The finale of the Conqueror’s Saga, Bright We Burn, highlighted some of Vlad the Impaler’s most gruesome atrocities amplified by Kiersten White’s genderbend of the infamous leader, Lada Dracul. (spoilers)
Historically speaking, Vlad the Impaler is one of the most horrendous figures known for his nightmarish brutality and unique post-mortem spectacle. Kiersten White took Vlad Tepes’ life and made it even more interesting by simply changing Vlad into a woman in her Conqueror’s Saga series.
Though the synopsis seems simple — a genderbent Vlad the Impaler — the books are much more than that. Thanks to Bram Stoker, Vlad is known as the father of vampire lore, but And I Darken is the beginning of a purely historical retelling without relying on fantastical fabrication.
After finishing Bright We Burn I immediately set out researching Vlad the Impaler’s life to see how realistic Kiersten was while writing about Lada Dracul and her brother, Radu. I read in awe about cold hard facts that somehow came to life within the series.
Though Lada’s accomplishments were the same as Vlad’s, they were heightened because she was a woman. In a time where a woman was nothing other than a man’s wife, Lada’s invasion into Wallachia to take it back from the Ottoman Empire seems even more insurmountable a task than when a man did it.
Unsurprisingly, most of the series is historically accurate, with a few liberties understandably taken by Kiersten as she wove an incredible, macabre tale depicting each decision Lada made that took her on the path to becoming a monstrous figurehead.
Due to the nature of history, all of the following could be considered spoilers for the series. If you haven’t read the Conqueror’s Saga and don’t want to be spoiled by historical facts, please turn back before it’s too late!
10 similarities between the fictional and real lives of Lada Dracul and Vlad the Impaler
- Vlad Dracul II, Vlad Tepes/Lada’s father, was a member of the Order of the Dragon, where the names Dracul and Dracula were derived from. The Order of the Dragon was dedicated to stopping the spread of the Ottoman Empire.
- Vlad/Lada and their brother, Radu, were sent to the Ottoman Empire as collateral for their father to follow Ottoman policies in Wallachia.
- Historically, Radu was known to be an intimate friend of Mehmed II. According to the Byzantines, Radu was one of the sultan’s male concubines. While in the Conqueror’s Saga this wasn’t entirely true, we can’t discount the fact that Radu had an unrequited love for Mehmed, which Mehmed used to get Radu to do whatever he wished in the series.
- Radu was known as Radu III the Handsome, Radu III the Fair, Radu III the Beautiful, and the Turkish name of Radu Bey (Bey is the term for a governor of a province in the Ottoman Empire.). Radu was considered young to not only be a Bey of the Ottoman Empire, but was also a leading figure at the Ottoman court thanks to not only his relationship to the sultan, but his diplomacy.
- Both Vlad III and Lada Dracul actually impaled people, sometimes thousands at a time. After seeing the “forest of the impaled,” which consisted of at least 20,000 impaled Ottomans outside of Targoviste, Mehmed II fled the gruesome act of aggression.
- Vlad II was killed by John Hyunadi, voivode of Transylvania, who later became a mentor to Vlad III/Lada. Together, they launched a campaign against the Ottoman Empire until Hyunadi was killed in battle.
- Both Vlad Tepes and Lada Dracul were allied to Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary who was backed by the Pope, after executing the Turkish emissaries who were sent to make peace with Wallachia.
Adopting the “scorched earth” policy, which aims to destroy or sabotage anything of use by the enemy, Vlad and Lada both destroyed the countryside of Wallachia to stop the Ottoman Empire from gaining ground.
- After attempting to capture Mehmed II during a night attack in 1462, Vlad/Lada was imprisoned by Corvinus, their so-called ally and son of the late Hyunadi.
- Vlad and Lada were both killed in battle near Bucharest. Though unsure of where Vlad is really buried, a popular theory is that he’s buried in a monastery in an unmarked tomb. Likewise, Lada was buried in a monastery of her own patronage in Wallachia.
- Of course, Lada being a girl isn’t the only change made to history. Mehmed didn’t reciprocate Radu’s affections towards him until Radu had moved on and found his own happiness. Mehmed’s obsession laid with Lada throughout the series, his weakness for her blinding him towards her atrocities until the end.
The changes made were slight, such as who Radu married. One of my favorite parts of the series was Nazira and Radu’s marriage and the inclusion of LGBT+ in history when a man and woman marry each other so that they both can continue on being themselves.
Both Radu and Nazira are queer and find love. In fact, they are the only couples throughout the series with happy endings, despite the angst throughout that revolves around Radu’s sexuality. Radu and Nazira’s relationship and how much they care for one another was one of the best dynamics in the series.
One change that I’m glad was made was the fact that in reality, Radu died before his sibling did. I was terrified the entire time I was reading that Radu would die during the series itself and not afterwards. I was so concerned I didn’t even think about the possibility of Lada dying.
Overall, Kiersten White’s ability to take cold hard facts and turn them into a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat as you read about the lives of Lada and Radu with such a good grasp on the actual history behind the figures is astounding.
Kiersten has multiple books coming out within the next year. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein comes out September 25th while Slayer, a new series in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, comes out January 8, 2019. Both of these are definitely being added to my To Be Read list!