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Heart of the Impaler

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Ilona Csáki has no desire to marry the voivode's eldest son, but love and marriage are the least of her worries. The royal family's enemies have already tried to put an arrow through her back—and if anyone discovers her blossoming feelings for her betrothed's cousin Andrei, and younger brother, Vlad, she may just wish they'd succeeded. Beneath the shadow of impending war, t Ilona Csáki has no desire to marry the voivode's eldest son, but love and marriage are the least of her worries. The royal family's enemies have already tried to put an arrow through her back—and if anyone discovers her blossoming feelings for her betrothed's cousin Andrei, and younger brother, Vlad, she may just wish they'd succeeded. Beneath the shadow of impending war, the only battle that will be deadlier than the one for Ilona’s life will be the one for her heart. In this dark, historical YA debut, two young men—one scarred and dutiful, the other wickedly magnetic—fall for the same young woman. But is it safe for her to love either of them back?


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Ilona Csáki has no desire to marry the voivode's eldest son, but love and marriage are the least of her worries. The royal family's enemies have already tried to put an arrow through her back—and if anyone discovers her blossoming feelings for her betrothed's cousin Andrei, and younger brother, Vlad, she may just wish they'd succeeded. Beneath the shadow of impending war, t Ilona Csáki has no desire to marry the voivode's eldest son, but love and marriage are the least of her worries. The royal family's enemies have already tried to put an arrow through her back—and if anyone discovers her blossoming feelings for her betrothed's cousin Andrei, and younger brother, Vlad, she may just wish they'd succeeded. Beneath the shadow of impending war, the only battle that will be deadlier than the one for Ilona’s life will be the one for her heart. In this dark, historical YA debut, two young men—one scarred and dutiful, the other wickedly magnetic—fall for the same young woman. But is it safe for her to love either of them back?

30 review for Heart of the Impaler

  1. 5 out of 5

    jessica

    great premise. not so great execution. and i understand that this is a debut novel, so im trying to not judge so harshly, but theres so much about this that i would change. im personally not a fan of love triangles, but i do know they can be effective if done right. and this love triangle was doomed from the beginning. the characters are pretty unlikable. vlad is just a whiny brat and ilona is boring as dirt. andrei is really the only character i didnt find completely lacking. but even then i do great premise. not so great execution. and i understand that this is a debut novel, so im trying to not judge so harshly, but theres so much about this that i would change. im personally not a fan of love triangles, but i do know they can be effective if done right. and this love triangle was doomed from the beginning. the characters are pretty unlikable. vlad is just a whiny brat and ilona is boring as dirt. andrei is really the only character i didnt find completely lacking. but even then i dont know why any of them liked each other because so much of their crucial interactions happen OFF PAGE. which is a common occurrence for this story. i was really looking forward to a story about vlad the impaler. but this isnt a story about him, its a story about him vying for a girls attention. and again, so much happens off page. i have no problem with this being a romance novel with a historic setting, rather than a historical fiction with a little side romance. totally fine. but either way, the reader needs to experience the key events that support the overall plot. you cant just allude to it and expect the reader to get on board with the story you are trying to sell. i do think the setting is cool, and there is some evidence of strong research, but the poorly developed characters (i honestly think if vlad had been written differently, the entire story could have been turned around) and weak narrative make this hard to like. theres a lot of potential, but its just sadly missing the mark in the areas that matter. thanks for the ARC, macmillan publishing. ↠ 2 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Maddie (Inking & Thinking)

    ⭐️ 1 Star ⭐️ Hello and welcome back to where I rant about books that I didn’t like. As you can tell by the title, we are going to talk about Heart of the Impaler. This is my first one-star read, and honestly, I never thought I would read a book where I rated it one star. But alas, this day has come. So let me get into the many problems with this book. An important rule of writing is that you don’t leave action scenes or significant scenes to the story off-screen. If you leave out these scenes ⭐️ 1 Star ⭐️ Hello and welcome back to where I rant about books that I didn’t like. As you can tell by the title, we are going to talk about Heart of the Impaler. This is my first one-star read, and honestly, I never thought I would read a book where I rated it one star. But alas, this day has come. So let me get into the many problems with this book. An important rule of writing is that you don’t leave action scenes or significant scenes to the story off-screen. If you leave out these scenes, this makes the story disconnected and doesn’t show the character’s reaction to it. This happened many times, and it was infuriating. Towards the end, we have many battles that supposedly happened but we don’t know since they skipped over. Rather than getting these exciting action scenes, they glossed over, and we get boring scenes that include mainly conversations, which quickly get boring. This is a spoiler, and I’m using this as an example to make my point above. For example, one of our main characters, Vlad kills his older brother Mircea. But instead of seeing this, it’s glossed over, and we don’t get to read when Vlad kills him. This would be considered a pivotal moment and critical to Vlad’s character development. We do see the build-up to this scene. Before this, we see Mircea bullying Vlad and treating him as a spare part. When he kills Mircea, he then becomes the crown prince, but we don’t see him command any armies. Once again, it’s skipped over. Spoiler over I felt like I was waiting for the story to begin. Many times, the plot is explained through conversations. Another rule of writing is once again broken. Instead of developing the story through various scenes, the plot layout to us. We don’t need the whole story told out to us. Allow us to interpret the scenes for ourselves and try to predict what will happen next. If you put little scenes spread throughout, and there that would make it far more exciting. You might be wondering, were the characters at least good? No, they were not. Vlad was unbearable and one of the worst characters I have ever read. He comes off as a whiny brat that doesn’t seem to care about anyone and thinks he can get everything he wants. Many times in the story, he wants Ilona as his own. He fanaticizes over her, thinking one day she will be his. He tries to be her protector and doesn’t even try to get to know Ilona. He treats his cousin, Andrei, horribly having him do all his various chores and insults him at various times. He says Andrei is his best friend, but as soon as thought about Andrei pops into his head, which is stealing Ilona from him, he immediately believes it without any proof. The point of Vlad’s character development is to slowly fall into madness, and see him use fear as a way to control people. His character is supposed to represent Vlad the Impaler, who used cruel measures to inspire fear to control them. He used to impale his enemies on stakes. We do see this fall, but Vlad never started off as a “good” person. At the beginning of the book, Vlad has violent episodes if something doesn’t go his way, and thinks he can already get everything he wants. So this character development isn’t as powerful, since he never started off as a kind-hearted human being. Ilona, the love interest of Andrei and Vlad, is very uninteresting at best. She is an “I’m not like other girls.” For example, she studies birds and isn’t grossed by blood. This trope is overplayed and used so many times that it begins to get boring. Nothing about Ilona stood out to me, and she was a rather bland character. Andrei was the only decent character in this book. He at least had some personality and seemed to have actual emotions. He cared about Ilona and tried to get to know her rather than Vlad. But even he fell flat and didn’t have much appeal. I never got a clear idea of what these characters were supposed to represent, which lead to me lacking interest in them. The romance was painful to read, and that was the main element of this book. If I don’t care about the characters, I’m not going to care about the romance. In the synopsis, we are told there is an “Impending war,” but it is glossed over, as I mentioned earlier, only leaving the romance. This is supposed to be a dark historical story, but rather, it’s a story about a love triangle poorly executed and not much else… There were many terms used to help build the world, but I ended up just getting confused. The world-building was not executed well and left me wondering what was happening most of the time. What didn’t help is that this story dragged quite a lot, and the dialogue felt unnatural from telling the plot word for word. TW: Murder (Off-screen), Death (Off-Screen), Blood, fighting Thank you to NetGallery for providing me an ARC of Heart of the Impaler in exchange for an honest review!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    I'm getting an ARC!!!!! YAYYYYY THAT TITLE THAT CONCEPT THAT NEED FOR THIS BOOK I'm getting an ARC!!!!! YAYYYYY THAT TITLE THAT CONCEPT THAT NEED FOR THIS BOOK

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kalena W

    4/5 stars, that was a great retelling of vlad the impaler, but not as intense as some Thank you Macmillan for the arc through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review! I'm seeing a lot of mixed reviews for this book, but I have to say that I really enjoyed it. I can see how it would be boring for some people, as the plot didn't have a TON going on. But the main reason that I really enjoyed this was the nostalgic feeling I got reading about Wallachia and Transylvania again. I first read about 4/5 stars, that was a great retelling of vlad the impaler, but not as intense as some Thank you Macmillan for the arc through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review! I'm seeing a lot of mixed reviews for this book, but I have to say that I really enjoyed it. I can see how it would be boring for some people, as the plot didn't have a TON going on. But the main reason that I really enjoyed this was the nostalgic feeling I got reading about Wallachia and Transylvania again. I first read about this era in 'And I Darken' by Kiersten White, and fell in love as I had never read about it before. This felt the same, and I knew a lot of the vocabulary in advance so it was easy to understand what was going on. I feel like this is one of the main reasons people didn't enjoy it. This story follows Illona when she becomes betrothed to the voivode's eldest son, but knows that love and marriage are the least of her worries. There has already been an assassination attempt against her and tensions are rising among the boyers, as a possible war looms on the horizon. If anyone finds out about her growing affection for the younger Dracul brother Vlad or his cousin Andrei, the battle for her heart will be deadlier than the war. That is a very vague synopsis, to say the least, but really that is the entire plot. I can see how some people would get bored with this very quickly, and I think that's totally valid. It took me a while to get into it, but that often happens with e-books for me as well. I honestly didn't mind the love triangle, but I think that was because I know what to expect from Vlad. It wasn't my favorite love triangle ever done but I didn't hate it. I did enjoy the war aspects of this book as well, not much was seen as all of the main characters are a bit younger, but it was still interesting. It wasn't as bloody as other Vlad the Impaler retellings I have read, but it almost got there. There was lots of betrayal in this book as well, just what I was hoping for from it! Like I said before I really loved being back in the environment of Wallachia and Transylvania. It is a really unique place with a really unique time period. That combined makes a really interesting story. It was helpful even for me who knew some of the terms that the author included a glossary at the back of the book. I think this time period is one of my favorites, despite me only reading a few books from it. I highly recommend this book for that reason! Vlad was nothing short of fearless and relentlessly brutal in this novel, but that's honestly how he is supposed to be. I went into this story expecting this, and so I felt fine with his character. It was accurate to what I expected, but I can totally see how some people would hate this. He wasn't likeable in the slightest, and wasn't even unlikeable in a good sense. The reader is supposed to hate his character and I think the author did a good job of this. Andrei was my favorite character in this novel, he was so sweet and caring. I think he was a nice foil character for Vlad, and that was what he was intended to be. It was very fun to see his mind work out a problem compared to Vlad, as it as often better thought out. I wish there was a bit more from his perspective, but I'm glad the second part of the book tried to rectify that. He found the bravery in himself at the end and I was very happy for him. Illona has been described in various reviews as plain, but I thought she was just fine. She wasn't completely "not like other girls" trope, as she never shamed other girls for what they enjoyed. She was just interested in birds and sciences, and knew how to defend herself. As well, she was a good character to be in the middle of the love traingle. It actually made sense why she would feel that way, especially coming to a new country. I did enjoy her character and was content with her ending. Overall this book was a really fun time for me because of the nostalgia for me, but I can see how it wouldn't be as fun for some people. However if you want a quick historical fiction with a unique time period I highly recommend this book. It was fun and I finished it pretty fast once I got into it. [TW: death of a family member, blood, depiction of war, injuries, death, torture (mentioned), animal injury]

  5. 5 out of 5

    Basma

    DNF'd at 16%. Writing felt superficial and one dimensional and I could NOT stand these characters. The love triangle was set up from the first chapter, and only one of those characters was bearable. Illona was very much "not like other girls" and Vlad was just annoying. I received an ARC of this title from NetGallley in exchange for an honest review. DNF'd at 16%. Writing felt superficial and one dimensional and I could NOT stand these characters. The love triangle was set up from the first chapter, and only one of those characters was bearable. Illona was very much "not like other girls" and Vlad was just annoying. I received an ARC of this title from NetGallley in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Soph the Oaf

    The first thing I noticed about this book was a case of Special Snowflake Syndrome. Does the main character, Ilona, HAVE to be jaw-droppingly gorgeous without even knowing it (cough, cough, Bella, cough, cough Twillight)? And, on top of that, the author HAD to make her Not Like Other Girls. I mean, seriously. Apparently, every single one of the other girls are completely shallow mean girls. And, of course, every single male has the hots for Ilona, which makes all the girls into jealous bitches. The first thing I noticed about this book was a case of Special Snowflake Syndrome. Does the main character, Ilona, HAVE to be jaw-droppingly gorgeous without even knowing it (cough, cough, Bella, cough, cough Twillight)? And, on top of that, the author HAD to make her Not Like Other Girls. I mean, seriously. Apparently, every single one of the other girls are completely shallow mean girls. And, of course, every single male has the hots for Ilona, which makes all the girls into jealous bitches. Can you get even more anti-feminist? This book is basically saying that girls are either gorgeous Special Snowflakes who catch male attention without even trying, or they are jealous, shallow bitches who don't matter. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being a physically attractive female. I'm just saying that other girls shouldn't be shamed if they aren't. One of the first scenes in this book is where a girl is portrayed as a shallow bitch and then shamed for not being able to catch the male attention that Ilona did. Should girls really be shown tearing each other down and fighting over scraps of male attention? At a certain point, I just couldn't keep on reading this degrading portrayal of women.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Katie Bogdan

    1 star I've done a lot of reviews lately where I have talked about how the marketing for some books just does not match up with what is inside the book. This is a unique case of that, considering that I honestly couldn't even tell you what this book was trying to be in the first place. Honestly, I'm baffled. Is this supposed to be action-packed? Everything that could be considered "action" happens off-page and ends up being glossed over. Is this supposed to be an origin story for Vlad the Impaler? 1 star I've done a lot of reviews lately where I have talked about how the marketing for some books just does not match up with what is inside the book. This is a unique case of that, considering that I honestly couldn't even tell you what this book was trying to be in the first place. Honestly, I'm baffled. Is this supposed to be action-packed? Everything that could be considered "action" happens off-page and ends up being glossed over. Is this supposed to be an origin story for Vlad the Impaler? He begins and ends the book as an angry and vengeful monster. Nothing about him, or any of the other characters for that matter, really changes. Is this supposed to be an angsty romance? We are basically just told that our female protagonist is in love with certain characters and then the story moves on. In fact, almost the entire book falls under the umbrella of telling and not showing. The initial idea for the book was good and I really wanted to like this, but I unfortunately found the execution to have been botched in almost every aspect of the book. Thank you to NetGalley and Swoon Reads for an ARC of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Inkslinger

    I'm a huge fan of stories with dark natures, so I was drawn to Heart of the Impaler from the start. I found the premise especially interesting as it was written without the guise of the usual vampiric themes (though I love those too) and I felt a pre-throne story of Vlad would be interesting. There's a lot of potential here.. conceptually. Though it reads a bit more like an extended beginning of an idea than a complete one, despite the progress that is made. Rather, it feels like the bulk of the I'm a huge fan of stories with dark natures, so I was drawn to Heart of the Impaler from the start. I found the premise especially interesting as it was written without the guise of the usual vampiric themes (though I love those too) and I felt a pre-throne story of Vlad would be interesting. There's a lot of potential here.. conceptually. Though it reads a bit more like an extended beginning of an idea than a complete one, despite the progress that is made. Rather, it feels like the bulk of the story could take place in about 30% of the pages written.. without all the fluff. Normally, in a story like this.. which is basically dark, young adult/historical romance.. I enjoy the fluff too. And it's fine here. The book moves at a reasonable pace and spends time building relationships and backstories. It's just got a lot of growing to do. As it's Delacroix's debut novel, like his story.. the author has a lot of room to evolve. I feel like he has a clear understanding of story structure, likely do to his language arts background.. but like most with 'teaching' as a day job.. it's left very little room for developing that craft. The result is a light, quick read with no real issues.. but also, no real passion for the story or the characters within. Vlad and Andrei have some great backstory details that could make them swoonworthy candidates for Ilona's heart, but I find a lot of authors mistake 'young adult' for 'immature'.. and the two just aren't the same. Worth the read for a rainy day.. or if you've got to wait somewhere and want something easy to keep up with even with interruptions. Definitely keep an eye on Delacroix though. Like I said, there's a lot of possibility here.. the ideas are great.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Wesley

    Thank you to Teen Ink and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Alexander Delacroix transports the reader to a 1400s Wallachia full of betrayal, heartbreak, and intrigue with his debut YA Heart of the Impaler. When her family is forced to flee their home for Vlad Dracul’s court, 15-year-old Ilona is thrown into a world of shady politics and ever-changing alliances where trust is a luxury few can afford. After her father barters her hand in marriage for a pro Thank you to Teen Ink and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Alexander Delacroix transports the reader to a 1400s Wallachia full of betrayal, heartbreak, and intrigue with his debut YA Heart of the Impaler. When her family is forced to flee their home for Vlad Dracul’s court, 15-year-old Ilona is thrown into a world of shady politics and ever-changing alliances where trust is a luxury few can afford. After her father barters her hand in marriage for a promotion in rank, Ilona is left isolated and without allies at court - that is, until she meets the young, charismatic prince Vlad and his dutiful cousin Andrei. Even as her impending marriage to the cruel, self-centered crown prince looms over her, stolen meetings with Vlad brighten her days at the gloomy court. Little does she know of the growing tension between Vlad and Andrei as both cousins fall for her, or the cruelty and callousness Vlad’s growing obsession with Ilona will draw out of him. If this sounds to you like a premise designed for petty, vapid characters, you are absolutely right. Ilona is relentlessly perfect at everything she attempts - languages, art, science, and weapons, to name a few - and is described over and over as jaw-droppingly gorgeous, often in comparison to other female characters. Vlad, who is meant to be a viable option in the love triangle, is so rude and egocentric from his first appearance on the page that it is exceedingly difficult to figure out what Ilona is supposed to see in him. Andrei is a cardboard cutout, and the crown prince Mircea is even worse. I was hoping to see some nuance in the relationship between Mircea and Vlad, which could have gone in some really interesting directions, but what the reader gets instead is a 2D villain whose only personality trait is cruelty. The plot is no better. Mind-numbingly lacking in coherence or drive, Heart of the Impaler reads more like a series of random events happening to the main cast. Delacroix also makes several mystifying choices about what to leave off-screen, resulting in jarring transitions between chapters where armies arrive without warning on doorsteps and major supporting characters turn up dead. The combined effect was a story so dry and directionless my eyes kept wandering every few pages. Perhaps the greatest disappointment, though, is how the book squanders such an interesting historical setting. Wallachia in the 1440s is rife with story potential, but the book is so poorly connected to historical events that a read-through of the Wikipedia page on Vlad Dracul III is far more engaging. There is so much political intrigue and real-life horror to tap into, but instead the book focuses on a melodramatic teen with anger issues and his love triangle with two fictional characters. The details that make a historical read so engaging are scattered at dismaying intervals, and three different languages are shoehorned in at every opportunity. With shallow characters, a directionless plot, and a wasted setting, Heart of the Impaler is somewhat less than riveting. Unless they truly enjoy poorly written YA love triangles, readers are better off waiting for a historical YA that puts in the effort with its characters and rises to the occasion of its setting.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    I was so excited to read Heart of the Impaler. It had a great deal of promise, but didn't quite live up to it for me. I was so excited to read Heart of the Impaler. It had a great deal of promise, but didn't quite live up to it for me. I did enjoy reading about the time period and location. I found the basic storyline to be a good one. Also, I'm a reader that enjoys a good love triangle. Unfortunately, to enjoy love triangles, you nees to feel invested in all three. characters. I had a difficult t I was so excited to read Heart of the Impaler. It had a great deal of promise, but didn't quite live up to it for me. I was so excited to read Heart of the Impaler. It had a great deal of promise, but didn't quite live up to it for me. I did enjoy reading about the time period and location. I found the basic storyline to be a good one. Also, I'm a reader that enjoys a good love triangle. Unfortunately, to enjoy love triangles, you nees to feel invested in all three. characters. I had a difficult time feeling that way about these characters. In my opinion, the only one with any redeeming qualities was Andrei. But even he could be frustrating when he allowed himself to be Vlad's sidekick through most of the book and was often led into bad situations because of it. Sadly, I completely disliked Vlad. I found him to be selfish, entitled and arrogant. I'm sure this personality was intended because he was strongly written that way. It just didn't appeal to be in this scenario. Lastly, Ilona was difficult for me to connect with as well. I didn't dislike her character, but I didn't really feel much about her at all. She was just kind of "there" in my opinion. Even though this book looked to be something special. It moved slowly for me and didn't keep me engaged. It was too easy o put this book down. It didn't feel as if a great deal of action took place. A large portion of this story ended up being events we we were being told about, instead of "experiencing." To truly connect to a storyline, you need to be pulled into a lot of the action so you can see how the characters are impacted by it. For me, this left a gap in my ability to enjoy the book.. I'm bummed because I really wanted to love it. Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC. I voluntarily chose to review this book and the opinions contained within are my own.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Célia Cross

    Thank you Macmillan Children's Publishing Group and Netgalley for sending me an eARC of Heart of the Impaler to read and review on my platforms. All thoughts and opinions are my own. "That's the problem with kings and princes. Their promises are easily made, easily broken." This is weirdly specific, but 3.5 stars. This is not a bad review from me - I just didn't enjoy this book so much to read it again (which is what I usually reserve for 4 stars and up), but also where I did enjoy it. Here's the b Thank you Macmillan Children's Publishing Group and Netgalley for sending me an eARC of Heart of the Impaler to read and review on my platforms. All thoughts and opinions are my own. "That's the problem with kings and princes. Their promises are easily made, easily broken." This is weirdly specific, but 3.5 stars. This is not a bad review from me - I just didn't enjoy this book so much to read it again (which is what I usually reserve for 4 stars and up), but also where I did enjoy it. Here's the biggest problem with Heart of the Impaler: there is nearly NO plot. Based on the title alone, you would think this would be a retelling of Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula). When I read the synopsis and it said "for fans of Kiersten White's And I Darken" I was so excited for another Dracula retelling. However, the story has some VERY loose elements of this since Vlad is the main character, but he doesn't go off the deep end of insanity UNTIL the end. You may be thinking, huh, then why is it titled "Heart of the Impaler"? This is because the whole story centers on the love triangle between Ilona (the female love interest), Vlad, and Andrei (Vlad's cousin, they are like brothers though). It tells the story of how Vlad became infamous for staking people due to an obsession with a girl, who loved his cousin instead of him. While I was bummed that the story didn't focus more on a plot, the worldbuilding and history elements were AMAZING. In addition, I had FUN reading this book. I've been in a reading slump since March, and while I've still been reading books, every book I've read has been somewhat dull to me. This historical romance book has gotten me out of it finally (I think) because I enjoyed the romance. I will confirm this theory once I start reading "The Last She". My other issue with this book was with the characters. Everyone, save Andrei, was SUPER boring and archetypal. For example, Ilona alone fit into several tropes, including "I'm-not-like-other-girls", "good-at-everything-she-tries", and the "I'm-prettier-than-everyone-but-don't-know-it". However, she had some redeeming qualities like being determined, independent, and headstrong (NOT smart though. She was very naive). I also found her unique in the fact that she loved studying birds. I've never read a book where the female MC did this. I HATED Vlad for the most part. For the brief time that he was sweet to Ilona, I liked him. But the rest of the time, I hated his egotistical, entitled butt. I did notice that Delacroix (whether purposely or not) made Andrei and Vlad character foils. What I mean by this is that they are opposites: Andrei is quiet and a follower, while Vlad is boastful and a leader. Andrei is cautious and strategic, while Vlad is impulsive. I did like the fact that there were three different POVs. Sometimes it was hard to distinguish at first who was narrating because there weren't any headers for when it switched, but it was easy to figure out who once I got further into the sections. Overall, Heart of the Impaler is the new release you should reach for if you want a book with a love triangle and a dash of history.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Ilona Csáki's father has been invited to the voivode residence after a long absence.  Ilona has no idea that the voivode's invitation comes with a heavy consequence for Ilona.  In a political play, Dracul II, aligns Ilona's father to him through her betrothal to his eldest son, Mircea.  Ilona is shocked at the news and Mircea is distant, seeing her as simply a pawn.  However, Mircea's younger brother, Vlad and his cousin Andrei both give Ilona attention.  As Wallachia enters the war, Ilona's lif Ilona Csáki's father has been invited to the voivode residence after a long absence.  Ilona has no idea that the voivode's invitation comes with a heavy consequence for Ilona.  In a political play, Dracul II, aligns Ilona's father to him through her betrothal to his eldest son, Mircea.  Ilona is shocked at the news and Mircea is distant, seeing her as simply a pawn.  However, Mircea's younger brother, Vlad and his cousin Andrei both give Ilona attention.  As Wallachia enters the war, Ilona's life is endangered.  Mircea and Vlad head to the warfront and Andrei attempts to protect Ilona.  While at war, Vlad's true colors show and Ilona realizes the danger Vlad presents.   Heart of the Impaler is a young adult romance set during Vlad II Dracul's Ottoman crusade.  This story is not historically accurate, but does show the political upheaval of the region during the mid 15th century.  I was probably most interested in the portrayal of how Vlad II maintained his power and ran his household.  The point of view switches between Ilona, Vlad and Andrei as they discover what love means.   Ilona's character is sensible and caring. Andrei is loyal and brave, Vlad's character is power hungry and relentless.  Vlad becomes more and more unhinged as he becomes closer to power and his violent temperament comes through.  The writing did make some time jumps that glossed over important events and made me think I missed something.  The ending does leave more to be discovered for Andrei, Vlad and Ilona as they are left in a suspenseful state.    This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

  13. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    Initial Thoughts I was really intrigued when I saw this was a YA story about Vlad the Impaler. Vlad is such an interesting historical figure with a complicated history and I was eager to see how the author was going to handle that. Some Things I Liked I enjoyed the historical elements. I liked the use of other languages, authentic places and real family names. It felt well researched. Andrei. He was the only character worth anything. Some Things I Wasn’t Crazy About Vlad. He was no vampire. He wa Initial Thoughts I was really intrigued when I saw this was a YA story about Vlad the Impaler. Vlad is such an interesting historical figure with a complicated history and I was eager to see how the author was going to handle that. Some Things I Liked I enjoyed the historical elements. I liked the use of other languages, authentic places and real family names. It felt well researched. Andrei. He was the only character worth anything. Some Things I Wasn’t Crazy About Vlad. He was no vampire. He wasn’t a book boyfriend. He was a brat and he annoyed me to no end. Ilona. It’s a bad sign when I don’t like two out of three central characters. Ilona was terribly boring and I felt like she didn’t really do anything to merit the attention of both Vlad and Andrei. The plot and pacing. Several (what I’m assuming are pivotal) moments are only glossed over or alluded to which leaves the reader with huge gaps of time. I couldn’t understand why Vlad and Andrei both liked Ilona but it’s implied that they spend time together outside the scenes we read. Too much of the plot took place off the page and therefore the actual story was quite dull. Series Value I can’t see much series value here. The story isn’t set up for too much more that isn’t exactly as history played out. Furthermore, I didn’t like any of the characters enough to want to know more. Final Thoughts This is really a 2.5 star review for me. I struggled with this book and I think similar minded readers will feel the same issues. I will round up for a debut but I don’t feel compelled to read more. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

  14. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    2 Stars Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own. I'm just going to say... if you want to do a romance with a very dark figure from history, you need to actually embrace the darkness. Here, that didn't happen. Now, I'm not fully here for a Vlad-the-Impaler-love-triangle-romance, but I WANTED to be here for one. I did. And there were some things that needed to happen for this to work. Either 1) Vlad needed to 2 Stars Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own. I'm just going to say... if you want to do a romance with a very dark figure from history, you need to actually embrace the darkness. Here, that didn't happen. Now, I'm not fully here for a Vlad-the-Impaler-love-triangle-romance, but I WANTED to be here for one. I did. And there were some things that needed to happen for this to work. Either 1) Vlad needed to be sadistic, truly an irrevocably or 2) there needed to be vampires. Alas, this featured neither of those things, and as every other character (and sometimes Vlad himself) was nothing more than a cardboard cutout of a character archetype... Yeah, not for me. Sorry. There were some positives--some directions I wish this book had gone instead--and that will be explored in my full book review, available December 31, 2021 at Gateway Reviews.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kira Thebookbella

    When I first saw the title for this book I got excited because I thought I was getting another Vlad the Impaler vampire book. It was a Vlad the Impaler book, but it was so disappointing to see there was absolutely no hint of vampirism anywhere in this book. This book was more of a young adult telling of the royal court back during the time of Vald the Impaler. Most of this book is told from the perspective of Ilona, the daughter of an influential boyar. Her father is husband hunting for her when When I first saw the title for this book I got excited because I thought I was getting another Vlad the Impaler vampire book. It was a Vlad the Impaler book, but it was so disappointing to see there was absolutely no hint of vampirism anywhere in this book. This book was more of a young adult telling of the royal court back during the time of Vald the Impaler. Most of this book is told from the perspective of Ilona, the daughter of an influential boyar. Her father is husband hunting for her when she is betrothed to Vlad's eldest brother. Vlad is completely infatuated with her. This was probably the most average book I have read on every level. I didn't dislike it enough to stop reading it, but I didn't like it enough to rush through it. It took me forever to get through it and once I did, I neither loved nor hated this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Hammond

    I actually enjoyed this book. Were there things that could be worked on? Yes. Did that make it a book that’s less than worthy of being published? No. Though the timeline was off, and Ilona and Andrei’s characters were fictional, I still found this to be an action packed and compelling read. Having written a film treatment about Vlad, myself, I still think the author managed to capture his fits of rage as well as making it as authentic to the times as he could. I don’t understand all of the bad r I actually enjoyed this book. Were there things that could be worked on? Yes. Did that make it a book that’s less than worthy of being published? No. Though the timeline was off, and Ilona and Andrei’s characters were fictional, I still found this to be an action packed and compelling read. Having written a film treatment about Vlad, myself, I still think the author managed to capture his fits of rage as well as making it as authentic to the times as he could. I don’t understand all of the bad reviews. If you don’t mind history being rewritten a little bit, I say give this one a go. After all, there are creative liberties to be taken when it comes to putting your own spin on something.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Shappy

    I was so excited to read Heart of the Impaler. It had a great deal of promise, but didn't quite live up to it for me. While there is so much richness in this plot and so much to make it epic, the author skipped right over some of the most grabbing, major scenes and just filled the readers in through conversations in the 'after'. I'm bummed because I really wanted to love it. I was so excited to read Heart of the Impaler. It had a great deal of promise, but didn't quite live up to it for me. While there is so much richness in this plot and so much to make it epic, the author skipped right over some of the most grabbing, major scenes and just filled the readers in through conversations in the 'after'. I'm bummed because I really wanted to love it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ebony and Ivory

    3.5 stars

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Heart of the Impaler is an intriguing historical romance about Vlad Dracul as a young man. The blend of historical fact and fiction is really well done. The book is about Vlad, his fictional cousin Andrei, and Ilona (also fictional) the girl they both fall for. Im usually not the biggest fan of love triangles but this one wasn't bad as you could tell from the beginning who would win Ilona's heart. The characters where likable and believable. The romance was absolutely sweet even if some would sa Heart of the Impaler is an intriguing historical romance about Vlad Dracul as a young man. The blend of historical fact and fiction is really well done. The book is about Vlad, his fictional cousin Andrei, and Ilona (also fictional) the girl they both fall for. Im usually not the biggest fan of love triangles but this one wasn't bad as you could tell from the beginning who would win Ilona's heart. The characters where likable and believable. The romance was absolutely sweet even if some would say predictable. I really liked the evolution of Vlad"s character throughout the book from the downtrodden "spare heir" to the blood soaked, calculating prince he is at the end. The ending leaves the story open for another book. Im not sure if another one is planned but I would definitely check it out if it is. Overall it was an entertain and quick read that I wold recommend to anyone that enjoys historical romance and has an interest in Vlad Dracul.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Hastings

    A perfect pick for AND I DARKEN fans! A glimpse into the dark and twisted young life of Vlad the Impaler (Dracula). Historically accurate and sweetly haunting, the story is also told by Ilona (engaged to Vlad’s older brother) and Andrei (Vlad’s cousin). Both Vlad and Andrei fancy Ilona, but she is a pawn in Wallachian politics and her father’s machinations. She is never given a choice, until she chooses her own path. Andrei will have to choose between the man he loves like a brother and the woma A perfect pick for AND I DARKEN fans! A glimpse into the dark and twisted young life of Vlad the Impaler (Dracula). Historically accurate and sweetly haunting, the story is also told by Ilona (engaged to Vlad’s older brother) and Andrei (Vlad’s cousin). Both Vlad and Andrei fancy Ilona, but she is a pawn in Wallachian politics and her father’s machinations. She is never given a choice, until she chooses her own path. Andrei will have to choose between the man he loves like a brother and the woman who has his heart. Vlad must decide how far he is willing to go to get what he wants. Sweet romance simmers throughout the book. Historical, cultural, and political details are woven seamlessly in the tapestry of the story.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jess (The Cozy Reader) Kennedy

    Could not get into this book. I didn't like any of the characters. Nothing had me hooked. Too bad. Could not get into this book. I didn't like any of the characters. Nothing had me hooked. Too bad.

  22. 4 out of 5

    J.

    Actual rating: 1.5 stars. DNF at Chapter 11 (35%). I'm surprised I lasted as long as I did on this one, and honestly, it was mostly because I am interested in the region and the history, and I kept hoping it would get better. On a line-by-line level, there's nothing overtly horrible. The storytelling and character development especially, however, leave a lot to be desired. I'm someone who reads voraciously enough that I read a lot of fanfiction and FictionPress (pre-Wattpad) and self-published book Actual rating: 1.5 stars. DNF at Chapter 11 (35%). I'm surprised I lasted as long as I did on this one, and honestly, it was mostly because I am interested in the region and the history, and I kept hoping it would get better. On a line-by-line level, there's nothing overtly horrible. The storytelling and character development especially, however, leave a lot to be desired. I'm someone who reads voraciously enough that I read a lot of fanfiction and FictionPress (pre-Wattpad) and self-published books back in the day, in addition to reading across the whole gamut of traditionally published fiction, so I have a fairly high tolerance for less polished writing, and sometimes you find some gems in there that are really fun and gratifying, if nothing else. This one... I'm sort of surprised it was picked to be published from Swoon Reads. Other Swoon Reads books have been more of what I've described, and especially with a professional editor, have turned out to be entertaining and enjoyable in their own right. I'm also a pretty big fan of cliché, predictable romances and definitely enjoy them from time to time. Here, well--one, I remember I made a comment to my brother after watching Pitch Perfect that I knew even before the credits that the writer was a woman, because the romance really got to me with subtle details I didn't know would matter so much to me. He found this an interesting comment, and I totally forgot about this until I read this book, because to me, this was very obviously a romance written by a man. I'm not saying only women can write good romance, or that all romances written by men are bad. But I am saying that you can usually tell, and I could really, REALLY tell here. The romance felt unnatural to the point of cringiness, and in part it was because I don't think the author had any idea how to write the descent of an otherwise handsome and likable boy into a violent, crazed killer. There's far too much "foreshadowing" (too blunt to be called foreshadowing, really) from far too early on, so there's no time for the reader to actually like Vlad as a character. You can tell you're supposed to, and apparently he's handsome and apparently he has his moments, but the violence is too ingrained from the beginning and the contrast with Andrei (who is boring but obviously a better person) does not help with that. It felt so awkward to read about Ilona unexpectedly feeling things about Vlad's handsomeness right after she sees an example of his cruelty toward birds, seeing how much she was shaken by that. And the budding attraction toward Andrei is also described extremely clumsily. All in all, I felt like I was supposed to root for something or other because Vlad is considered handsome and Andrei is clearly not insane like Vlad. In the hands of a more skilled author, this could have been a subtle and interesting and even a compelling journey, but here, everything fell flat. I would actually love to see a good YA treatment of Vlad the Impaler's story, and think that could potentially be fascinating, but a good premise alone was not enough to sustain my interest here.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tonja Drecker

    I was really looking forward to diving into this one. The cover definitely caught my attention and the blurb had me more than a little excited to discover what adventure was in store. And this is a well written novel with wonderful world building. Belonging to a once powerful but now weak family, Ilona lives with her parents and siblings under the care of the Voivode, who values her father despite whisperings. When her father is praised with a special honor by the Voivode, she's also given to the I was really looking forward to diving into this one. The cover definitely caught my attention and the blurb had me more than a little excited to discover what adventure was in store. And this is a well written novel with wonderful world building. Belonging to a once powerful but now weak family, Ilona lives with her parents and siblings under the care of the Voivode, who values her father despite whisperings. When her father is praised with a special honor by the Voivode, she's also given to the oldest prince as a wife. She has one year until she turns of marriage age and is determined to find a way to avoid becoming this heartless man's spouse. But she's not alone and finds herself aided by the younger prince, Vlad, who has plans of his own when it comes to his bloodthirsty father. The world building in this one drew me right in. It's rich and inviting and well-constructed. The Voivode is wonderfully horrible and so easy to dislike. It's hard not to root for Vlad as he begins to conspire against his father and older brother. Ilona's situation is obviously difficult, and that does make her easy to sympathize with and, from the beginning, fever that she finds away to avoid everything. Then, as the intrigue, battles, and plots settle in, it has everything to become a fantastic read with a thick plot to get caught up in. So, I did enjoy many aspects of this novel in many ways. There is a love-triangle, and it puts interesting tension and twists into the plot, while the main theme does rotate around the building intrigue as well. Ilona tries her best to deal with everything, and it's a lot. So, it's not unbelievable when she's caught up between this tug-a-war, especially since she'd do anything to get away from a marriage she knows has chances to utterly destroy her in so many ways. The problem is simply that the Vlad doesn't carry quite enough positive attributes to make him likeable, but rather, often didn't seem much better than his older brother. His sidekick was sympathetic in so many ways but carried too weak a personality when it came to his relationship with Vlad. So, it makes a 'better than terrible' situation for Ilona. Still, it was fun to watch this relationship plot twist and turn. While there is so much richness in this plot and so much to make it epic (it's really a great weave), the author skipped right over some of the most grabbing, major scenes and just filled the reader in through conversations in the 'after'. This, while still interesting, kept this book from becoming everything it should have been. Yet, I don't want to say this was a bad read because it isn't. It's grabbing and well constructed, and definitely would have hit my favorite list...and still, is one I enjoyed reading. I received an ARC and thought about marking this one down to a 2-star but still, found so much of it good.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Heart of the Impaler is a young adult fantasy by Alexander Delacroix. I enjoyed this book, but I didn't love it as much as I initially thought I would. The summary for Heart of the Impaler makes it seem like this is going to be a fantasy romance with an epic love triangle between two great friends. And then you throw in a betrothal to a third guy, and I was really pumped. I love some good love triangle action. And while all of that is true- there was a betrothal, and there was a love triangle be Heart of the Impaler is a young adult fantasy by Alexander Delacroix. I enjoyed this book, but I didn't love it as much as I initially thought I would. The summary for Heart of the Impaler makes it seem like this is going to be a fantasy romance with an epic love triangle between two great friends. And then you throw in a betrothal to a third guy, and I was really pumped. I love some good love triangle action. And while all of that is true- there was a betrothal, and there was a love triangle between her Llona, her betrothed's younger brother and the younger brother's best friend, the story seemed much more focused on the political aspect of the warring factions than on the romance. And I wasn't really invested in the love triangle aspect of the story. I liked one of the guys, barely saw the betrothed and strongly disliked the other guy from the very second meeting of him. In Heart of the Impaler, my favorite character was our main character, Llona. I loved how strong she was and such an independent thinker. She was by far my favorite out of everyone. I also quite enjoyed Llona's new friend Magda and the sweet Andrei. I was rooting for Andrei the entire time. Vlad creeped me out and seemed way too self centered for me to care about him as a love interest. I wasn't connected to him at all. I was at their first encounter by by their second encounter it didn't feel like he cared about who Llona was at all. (which might have been Alexander Delacroix's point, I'm not really sure, but it did alienate me from enjoying Vlad's side of the love triangle. Andrei was a winner for me though. He cared about Llona and getting to know her and her likes.  A large part of the story were the political tensions between Vlad and his family and between Vlad's father and his enemies. That aspect of the plot kind of took over the story in my opinion, which leads me to believe that this book will resonate most with readers who enjoy political YA fantasy with action heavy plotlines. I think those readers will absolutely devour Heart of the Impaler. There are many darker themes of war and battle explored, and some of the characters are pretty grey/dark. I enjoyed those aspects of the story, but I did think they was a bit slow in parts. The book overall was an easy read that I finished in a couple of days. Overall, I thought Heart of the Impaler was a good read. 

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anna Wegeng

    I have a soft spot in my heart for historical fiction based on real people. Imagine the audacity it must take to look at a real person and write a completely fictional story about their life. An alternate universe, if you will. Heart of the Impaler is almost 100% made up, including the characters of Andrei and Ilona. Not that that’s inherently a bad thing, just worth mentioning. The book itself was good. It was well-written and I enjoyed reading it. but it did a few unforgivable things. 1. A lot I have a soft spot in my heart for historical fiction based on real people. Imagine the audacity it must take to look at a real person and write a completely fictional story about their life. An alternate universe, if you will. Heart of the Impaler is almost 100% made up, including the characters of Andrei and Ilona. Not that that’s inherently a bad thing, just worth mentioning. The book itself was good. It was well-written and I enjoyed reading it. but it did a few unforgivable things. 1. A lot of the action happens off page, like Vlad killing Mircea. This is a pivotal moment in the book and in Vlad’s character development. Arguably it’s the most significant scene in the book, and it’s not actually shown. We see all the build up: Mircea bullying Vlad, etc. but not the most important part. (This is actually why the book got 3 stars instead of 4. It’s unforgivable.) 2. After killing Mircea, Vlad becomes the Crown Prince and Leads the voivode’s armies, and yet we don’t see a single battle with him in command. It’s just skipped over. The book started to become really boring because every time something exciting was about to happen, the scene would change or the chapter would end. 3. This isn’t quite unforgivable, but I felt like the mystery was underdeveloped. There could have been more of Vlad and Andrei trying to investigate the wooden key or talking to more maids. “V.C.” actually was introduced early. The mystery felt like a weird side plot that seemed important at the beginning, got thrown to the wayside in the middle, and then came back when Andrei found the list of who supported whom politically. Ultimately it only became important because Andrei and Ilona were able to find allies against the voivode. Heart of the Impaler was a good read, but honestly, somebody needs to grab the author by the shoulders and tell him that he needs to actually write the action in his book instead of just describing it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anna Wegeng

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I have a soft spot in my heart for historical fiction based on real people. Imagine the audacity it must take to look at a real person and write a completely fictional story about their life. An alternate universe, if you will. Heart of the Impaler is almost 100% made up, including the characters of Andrei and Ilona. Not that that’s inherently a bad thing, just worth mentioning. The book itself was good. It was well-written and I enjoyed reading it. but it did a few unforgivable things. 1. A lot I have a soft spot in my heart for historical fiction based on real people. Imagine the audacity it must take to look at a real person and write a completely fictional story about their life. An alternate universe, if you will. Heart of the Impaler is almost 100% made up, including the characters of Andrei and Ilona. Not that that’s inherently a bad thing, just worth mentioning. The book itself was good. It was well-written and I enjoyed reading it. but it did a few unforgivable things. 1. A lot of the action happens off page, like Vlad killing Mircea. This is a pivotal moment in the book and in Vlad’s character development. Arguably it’s the most significant scene in the book, and it’s not actually shown. We see all the build up: Mircea bullying Vlad, etc. but not the most important part. (This is actually why the book got 3 stars instead of 4. It’s unforgivable.) 2. After killing Mircea, Vlad becomes the Crown Prince and Leads the voivode’s armies, and yet we don’t see a single battle with him in command. It’s just skipped over. The book started to become really boring because every time something exciting was about to happen, the scene would change or the chapter would end. 3. This isn’t quite unforgivable, but I felt like the mystery was underdeveloped. There could have been more of Vlad and Andrei trying to investigate the wooden key or talking to more maids. “V.C.” actually was introduced early. The mystery felt like a weird side plot that seemed important at the beginning, got thrown to the wayside in the middle, and then came back when Andrei found the list of who supported whom politically. Ultimately it only became important because Andrei and Ilona were able to find allies against the voivode. Heart of the Impaler was a good read, but honestly, somebody needs to grab the author by the shoulders and tell him that he needs to actually write the action in his book instead of just describing it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Laurel Ashley

    3.5 stars. I went back and forth between 3 and 4 stars on this one, so 3.5. So, I loved the history side of the story. It was one of the main reasons I wanted to read it. The author explains a bit of the history at the end of the book after the acknowledgements. It was cool to learn that basically all of the characters were real people. There is also a glossary at the end which is helpful because there are a lot of Romanian, Hungarian and Turkish words/short phrases. There is also a royal family 3.5 stars. I went back and forth between 3 and 4 stars on this one, so 3.5. So, I loved the history side of the story. It was one of the main reasons I wanted to read it. The author explains a bit of the history at the end of the book after the acknowledgements. It was cool to learn that basically all of the characters were real people. There is also a glossary at the end which is helpful because there are a lot of Romanian, Hungarian and Turkish words/short phrases. There is also a royal family tree which is pretty cool. As for the story. I enjoyed it for the most part. Like I said above, I loved the historical aspect of the story, I liked Vlad's character, especially at the beginning, and the politics, though kind of confusing to me, was interesting. Reading some of the reviews, this may be a controversial take, lol, but I kind of felt bad for Vlad. His dad showed him very little attention, and when he did, it usually wasn't good, he was always second best to his brother who was constantly telling him how much he sucked. It really isn't surprising things turned out the way they did. Now, Ilona bugged me sooooo much, as did Andrei! She is all "Vlad is so intriguing and handsome but idk if I should like that or not" and 2 minutes after he leaves and Andrei is there she is like Vlad who? I'm like seriously? Then Andrei is all meek and mild. I'm not saying that every male character needs to be super masculine, but he is just a little too meek and "let's talk this out guys." This is the 15th century; knife it out first, ask questions later. Even after writing this whole review and re-living the book I'm still torn on the rating! Ugh!! It's just Andrei and Ilona got on my nerves and it seemed like some of the boyars and Transylvanians came out of nowhere and it was like we were supposed to know who they were. It could be that I missed them from earlier in the book because there were just SO many of them. Definitely recommend though.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Eclectic

    First of all, what a gorgeous cover designed by Michelle Gengaro-Kokmen. Secondly, this is an interesting twist on Vlad the Impaler which I wasn’t expecting. It’s about a younger Vlad who falls in love with his brother’s betrothed and is also competing with Vlad’s best friend and cousin Andrei. Ilona prefers the quiet life of studying birds and drawing them, but her father has other ideas. Mainly, to marry her off like a prized animal to Prince Mircea who is a self-absorbed bully who could care l First of all, what a gorgeous cover designed by Michelle Gengaro-Kokmen. Secondly, this is an interesting twist on Vlad the Impaler which I wasn’t expecting. It’s about a younger Vlad who falls in love with his brother’s betrothed and is also competing with Vlad’s best friend and cousin Andrei. Ilona prefers the quiet life of studying birds and drawing them, but her father has other ideas. Mainly, to marry her off like a prized animal to Prince Mircea who is a self-absorbed bully who could care less. She has one year to become his bride, but not if Mircea’s younger brother, Vlad, has anything to do with it. Ilona has noticed Vlad with his good sense of humor and reckless disregard for safety as well as his companion, Andrei who is respectable and has a quieter nature. Vlad has declared himself Ilona’s protector and will stop at nothing to keep her safe from his enemies who are trying to harm her. Vlad is unlikeable with his arrogance and hot temper. His rash decisions are dangerous considering he has dark murderous moments that are many times thwarted by Andrei’s level-headedness. Andrei is sweet, a good horseman, and he is basically Vlad’s only friend and lackey. Vlad’s indifference to how he treats Andrei is unwarranted and unkind. Ilona is a bit boring and not as strong as I would like her. However, she does show her bravery and kindness at the beginning when she is the only one to step up and help Andrei after the young men’s foolhardy swordplay. Overall, I didn’t feel invested in the characters and had a hard time staying engaged in the story. The setting of Wallachia and Transylvania in the 1400s is a new experience for me as well as the political upheaval which took an unusual backseat to the love triangle between the teens. War is imminent in the region as well as between the characters and the book ended with a cliffhanger so I’m assuming there will be more to this story. I believe this story is set in a time that has a lot of potential, but it moved slowly and I wanted more investment in the love story if that was what this book was going to be about. I don’t know how to describe it, but I felt I wasn’t really experiencing their connection. I wasn’t immersed in it. Many moments were glossed over. I have to admit I struggled with this book and almost skipped to the end just to be done with it. There are mixed reviews on the book so I suggest you give it a read if you like a blend of history and fiction. Thank you to Mr. Delacroix for giving me the opportunity to read this book with no expectation of a positive review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pine Reads Review

    “That’s the problem with kings and princes. Their promises are easily made, easily broken.” While fleeing from her home after a near-miss assassination attempt against her, Ilona’s hand in marriage is traded away for her father’s personal promotion in rankings and protection. Though Ilona doesn’t care for the crown prince she is now betrothed to, the looming war gives her no choice in the matter. But even as her arranged marriage and war weighs on her, Ilona finds some satisfaction in the gloomy “That’s the problem with kings and princes. Their promises are easily made, easily broken.” While fleeing from her home after a near-miss assassination attempt against her, Ilona’s hand in marriage is traded away for her father’s personal promotion in rankings and protection. Though Ilona doesn’t care for the crown prince she is now betrothed to, the looming war gives her no choice in the matter. But even as her arranged marriage and war weighs on her, Ilona finds some satisfaction in the gloomy courting after meeting the prince’s younger brother Vlad and his cousin Andrei. Soon after, both boys become interested in her. Now, the war between cousins over Ilona’s heart may be just as detrimental as the war over her life and home. I’m a sucker for Vlad the Impaler (and Dracula) inspired stories! I was so ecstatic the second I read the premise of this story because I feel the Vlad the Impaler side of the lore isn’t in fantasy stories of today as much as the vampire side of the lore is. With the historical background and title, my hopes were high, but this story fell short for me. Vlad’s character came off as whiny, and the love triangle that he finds himself in with his cousin over Ilona is rather weak because no one seems to respect or see Ilona as anything other than a prize. Though towards the end we begin to see a bit of Vlad’s descent into madness and his ruthless character, I felt like this madness and fierceness was within him throughout the book; because a lot of the significant scenes that were important to Vlad’s (and the other characters’) arcs happened off the page, this madness came out of nowhere. For me, the story lacked the luster of the lore of Vlad the Impaler. Content Warnings: Abuse, death, violence Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @pinereadsreview and check out our website at www.pinereadsreview.com for reviews, author interviews, blogs, podcast episodes, and more!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Dang

    A new take on infamous Vlad Dracula, except now with a teen love triangle. At first I was so interested in the premise... but by the time I finished the book, I just couldn’t get how flat it fell for me. The story revolves around Vlad Dracula, who has long lived in the shadow of his father and older brother, suffering their cruelties and wanting so badly to prove himself and be worthy of the throne. His only friend is his cousin Andrei Musat and both boys find themselves at odds with one another A new take on infamous Vlad Dracula, except now with a teen love triangle. At first I was so interested in the premise... but by the time I finished the book, I just couldn’t get how flat it fell for me. The story revolves around Vlad Dracula, who has long lived in the shadow of his father and older brother, suffering their cruelties and wanting so badly to prove himself and be worthy of the throne. His only friend is his cousin Andrei Musat and both boys find themselves at odds with one another when they meet Ilona Csaki, who is newly betrothed to Vlad’s older brother who is inheriting the throne.... for now. The only things we get about Ilona is that she is gorgeous and “isn’t like other girls” because she likes science and isn’t afraid of blood. She’s throwing her feelings between both boys and is constantly just out here being “not like other girls” (sigh). The whole book mainly focuses on the love triangle between the three with Vlad essentially being the bad boy while Andrei is the nice guy. Throughout this book there are political assassinations, war, and so forth, yet all those things are essentially glossed over for this tepid love triangle. I found myself caring less and less for these unlikable characters and was just happy to have made it to the end of the book. I had high hopes for this book and was just disappointed, I do adore a Vlad Dracula take but this one just didn’t work out for me. It felt much more middle grade than young adult and all the characters were unlikable and you just can’t really find yourself caring for any of them. The only thing that I was truly invested in was Vlad versus his older brother for the throne, after that I was just left with meh for everything else. *Thanks Netgalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, Swoon Reads for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review*

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