Book Review: Now I Rise by Kiersten White

“He would die on the wall tonight, between his brothers and his enemies, because he could no longer distinguish between the two. They had finally come to an end. Whichever side won, neither would triumph.”

Now I Rise is the second installment in White’s conquerors saga, and while I was extremely unsure of the first novel (the full review for which can be found HERE) I certainly felt that this sequel was much more enjoyable! This book has all of the political intrigue, brutality and explorations of femininity and sexuality that the first did, this time with the addition of an increased conflict as we see the siege and fall of Constantinople take place. The moral ambiguity seen in the first novel is also expanded upon well through the brilliant character development in this novel, and this is something I keenly hope will be developed even further in the final installment! My main qualm with regard to the first book was the emphasis on telling instead of showing, but this was something that was rectified in this sequel, making it an all around enjoyable read!

Key to both the plot and much of the character development in this novel is the siege of Constantinople. Here White expertly portrays the struggles of war and opposing ideologies concerning land ownership and the means by which said land should be ruled. Mehmed remains steadfast in his prophetic quest to conquer a city that is already broken and crumpling, and it is this determination that sees him betray and manipulate both Lada and Radu. This manipulation sees Radu spend much of the novel within Constantinople, which allows for incredibly important character development both in terms of his love and loyalty and also in terms of his hopeless idealization of and unrequited love for Mehmed himself. 

Radu’s character development centers around a whole multitude of topics, with politics, loyalty, sexuality and religion being the most prominent. Perhaps most impactful was his difficulties regarding his loyalty. His struggle in seeing Constantinople and its people fall after living there and becoming acquainted with them transformed the siege into something far more complicated than he had initially expected, and while we see him maintain his wish for Mehmed and his people to win, we also see him unable to do serious harm to Constantine when he has the chance. This is a struggle that is intertwined with his struggles regarding his sexuality and, more specifically, his newfound distance from Mehmed and closeness to Cyprian. The slow realization that Mehmed is much like those he considers his enemies makes his relationship with Cyprian all the more complicated, as even if his idealization of Mehmed is faltering this in no way changes the fact that he is betraying Cyprian the entire time. I found myself desperately hoping things would work out for them, and I can’t wait to see what the final novel has in store for them!

Mehmed himself becomes even more dislikable in this novel. While in the first novel I was, for the most part, merely confused as to why Lada and Radu were so incredibly fond of him, in this novel I became infuriated with him and was incredibly glad to see their loss of respect for him. This is a character that manipulates Radu completely through the knowledge of his love for him, and then betrays Lada multiple times in perhaps the worst way possible for her. While Radu is perhaps a little slower in his loss of respect for Mehmed, Lada was incredibly quick to shut him down due to his betrayal, and this was something I particularly admired about her in this novel. Her determination to take the throne in spite of his failure and refusal to provide her with the aid he had promised was an aspect of the novel that I loved, and it made her one of my all time favorite characters!

Expanding on this, Lada’s character development was certainly something to be admired in this novel. Here we see her become increasingly vicious, brutal and calculating, allowing for the reader to see her develop into what we recognize as Vlad the Impaler’s reputation. We see her reject those that don’t support her in the most drastic ways possible, and we see her utter desperation and determination to achieve the goal she has dreamed of for so long. She defies all that is expected of her and as a result gains an incredible following of those who are keen to see change. Those that she surrounds herself with and the dynamics she has with each are incredibly important, my personal favorite being the dynamic she has with Hunyadi. He is a character I was not expecting to like yet became one I really admired. His almost father daughter bond with Lada was incredibly touching, and was without a doubt one of my favorite aspects of the novel. 

The dynamics Radu had with the people around him were equally as interesting, but this is not to say that the characters were not interesting in themselves. Nazira is a character that is steady, straight to the point, incredibly intelligent and, perhaps best of all, has an incredibly clear view on the reality of each situation which is something that most of the other characters struggle with. Her love for Fatima, Radu and eventually Cyprian drives her yet she does not let it cloud her judgement, this love instead allowing for an insight into what is best for each character. This can be seen best in her advise to Radu concerning his feelings for both Mehmed and Cyprian as we see her tell him things that he perhaps knows but does not wish to hear. Cyprian himself was a character that was incredibly sweet, and is one that I am keen to see explored further. I can’t wait to see both Nazira and Cyprian in the final installment and I’m excited to see how they develop!

Overall, this was a deliberately and intricately crafted novel that deals with a multitude of issues incredibly well. Though the pace is a little slow still, this is a definite improvement from the first in the series for me, and is one that I would certainly recommend! I can’t wait to read the third and final book in this series, and I am hoping to be writing my review on it very soon!

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