- my rating: 5 stars
- published by: Delacorte Press
- genres: historical fiction, young adult
- content warnings: graphic violence, sexual assault mentions, islamophobia, homophobia, misogyny
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.”
There is always something so bitter sweet about a series ending, especially if it’s one of your favourite series. This is one of my favourite series and I both am over the moon this ending exists, because I love it, and simultaneously shattered because my time with these characters is over. In all honestly, I could not have asked for a better ending to this series. The character work in this series is impeccable and both the plot and character arcs end so perfectly, and so ending this book felt so immensely satisfying.
This series has some of the most complex and interesting characters I’ve ever read about. If you’re interested in complicated relationships between characters, you’ll definitely like this. Bright We Burn also delivered some of the most iconic mlm/wlw solidarity I’ve ever seen in Radu and Nazira and I am forever blessed. The character work is beyond good. White presents our core trio, Mehmed, Radu and Lada, and creates this complex relationship threesome where they are all simultaneously threatened by and dependent of eachother. The building of the tension leading up to their inevitable showdown kept me hanging onto every single word. I loved how White created that inevitability. The whole way you know none of this is going to be resolved peacefully and easily, and that no matter what these characters will have to face each other, and that created incredibly high tension and stakes that kept me flipping the pages.
I also adored the platonic friendships here, and the queer representation. Nazira and Fatima were so adorable and it was so nice to see such a healthy and supportive f/f couple in historical fiction. Radu and Nazira’s friendship was so sweet and I adored how much they cared and supported eachother. I also love how White analysed how queerness has been historically vilified and how religion and identity intersect.
Lada’s role in this book elevated her character in my mind. While I never loved her as much as Radu, and still probably don’t, I liked her a lot more here. It was interesting to see the dual sides of Lada, her ruthlessness and then also her love for her friends and her country.
What I really liked is that White pushes her character to their absolute limits and we get to see how they change when they hit their breaking point. Somehow I found myself feeling enormous sympathy for Lada, and even Mehmed, despite not necessarily liking them. And I think that White was able to do that really shows how excellent the characters are, and how complex they are as individuals.
Plot wise, this was as violent as you’d expect, but I do think the pace is much slowed down compared to Now I Rise. Although there is plenty of blood, gore and war lots of this takes a backstep to developing and exploring the relationship dynamics and I was glad of it. That being said, there is still plenty of action to be found here. I really enjoyed how we finally got to see Lada as the ruthless military leader that Vlad is infamous for being. I also loved how this was used to show the difference between Radu and Lada – where Lada is all fire and destruction Radu is healing and rationality.
I’ve never really fallen in love with historical fiction before, in fact only three times. Once with The Infernal Devices, twice with The Diviners, and then this.
Kiersten White thought about everything in this series. The character construction is just incredibly good, the characters are brutal and hard and unbelievably cruel to each other at times, but there is also so much hope and goodness and happiness in these pages too.
My expectations for this were incredibly high, because I had it hyped up to me a lot but it actually still managed to exceed my expectations. I feel like, genuinely, every single word was in the right place here. Kiersten White had her vision and she executed it flawlessly and because of that I will always hold this series in such high regard.
until next time!