Bright We Burn by Kiersten White
(The Conqueror’s Saga, #3)
Releases July 10!!
personally, I feel as if my heart was ripped out of my fucking chest and my life was just changed for the better.this ending means everything to me. I do not have the Words To Convey how much this ending for a series meant to me
here was my lowkey spoilery initial list of what I wanted out of this sequel:
• please let Radu be happy
• you know exactly who I want him to be happy with
• LET NAZIRA REUNITE WITH HER WIFE
• Mehmed dying maybe
• honestly I think Lada’s going to die no matter what for historicity if nothing else
• please just let Radu, Nazira, Fatima, and Cyprian be gay in peace. please Kiersten White I’m a nice person
did all of this happen? not necessarily. but did I find this conclusion incredibly satisfying and one of my favorite series conclusions ever? hell yes.
Okay, so basic TL;DR: This book is my second favorite series conclusion I have ever read [after literally my favorite book ever] and nothing can ever beat it and oh my fucking god, I loved this.
This series is political and character driven, which is… such a deep mood for me. This series is about misogyny, about internalized homophobia, about religion, about learning what you deserve in a world that wants you to accept nothing. It is a character and theme study that I just… adore. So much.
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. It was an odd sort of thing to take comfort in, but he accepted it.
Nazira was right. His love had no evil in it. He could not say the same for his sister’s.
Radu’s characterization has come so far since And I Darken – in Now I Rise, Kiersten White really made me love him, and I just… relate to him so much. I love how well Radu’s sexuality is written. He is so careful about expressing his love for other men, and it’s so realistic not only to the period, but also to my experiences in our current world. Kiersten White is really one of the few not-openly-queer authors I trust most with writing queer characters.
There was something to be said for having his heart broken so many times. Broken things healed thicker and stronger than they were before. Assuming one survived long enough to heal.
And then… there’s Lada. Lada, who I hate and empathize with at the same time. I love how cunning Lada is, how she does everything differently than expected. Every moment of planning she has made me want to scream with joy. And my favorite Lada quote is a spoiler, so I can’t put it here, but I think she’s one of the best-written antiheroes I’ve read recently and I really like it?
I really feel like this series went so far past its original sort-of-fucked-up-love-triangle focus. The most important relationships here are predominantly platonic. Lada and Radu. Lada and Nicolae [I’d die for them]. And then there’s Radu and Nazira, who I basically ship platonically harder than I have ever shipped anything romantically.
“I am sorry, then.”
“To be right?” Nazira laughed. “It is a heavy burden, always being right. But some of us must bear it.”
“I am grateful you bear it for me, as I am not qualified to carry it myself.”
Speaking of which, I AM GIVING RADU AND NAZIRA THE PARAGRAPH THEY DESERVE. Kiersten White is really out here givin the gays everything they want!! They touched cheeks! They held hands!!!!! They platonically love each other so deeply and it’s fucking gorgeous!!!!! They are… literally worth the world to me and I adore them and I’d just die for them. Nazira and Radu invented mlm / wlw solidarity and that’s so valid.
Radu put a hand over his heart, wondering if he would feel her death, if he would know. They had been separated for so long. She had looked at him that night in Mehmed’s tent as though faced with a memory, not a man.
Also… listen. Guys. Radu and Lada. Every time Radu and Lada think about each other I want to cry.
But honestly, the most important thing about this whole book was the ending. Because, okay, I have a lot of thoughts, but I don’t want to say them, because this book is not even fucking released yet, but also, I have to say them? So please, if you have not read this book, this is the end of the review. Pretend it’s the end? Okay. Bye.
Nazira had not exaggerated her intentions. She let go of Fatima only when absolutely necessary. Radu leaned back on his cushion, smiling to himself as Nazira tried to navigate eating dinner while keeping hold of Fatima’s hand at all times.
So… the found family ending of this is the best-ever subversion of the bury your gays trope I have ever read in my entire fucking life and I…. legitimately cried. You should have seen me and the iconic Em screaming in the DMs both reading this at the same time. We were such fucking messes and it meant even more to her, as a Muslim queer woman, than it did to me, and I just… wow I’m a wreck?
And also… Radu chose people over power. And that was the difference.