay part of the Ottoman Empire, even if it wouldn’t be as righteous.

I’m totally with you on fighting for what we believe in in general and especially in our situations and in our country, where we are not endangered by speaking out, however. I was just discussing with my cousin (who’s an engineer working on renewable energy) how we both feel disheartened by how slowly change is occurring regarding climate change and how many people, particularly those in positions of power, are acting like nothing is happening.
I normally would be in favor of something like the straw ban, except people in my “spoonie” support group on Facebook were discussing how bans could very negatively affect the disabled and ill, who can need them to be able to drink at all. And that considering straws make up only a small percentage of plastic waste/pollution (It seems that there is a lot of confusion over the actual numbers- someone in my group said .03% of ocean waste, but I have no idea where she got that number. If you have better data, let me know.), it might be better to go after a different source of plastic pollution first. It was something I hadn’t considered, but that I think is a worthwhile consideration. You and I both know that things that appear easy to most people, aren’t necessarily for everyone. Here’s an article with more information: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/...

Obviously I agree with you regarding Radu’s mutability, as I discussed in my last post. And you’re right, he’s not going to be happy until he finds a way to be true to himself and show that self to others.

I hope the pace does pick up a bit, since this is the last book and I’m hoping there’s a lot of action and emotion fit in before the end!


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Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments Up to Chapter 12 (24%)

Well, seems this coming (view spoiler)

Yes, that’s a good point- I can totally see Matthias taking advantage of the damage done by Ottomans to Lada’s troops in order to take over Wallachia. Rationalizing it (if he felt the need to) as getting rid of the troublemaker before Ottoman troops came in force to crush her and swept up part of his territory as well. Especially since he won’t be weakened by fighting the Ottomans directly.

Ahhh... an excellent point about the religion aspect. She does have personal reasons to dislike Islam, from Radu’s conversion and finding of community and connection with the Ottomans, to Mehmed’s “crusade” to conquer Constantinople and Radu buying into that mission, both putting it before her, to Mehmed’s wives, concubines, and sons (that last is more indicative of the time and culture than the religion, but I doubt Lada would see the distinction). And she’s not the kind of person who would choose to separate personal issues from her views on something. She seemed to have issues with religion in general before that, but I’m realizing that as a woman at that time, I certainly would have too! And your insight that she liked holding the fates of people who were religious in her hands makes a lot of sense.

Agreed. Mehmed is pretty cruel by keeping Radu close and playing on Radu’s feelings, while knowing he will never choose Radu. I wonder what would have happened if Radu had met Cyprian under different circumstances- if Cyprian had been Ottoman and being with him hadn’t meant betraying Mehmed politically, AND his religion AND his adopted country AND Nazira... At the same time, the turmoil of the siege and shared experiences might have bonded them together more strongly than they would have been otherwise.

I realized in reading your comments and thinking about (view spoiler)

I’m not sure whether I agree with that quote about Kumal either. But definitely makes me think too. How much is just who we are and how our brains are wired vs. choice... which then becomes a bit chicken-and-egg-like because how much of how we choose is based on our brains or inherent personalities. I don’t believe in fate or everything being predetermined, so I do believe there’s an element of choice, but not maybe as much as that quote would indicate.

White is really good at metaphors/similes. Manages to make them fit theme and character as well as just the comparison. I bet that is a really difficult aspect of writing. I was just thinking that Rachel Caine is quite good at them the other day (I’m finally reading Ash and Quill now that the fourth Great Library book has been released- reading rather too many things at the moment, actually, since so many I really want to read just came out or are coming out...) I have no idea how writers come up with such great ways of describing things. Maybe some of them keep lists of similes that might work well ;) Or you could try working backwards- might at least be a useful exercise to come up with some items that fit whatever story you’re writing and then try and think of similes/metaphors that would work using them for at any point in the story. Hopefully that makes sense. Might be a totally rubbish idea (clearly I’ve been watching way too much Great British Bake Off/Great British Baking Show since I’m thinking in British-isms ;)), since I’m not a writer.


Regarding the straw issue: I realize it’s an issue that makes people very spirited on both sides. I totally see the points of both the environmentalists and the disabled community, and I’m really not sure which should take priority. I just wanted to share some information you might not have been aware of. In case that wasn’t clear. I do think that, especially in CO where our tap water tastes the same as bottled, we should majorly push for using reusable water bottles, and aim for less packaging on all sorts of packaged foods (which will sometimes have several layers), and all sorts of other changes. The way we are doing things is definitely untenable, and we’ll have to find a balance between making a difference to the environment and some degree of convenience. But we do need to do more. As you said, we are so lucky to be Americans and not living in poverty. Makes how much we waste and throw away just... well, awful, and worse adjectives too.


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Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 14 (pg 109)

I agree that Radu seems to have taken the easy way out instead of making the hard choice and sticking with the plan that he helped devise. Absolutely no good could come from (view spoiler) I think Radu was trying to escape his disappointment in Mehmed, and took the easiest path away. Nazira and Cyprian are his escape, the other half of his life he has built, so it was easier for him to go see them than face having to be the one who gave Mehmed what he's wanted all along - Lada (even if he didn't get her willingly).

Lada's pride is definitely going to be a major plot pusher in this book. I don't see her ever taking any kind of compromise when it comes to Wallachia. She's in do or do mode, take everything or lose everything. Like you said, black or white. They're no middle ground where she would be happy. She has too much to prove and too much built up anger from a lifetime of being repressed.

The further we get into this novel, the harder it is to see any just cause in Lada's actions. I think the optomist in me wanted to see the good in her, but you right. With each turn of the page, Lada reveals her driving forces, and they become less about the welfare of her people who have been suffering under the political system in her state and more about retribution and power. I didn't realize that the Ottoman empire lasted until World War I. David actually mentioned this when I was trying to explain the plot to him (he's been obsessed with WWI recently with his Hardcore History podcast). Their empire did reach far and wide, and if the ultimate goal was to ensure the safety and some sort of power/independence for her people, she would have been better off making some kind of deal. You always get better terms when you go to the table willingly than when you are forced there in defeat.

I'm really interested to see what happens when (view spoiler).

We're watching the third season of The Expanse right now, and we just got to the episode last night with Miller and Holden discuss free will versus programming. It's an amazing dialogue in the books and carried pretty well to the show. Miller brings up how can Holden believe he even has free will when he keeps finding himself in these life or death situations that no one would ever willingly put themselves in? That it's kind of Holden's fate to always end up in these situations where he has to save humanity. And then Miller explains that there are more synapses in the brain than stars in the universe, and the Protomolecule is able to wire his brain to communicate with him by making him see something that is not there. It's hard to explain (I wish I could find a clip of the scene, but other people aren't as obsessed with it as I am lol).

I believe most writer work backwards. They come up with themes and ideas that fit their story and then try to think of similes/metaphors that would work. One of the writing craft books I read recently made an explicit point to do this lol. But I'm finding it easier said than done. I think it takes practice and a whole lot of pose.

I agree that starting with a straw ban wasn't the most logical choice. After listening to the American Wolf audiobook (thank you thank you for the recommendation, it was AMAZING), I have a hunch that a lot of lobbying and politics went on behind the scenes in that decision. Though I will say we had a speaker from the city at the most recent event I did at the Science Center, and he said you wouldn't believe the number of straws he sees at the dump. When you look at the floating plastic islands in the rivers and oceans, cutting straws isn't going to do it. Plastic bags, single use plastic containers - you gotta go big or go broke. And there should be some leeway on the ban as you said. But hopefully it's a good first stepping stone and we don't just leave it at all. Another thing I learned at that speaker event was that around a third of all landfill waste is food. Which you would think is okay, since it's biodegradable. But then we wrap the food in plastic trash bags, which takes MUCH longer to biodegrade. And then we put those trashbags under tons of other waste and hey, guess what, it no longer biodegrades! So there's a local push here - especially with all the tourism and hospitality - to do wide-scale composting to help not just reduce the amount in the landfill, but get usable soil so we don't have a top soil crisis and, as a side effect, use less plastic trash bags. But I'm still trying to get my boss to switch from plastic water bottles to a water cooler in the office, since we no longer recycle because people at work couldn't figure it out and I was tired of getting soda spills in my trunk when taking recycle from work home. I actually took in a Brita filter for myself and use a glass water bottle. Not the perfect solution, but it reduces more than if I drank the plastic bottles with everyone else. Baby steps! I'm a firm believer that companies should not be allowed to package items in materials that cannot be recycled. I do my best when shopping to select the item with the least amount of packaging/packaging using only recyclable materials. And to teach my coworkers how to recycle, at home and at work. I'm also working on making more stuff (kombucha, beer, bread, cheese, pickles, etc) at home so we don't have to buy one off packaged materials (and they taste better homemade without all the nasty preservatives). But I also agree there is a balance with some degree of convenience. There is only such much time in the day I can spend in the kitchen. Trying to go zero-waste is going to be a long process in our house, but I'm trying to be more mindful with every decision we make, and to help share what I've learned with others who have never really stopped to think about the environmental impact. (I apologize for the off tangent rant lol.)


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Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 17 (page 137)

I loved the use of the adverb mournfully (pg 116) and how it was applied to Lada. White didn't use it in conjunction with any of the terrible things that Lada's done. Instead, Lada is mournful that she doesn't have more gunpowder to create more destruction.

I can't believe (view spoiler)

Liked this quote from Radu:

'... how many unavoidable choices of his had resulted in unforgivable consequences?' (page 129).

It gave me pause. Were Radu's choices really unavoidable? Or does he simply wish to classify them as so to justify his decisions? And how many of us do the same? I think a lot of what Radu has done he has regretted on some level, but I don't think all his choices were unavoidable. For instance, (view spoiler)

Feels like the pace is really starting to pick up in the last few scenes. Gonna get interesting! I'm honestly not sure how it's going to play out, but I know either way it will be depressing.


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Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments Oh, dear. I didn’t realize how many days it had been since I’d posted last. I hate my body and all the crud it puts me through. And doctor’s appointments- cause THAT’s how I want to be spending my few spoons... Sorry. Too much complaining, but it's been a tough stretch. At least the doctor’s appointments have been going better as far as finding some doctors who seem to be more responsive.
I do have to take some of the blame, however, for getting really caught up in Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. It’s way too long- I totally understand why the writing style has really annoyed some people. (There are pages where it’s like: “She walked to the table. She set the plate down. She walked back. She sat down.” Although written better.) But I’ve found it an intriguing story and quite relaxing. It’s a book that hasn’t required much from me for its majority. Unlike this series ;)


Up to Chapter 17 (35%)

I honestly don’t have that much to say because nothing has really surprised me all that much in this last section- it’s playing out like I expected. Nor has this section brought out as much emotion in me as I feel it should have, maybe because I’ve read it in a bunch of little snippets.

My Cyprian happy place (view spoiler)

Well, I guess it’s not totally true it hasn’t surprised me- Lada’s willingness to kill totally indiscriminately does continue to surprise me. But it’s more like shock and horror than true surprise at this point. She could easily have (view spoiler)

Poor (view spoiler) I like this representation of an untraditional family unit, a chosen family, giving unconditional support.

I thought this was a powerful quote, explaining Lada and her motivations (and just a very well written paragraph): “Like a melody she could not stop from ringing through her head, Mehmed arose in her memories. He knew why. He alone understood this drive, this ambition, this need to have her country. She could not abandon it, because Wallachia was her. If she could walk away from Wallachia, if she could leave it to others, she would not be. It was as simple as that.” (pg. 118)

Oh, (view spoiler)

Does Mehmed really think it’s going to be that easy to (view spoiler)


I don’t think Kumal realizes that Lada hates him, although Radu does to some degree. He’s also the worst possible choice because he’s just such a peaceful man- he could never imagine Lada’s brutality or be ruthless enough to match it.
That’s an excellent point about another reason why Radu wanted to run away from the situation. As well as possibly seeing Cyprian, of course. But it’s still cowardly.

I am watching The Expanse, but am still in season 1. I just am not watching much tv on my own right now (and my parents don’t do si-fi or fantasy ones, annoyingly). It’s a really complex show! And that does sound like an intriguing scene.

I hope the similes/metaphors get easier for you with practice! That constant but unconventional creativity with language-always looking at things from a slightly different viewpoint or combining things in new ways- that good writers have is magical. But I’m positive also very hard work!

I’m so glad you liked American Wolf! I thought it would appeal to you. I really want to know what’s going on with the wolves in Yellowstone now- is there a pack that watchers can sometimes see from the road at this point? Cause if so, it might be time for another trip to Yellowstone- I haven’t been since middle school.
I agree that I think the straw ban was very deliberately chosen. Something not too inconvenient for most people to be willing to give up, not too politically divisive, etc. and if it gets things rolling, that’s great. Just making sure we’re not rolling over the disadvantaged as we go.
I can’t believe how less and less places are recycling. I haven’t come across it too much here in CO, but have been hearing about it other places. It’s ridiculous.
Group composting is a great idea- it often seems like a lot of effort for an individual household, but it would make so much sense to recycle food waste in that way as a community instead of throwing it in a landfill!
Wow- good for you, doing so much! That’s awesome! I wish I had the spoons to do more, but as you said, baby steps and being mindful about all sorts of decisions can still get us headed in the right direction. And you were the impetus for my mom and I having a conversation today about a few small things we can do differently to reduce the amount of trash we produce as a household.
I actually made cheese for the first time last weekend. One of my besties sent me a kit. I started with a simple, unaged cheese, so it was a bit bland, but with some fresh herbs from my dad’s garden, not too bad! And I really want to try making bread again! I’m hoping to do better than my last attempt.
No worries, getting off topic is sometimes the best part of book discussions ;)

Chapter 15 did have a well done opening, especially with the juxtaposition of (view spoiler)

I wonder if “unavoidable choices” is meant to indicate that making a choice was unavoidable? It’s kind of ambiguous wording. Because in the case of some of Radu’s decisions, such as between Lada and Mehmed, he has had to pick a side, and there wasn’t really going to be a good choice either way. (I guess you could argue he could have walked away from both of them, but breaking off on his own isn’t really in Radu’s nature, especially earlier on.)
I usually agree with the statement that “there is always a choice”, even if our personalities or consciences only allow us to make one decision. So I would agree that certain decisions Radu made were not unavoidable- including picking Mehmed over Lada… I still think things could have worked out differently for the siblings. (And definitely (view spoiler)).

I don't want to give too much away about what I'm thinking as far as the ending, but I'm a bit less sure about how it's all going to go down now than I was when we started the book. I still have some specific ideas, though so I'll let you know after we finish how my predictions matched up.


message 16: by Sully (last edited Aug 18, 2018 06:26AM) (new) - added it

Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 18 (pg 145)

Take your time, no rush here. We've been up to our eyeballs in drama and travel and getting ready to go back to school next week (fake, DIY masters program, but I'm still stoked!), so the slower pace suits me fine. Plus, it helps put off the inevitable heartbreak awaiting us at the end lol. You'll have to let me know what you think when you finish Spinning Silver. I loved her Uprooted book I read a while back.

I hadn't actually stopped to think about who (view spoiler).

If you haven't read The Expanse books, season one is going to take a little commitment since it's a slow burn, but David really enjoyed season two (season one is a lot of buildup for season two since it is so complex).

We should plan a Yellowstone trip to meet up! One of the race car drivers I used to work with just went and climbed Grand Teton, so I'm chomping at the bit to get out there to do Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

How time consuing was the cheese making? I have homemade bath bombs next on my DIY list (after laundry detergent), but cheese is right there after it. I read Flat Broke with Two Goats: A Memoir of Appalachia (an excellent, humorous read, which made me think I could do it with a little patience and time, but my coworker said it's a lot harder than brewing, so I'm a little hesitant now.

That's a good point about "unavoidable choices". Hadn't looked at it from that view. I can certainly agree that while there isn't always a right choice, there are times where a choice must be made, even if the choice is avoiding making one (as I view that as a choice). Totally different tone of story, but I'm rereading the Shopaholic series, and I see that all the time with Becky Bloomwood. She can't stand fessing up/dealing with some of her issues, so she chooses to ignore them instead (until of course they always blow up at the end).


I noted two quotes recently while reading:

"Sixty thousand," Lada whispered to herself, giggling. Mehmed might as well have sent her another love letter (pg 140)

Lada is so twisted and yet I kind of like it. I find it hard to respect it, but it definitely adds depth to her character. She is all about action over promises, and to her the biggest actions are the ones being fought for their territories, as she sees their kingdoms as extension of themselves. Of course, (view spoiler) Lada on the defense (though I guess she always has been), is a scary thought. Lada with everything to lose and up against the ropes terrifies me to no end. I think she's going to start getting sloppy (I think the last strategic movement kind of already was), and that her ego and desire to beat Mehmed are going to be her downfall. She's got tunnel vision and it's going to hurt her.

(view spoiler)


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Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 24 (pg 188)

Oh Lada. I'm getting nervous. Really nervous.

Just me or has the pacing felt odd? The story is moving forward quickly now, but the events are so chopped up and spliced together. And the events within the actual scenes still feel like they move slowly. So we're picking up pace, but it still feels slow to me. I don't know. Might just be a clouded head this week.

Anyway, parts that caught my attention in the last section.

'His love destroyed nothing, hurt no one.' (164)
Gotta say, I disagree here. Radu has made a lot of decisions over the span of the series that have definitely destroyed things. He destroyed his friendship with Cyprian with his subterfuge. He got Nazira's brother killed by agreeing to know to see Nazira and send her brother to see Lada. While maybe not the normal definitions of love, he loves both Cyprian and Nazira.

Shifting to Lada:

"Fortunately that costs only effort and lives, not money. I can always give up more of the first two, but the third I am entirely lacking." (165)
The way people are so disposable to her cause continues to astound me. She wants Wallachia. She wants freedom out from under the control of the Ottoman empire. But she cares very little for the people of her kingdom. They are but tools in her war against Mehmed.

This last one struck a personal chord with me:
'It was a hard thing, setting a lofty goal and achieving it, only to realize on the other side that the work had just begun.' (183)
This is exactly how I feel when I come up with a story idea. And then again when I finish the rough draft of said story. Then revisions... it's the gift that keeps on giving. Each milestone feels like a lofty achievement, but then I remember how much I have left on the other side before I have an actual story I can market and sell. The same applies to almost every home improvement project I've attempted since we started working around the house.


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Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 31 (pg 226)

Crazy weekend but wanted to touch on a pair of quotes I liked in the last section I read:

'She would never be able to stop fighting. Even victories that should be hers would be taken from her by faithless men.' (209)

Say what you want about Lada, but I have to give her some props from her sheer strength of will. Her motivations are certainly flawed, but this chick does not give up. She shows she will never be able to stop fighting. That life as a prince will be a constant battle to hold her title. Yet still she presses forward. She fights the fight because she doesn't know what else to do.



'Radu cringed at the callousness of treating men's lives as simple calculations.' (212).

I liked the way White clearly used Lada and Radu's reactions to juxtapose them on this issue. I thought she took it a little too far and tried to make too much of a point of it at the end of the chapter, but I still like that she made the distinction between their two completely different mentalities when it comes to soldiers and their lives.


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Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Finished

Sorry I blasted through the rest of this. My schedule is still really crazy so gonna be a short post but can't wait to discuss with you!

I thought this quote was interesting:
'No one could break her heart if all it contained was her country.' (246)

I thought this was an interesting quote because it seems contradictory to the whole premise of this novel. Everything she is doing she claims she is doing in the name of her country. And she has sacrificed so much. Losing her title, her crown, would break her heart, which is why she refuses to even entertain the thought. People aren't the only things we love.

I liked this line. Simple but sweet:

'How could something so simple as holding hands with another person feel like a miracle?' (282)

So I never really bought into the 'love languages' but we went over them in a communications workshop we did at the local university and it actually kind of intrigued me. I'm definitely a touchy partner/spouse. When I'm having a terrible moment/day/week/month and David asks what he can do to help, I usually just ask for a hug or a shoulder to cry on. There is definitely power (at least for me) in the comfort of human touch. White summarized that all up in this one simple sentence.

One final quote:
'For the first time in a long time, she felt like a girl. It terrified her. Because there was nothing in the world more vulnerable to be than a girl.' (287)

So true. I can't even explain why, but I related to this 100%

Overall, I was (view spoiler)


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Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments I am so sorry this has taken so long. Hope to be at least up to Chapt 31 by tomorrow. Hope it makes sense- not my best, but did what I could.

SPOILERS NOT TAGGED FOR THE REMAINDER OF MY POSTS

Up to Chapter 25 (50%)- right before Lada goes into Ottoman camp to kill Mehmed

Ok, so the advantage of you having finished before me is that I can now lay out all my thoughts on how everything is going to end.

What happened historically: Vlad the Impaler gets killed by Ottoman troops. (Although he was in his 40s, had married (twice probably), had children.) Radu takes over as Prince, with Wallachia as a vassal state of the Ottomans. Mehmed lives/rules for about another 25 years, continuing his conquering with more of southeastern Europe and modern Turkey.
So the question I’ve been asking is how closely is White going to stick to history?

I can’t see her sticking exactly with the facts- for one thing, it doesn’t lead to enough confrontation between the three major characters or enough emotional drama and devastation.

When we started the book, my theory was that it was going to stick pretty close to the history, but that Radu was going to kill Lada. Maximum emotional punch would suggest that one of the main three will kill one of the others in the end. My bet has always been on fratricide.
The question I’ve wavered on somewhat is who will kill who. If Radu kills Lada is allows for a closer following of the history. However, there’s the issue of foreshadowing. White has Lada say repeatedly throughout the books that no one is allowed to kill the Rado unless it is her, so is that what is going to end up happening? With Lada being killed after by Mehmed or Ottoman troops?

Although I came into the book with a pretty clear idea of what I predicted was going to happen, there are enough factors in play now, enough different quotes indicating one ending or another, and even possible hints and foreshadowing, that White has kept me guessing far more in this last 20% than I thought I would be.

I did consider for a brief moment that White might throw the rule book completely out the window and have Lada win and survive and rule, in a kind of girl-power, changing-the-whole-course-of-history type of ending.
But I’m finding that unworkable now that I’ve considered it more. I just can’t see Lada ever taking a sustainable path, ever finding stability for herself or her country, even if the Ottomans were to leave her alone. She’s too impetuous, too volatile, she will always want more. She will end in ruin, one way or another.

I also wonder, given what happened historically, because right now Radu doesn’t want to take over as prince. Although I can see that changing. Radu is definitely in a period of transition. He’s coming into his own a bit more as a leader, and I can see several possible impetuses that might make him willing to take over Wallachia. Most significantly, of course, if Lada does assassinate Mehmed, that could really alter Radu and finally make him willing to make the hard, definitive decisions. And cause him to fully see Lada as the enemy.
I’m currently kind of doubting White is going to have Lada kill Mehmed, since that would mean throwing the historical rule book out the window in a different way. Although it would definitely complete Lada’s moral descent and lead to interesting character development in Radu, as I discussed.
I can also see Cyprian coming into play in some way in Radu possibly choosing to take on being prince- he and Radu could never really be together in the Ottoman Empire, since for one thing, Cyprian wouldn’t be safe there as Constantine’s supporter and nephew. However, as ruler of Wallachia, Radu might? have the power and freedom to discretely be with Cyprian and protect his chosen family.
Or and Aron and Andrei die and there just aren’t other options for him to hide behind- he is starting to see some of the potential in the Wallachian people and some of the ideas and reforms Lada has introduced.

I definitely think the final confrontation in the book will take place at that castle Lada had restored/built in the place that most means Wallachia to her. Both practically- it’s extremely defensible and a great spot for Lada to stage a last stand- and due to symbolic, thematic elements, it takes things nicely full circle.


I find it ridiculous that Lada and Mehemed would Eve consider having sex in the middle of all this. They are definitely continuing to act like they’re just playing game, despite being in charge of empires countries and hundreds of people‘s lives. For example, Lada laughing when she discovers the overwhelming number of troops Mehmed has brought, choosing to see how it shows he respects, even loves, her instead of the devastation and death those troops will cause to her country and people. And Mehmed, deluding himself that she’s the same girl he grew up with and he can bring her “home”. I guess when you’re as powerful as Mehmed, you can play with others’ lives, but it makes him a bad leader, IMO, and quite possibly a bad person. Radu is the only who doesn’t treat this like a game and actually seems to understand some of the consequences.
This final chapter was very interesting in that Radu was finally offered the chance at what he has been wanting for so long and he turned it down. I was surprised, honestly. For one thing, it would have been the opportunity for Radu to have sex with another man and to feel like it was essentially sanctioned in all ways, since Mehmed is the religious and secular leader. Furthermore, he still clearly feels a great deal of loyalty and need to support Mehmed.
Until that chapter, I’d never really considered the all the ways that having Huma as a mother has influenced Mehmed. She was trying to pass lessons on to Lada about ruthlessness and about using sex appeal and sex itself as a tool to get what you want and control others, but it seems Mehmed was also learning these lessons. He is trying to use sex in this section as a carrot to finagle things he wants from both siblings.

Despite Radu’s assertion that Aron is… He seems to me in these chapters to be an example of much of exactly what’s wrong with the boyars and what Lada is trying to change in the leadership in Wallachia. Instead of being most horrified by the destruction of land, crops, and towns, it is his pride that is most important to him and the fact that commoners thought they were his equal (pg. ) Instead of wanting what is best for the country, he finds the status quo to be the ultimate goal, and he finds the lack of loyalty among the boyars to be completely normal and expected.

I don’t know if you had the opportunity to read the physical book or not, but I bought a copy, and I think it is really stunning. The cover is more beautiful in person than the digital image. I was thinking about how the objects being destroyed (flower, jewelry, pomegranate representing children) kind of make sense as a age progression of things normally desired by girls/women. With the symbols getting more significant and the images more violent. I really like the covers both symbolically and visually, especially when taken together.


Some quotes from this section (Chapters 17-24) with approximate page numbers and my thoughts on them:

“Mehmed values stability over all else.” (137)
I’m not sure I really think this true. I think the Ottoman Empire values stability hugely, but I’m not sure I think Mehmed personally does all that much, except in it keeping him in power.

“Lada, elated, knew exactly what she was aiming for. She would not miss.” (141) Again, does she?

“She wanted them [Nicolae and Petru] back. She wanted everything she had ever lost back. Her childhood. Her brother. Even her love and respect for her father. The Ottomans had taken them all...
She had not lost him [Bogdan]. She had not lost Wallachia. She would yet regain some of what she had lost, but she would give nothing else without a fight.” (141)
Nicolae’s death didn’t affect Lada quite the way I thought it would. I thought it would make her even more reckless and likely to burn the world down, but it seems to have made her slightly more likely to listen to Nicolae’s sensible advice- or rather, what his advice would have been. It definitely has isolated her further, though. She’s subconsciously cutting herself off emotionally even further from everyone to keep from being hurt again, even if she is a bit kinder to Bogdan.
The above quote is just such a strange perspective to me. She can’t get back any of the things she mentions having lost. And while there is a place for fighting, fighting is what will cause her to lose more... She is destroying so much, hurting her country and sacrificing her people, in an effort to get back things that are gone forever. All leaders have to sacrifice, but she is sacrificing all the wrong things while refusing to sacrifice her pride. Definite tunnel vision.

“They had come so close to victory, so close to winning without ever having to fight. So close to humiliating Mehmed as he had humiliated her. It was not fair. If she had half the resources Mehmed did—a quarter, a tenth, even—she would have beaten him here. All she had was Wallachia. And as much as she loved it, she was seized with a sudden fear that it would not be enough. It never had been. Who was she to defy all of history, which taught her that her country had never and could never be free?” (143)
This quote is a little bit what made me wonder if White was going to have Lada triumph after all.

“We can lose today and still win,” Bogdan said, buzzing with urgency. “But if we lose you, we lose everything.” (143)
Should any leader or one person be this essential to their country?

“”But losing Wallachia might break her.” “Better broken than dead.” Radu was not certain that he agreed with Mehmed. Not after what he had been through and seen himself.” (147)
I think it would really have been kinder in some ways to let Lada get herself killed fighting some other country or bandits or whatever. Imprisonment, making her powerless, is really the cruelest thing you could do to Lada (not that I think they’ll manage it). And Radu or Mehmed killing her is far too personal. Better to have let her flamed out on her own. I realize why they felt they couldn’t do that, but still.

“Only Mehmed could make taking an army against his sister sound like an act of love and friendship.” (147)
Just found this one funny.

““...We have a new prince. New rules. New freedom.”
Aron Danesti had joined Radu. “This does not look like freedom to me. You have no crops. No people.”” (150)
This man seems willing to sacrifice a lot of safety and prosperity in exchange for the ability to grow facial hair, even if it makes him more of an equal with the nobility. But can you put a price on freedom and self-worth?

““Everything has changed,” Aron said.
“Nothing ever changes,” Radu answered, finally urging his horse toward his friend so they could worry about his sister together.” (153)
These three do seem determined to repeat old patterns. Down to Radu driving a wedge between Lada and Mehmed, even if preventing them from reaching a peace deal was largely unintentional on Radu’s part. Any combination of two out of the three could have ended happily, but the three is too much jealousy and divided loyalties.

I found it interesting when Radu talks about praying at the start of Chapter 20. It seems that his concept of religion and faith have much less to do with specific beliefs or even rules he should follow than in rituals and simply the act of prayer. Very different from how most of us view religion now.


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Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments Cont.

I liked how this book shows how so much of life is in how we chose to react to what happens to us. Radu and Lada both have so,etching bad happen to them- they are taken hostage by the Ottomans- but Radu chooses to make it the “best thing that ever happened” to him (162), while Lada chooses to cause others pain because of it.

“Radu had been wrong all this time. He had felt guilty for the way his heart yearned for other men. But it was not his own love that was poisonous and destructive. His love destroyed nothing, hurt no one. Lada loved Wallachia above all else, and this was the result. What Mehmed and Lada did—because of what they set their hearts on with both people and land—was far worse than anything Radu’s love could ever lead him to do...
His love had no evil in it.
He could not say the same for his sister’s.” (163)
Love should be such a positive emotion, and yet it so often causes pain, though usually on a more personal scale. I’ve never known quite what to make of that. Here though, I would say that Lada and Mehmed’s love is toxic because it’s more a need to possess than actual love. Mehmed didn’t love Constantinople, he just wanted to have it. Does he love Lada? I don’t think so because he really doesn’t understand her. She’s just something he wants but can’t have. As for Lada, as Radu said earlier: “It was probably his sister’s natural inclinations coming out. If she could not have it, no one could.” (149) Although Lada’s feelings for Mehmed seem somewhat more genuine to me, yet they have caused potentially the most havoc and destruction, so who knows.
You make an excellent point that Radu’s love has also caused quite a bit of pain. In his case, I think it’s partially his seeming inability to make any type of hard decision or choice. I also think that no matter how much you love someone, there should be some lines you don’t cross. Do you kill someone if your loved one’s life is in immediate danger? I would say yes, in most cases. Do you kill someone just because your loved one asks you to? No. To continue this metaphor, Radu stabs because he’s asked, but won’t make it a clean death. I’m not sure Radu should ever have gone into Constantinople as a double agent or agreed to the plan to kidnap Lada.

What in the world does Lada have waiting/ planned in Tirgoviste? Given all the lead up and what she’s already done to her country in the name of defending it, I’m concerned and curious. Lada really on the defensive scares me too.


In response to your posts from a long time ago:

Spinning Silver was way too long and definitely needed tighter editing, there were scenes that were a bit like “She picked up the pot of soup. She carried it to the table. She set it down. She walked back to the stove...” But on the whole I quite enjoyed it. It was a relaxing book for a lot of it, pleasant without demanding too much. And definitely an interesting retelling. Although I thought some of the symbolism used in the magic got a little mixed up and confusing towards the end. And the ending of one storyline was too abrupt and not wrapped up enough for me.

I would say, the cheese took about an hour or a bit longer of doing something, plus an extra hour to get the remaining water pressed out of the curds. But with practice, I bet that first time could be cut in half, since we had no idea what we were doing. I can send you the recipe/ directions we used. Basically, heat milk to 200 and something degrees without burning (which takes most of the time), add chemical to make curdle, wait a few mins, pour into cheese-cloth covered strainer, mix in salt and herbs, form into kind of a loaf in cheese cloth, put partially filled milk jug on top to press out remaining water. Not too tough. The downside was that it makes quite a bit of cheese and we were worried about keeping it for too long, since it doesn’t have preservatives. I’m guessing the aging process is what is tricky. Not sure I’m willing to take that on.

I can see somewhat what you meant about the pace, although it might be because it’s taking me so long to read and I’m pausing to think frequently.

I think much of life is not whether you can reach a lofty goal, conquer a city, etc, but if how you deal with the hard work on the other side. Part of why it’s such a struggle for me to achieve things because my body doesn’t have the stamina to keep up that hard work for any length of time.


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