This recap was written by Laura Cesile.
A gender inversion on the life of Vlad the Impaler, based on real historical events.
Ladislav Dragwyla is the savage daughter of the vaivode of Wallachia. When her father loses his throne, she and her younger brother Radu are sent to live in Edirne, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, to control their father’s behaviour because Wallachia is a vassal state of the Empire. While there, Lada and Radu befriend the illegitimate son of the Sultan, Mehmed, who becomes Sultan himself. Mehmed falls in love with Lada, Lada doesn’t know if she loves him back and Radu falls in love with Mehmed. Lada wants only to return home to Wallachia, but Radu wants to stay in Edirne. Mehmed loses his throne due to Lada and Radu’s meddling and they spend many years together as friends.
Radu infiltrates the inner circle of Halil Pasha, a vizier who plans to take the throne for himself, to spy for Mehmed. Lada gains control of her own contingent of troops. Mehmed becomes Sultan after his father dies. The Janissaries, a group of troops/bodyguards, revolt against Mehmed’s rule because he plans to conquer Constantinople, which is impossible. Mehmed is almost assassinated but Lada and Radu save him. Lada’s father dies and she forces Mehmed to make her the new vaivode. He does. Radu and Mehmed plan to conquer Constantinople, and Lada returns to Wallachia to rule as prince.
what went down
- 1435: Ladislav Dracul is born in Transylvania, daughter of Vlad Dracul. Her dad is not happy he had a daughter. A year later, her brother Radu is born. Radu is incredibly beautiful and gentle, while Lada is ugly, cruel and feral.
- Lada befriends her nurse’s son, Bogdan.
- 1440: Prince Alexandru dies and Vlad ascends to the throne of Wallachia as prince.
- Vlad teaches Lada that she has no mother, only Wallachia. Lada agrees.
- 1446: Radu is teased and beaten by the Danesti boys. Lada saves him by beating them up. Radu takes matters into his own hands and bribes a servant boy to steal expensive items and frame the Danesti boys for it. The boys are whipped. (Go Radu!)
- Plague hits the city and Lada, Radu and their father move for the summer. Lada and Bogdan “marry,” because Lada doesn’t ever want to marry someone and have power taken from her. They kiss. Cuties.
- 1447: Radu tries to befriend a group of children playing in the snow. A boy falls into the ice and Radu tries to save him but Lada won’t let him (savage). The boy drowns. Lada and Radu become closer.
- Lada and Radu hate their eldest brother, Mircea, an illegitimate son. He’s very cruel to them.
- Lada gets into a fight with a group of Janissaries. As punishment, Bogdan is sent away with them to learn to become a solider. Lada complains to her dad who doesn’t care. She realises that her father has no power and that he is scared of the Ottoman Empire. Meanwhile, Radu befriends one of the Janissaries called Lazar.
- Lada and Radu overhear Mircea plotting with the Danestis and John Hunyadi, the military prince of Hungary, to usurp their father’s throne. Hunyadi is the Ottoman Empire’s greatest enemy.
- Hunyadi arrives and Lada, Radu, their father and a few Janissaries are forced to flee Wallachia!!
- 1448: They arrive in Edirne, the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Halil Pasha, a vizier, promises to care for Lada and Radu while supporting Vlad’s attempt to regain his throne. Lada realizes she and her brother are political prisoners to keep their father in check.
- Radu and Lada spend their days being tutored on Islam. Radu likes it but Lada hates it.
- Lada gets her period and is terrified.
- Radu meets Kumal Vali and his sister Nazira. Kumal explains more about Islam and Radu falls in love with the religion. He eventually converts.
- Lada and Radu meet Mehmed, the illigitamate son of Sultan Murad.
- A maid discovers that Lada has begun to menstruate and Lada beats her. Lada is taken to the Harem and meets the Sultan’s wives, Halima and Mara. Lada learns that Mara is also a political prisoner, kept as the Sultan’s wife to ensure Serbia remains free. Lada hates that this is the only option for women. (Me too, girl)
- Halil Pasha arranges Lada’s marriage to a super fat noble. Lada says she will cut out the man’s tongue on their wedding night and watch him choke to death. Yikes. Mehmed interferes and has Lada and Radu accompany him to Amasya instead.
- While there, Lada meets a group of Janissaries. One, Nicolae, is Wallachian. They become close friends and Lada begins training with the Janissaries.
- Mehmed discovers that his two older brothers were killed in a battle against Hunyadi. Sultan Murad has made peace with Hunyadi and abdicates the throne. Mehmed has become Sultan!! (He’s only 12!)
- They return to Edirne and Lada secretly writes a letter to Hunyadi and asks him to start a crusade against the Ottomans. She does this because she thinks it will force Murad to retake the throne and protect Mehmed. Hunyadi and the pope start a crusade and Lada discovers her father has joined Hunyadi. He has sacrificed his own children.
- Murad refuses to reclaim the throne so Mehmed, as Sultan, orders him to raise an army. Murad wins and Hunyadi is forced to flee. Mehmed promises that no harm will come to Lada and Radu for their father’s betrayal.
- Lada discovers that the Janissaries don’t like Mehmed. They are not paid enough and they are scared he will get them all killed in trying to conquer Constantinople.
- Mehmed begins planning the siege of Constantinople. He believes it is his destiny to retake the city for Islam.
- An assassin attempts to kill Mehmed but Lada kills the man and saves Mehmed. She, Mehmed and Radu hide in the Harem. Lada doesn’t want to because once a woman enters the Harem she can never leave. Mehmed promises that won’t happen to her.
- Lada meets Mehmed’s mother, Huma. Huma takes control and makes it look like the assassination attempt never happened. Huma teaches Lada that a woman can control men with her body. Lada is disgusted and says she will never give up herself. Huma reveals she is the one who killed Mehmed’s older brothers so Mehmed can become Sultan. Huma thinks that Lada wants to be Mehmed’s queen.
- Radu catches a thief stealing the map of Constantinople from Mehmed’s rooms. He follows the boy who leads him Halil Pasha!! Halil sends the boy away with a letter and Radu kills the boy and steals the letter. He brings the letter to Lada and they read it. Halil writes to Constantinople to ensure them that Mehmed will never attack their city. Radu realizes that Halil plans to kill Mehmed. Radu wants to arrest Halil but Lada stops him because the Janissaries, who act as a police force, hate Mehmed and might not protect him.
- Lada makes a plan to save Mehmed. She goes to Huma and asks her to make the Janissaries start a revolt so that Mehmed can escape Edirne and come back stronger, later.
- The Janissaries revolt and Lada, Radu and Mehmed return to Amasya. Murad is Sultan again.
- 1451: the Empire is at war against Hunyadi again. Mehmed as well as Lada’s Janissary friends have been called up.
- Huma arrives in Amasya and tells Lada to free Mehmed of her hold on him. Lada says she does not love Mehmed but Huma doesn’t believe her. Radu is jealous. Huma threatens to kill Lada if she doesn’t.
- Mehmed returns from war and he and Lada kiss. (Hmm, thought you didn’t like him, Lada?)
- Radu trains with the Janissaries and sees Lazar again. Lazar warns Radu about wanting things he cannot have. Radu is scared that people can sense his growing feelings for Mehmed, even though he doesn’t understand what it is. Lazar tells Radu to talk to him when he is ready.
- Lada and Radu spy on Mehmed and discover that Mehmed has a son!! Both Lada and Radu are jealous and sad.
- Murad plans Mehmed’s wedding. Radu, Lada and Mehmed return to Edirne.
- At the wedding celebrations, Huma reveals that Mehmed’s wedding is a political alliance and that Murad has no plans to give up his throne a second time.
- Lada sneaks into Halil Pasha’s home to see if he is still planning something bad for Mehmed. She sees that Radu is there and has become friends with Halil’s son, Salih. Radu reveals that he has been trying to get into Halil’s inner circle to discover his plans.
- Lada and Mehmed fight over his new bride and his son. Radu spies on them and hears Mehmed confessing his love for Lada. They kiss and Radu realizes he is in love with Mehmed.
- At a dinner party, Lada thinks someone is trying to assassinate Mehmed and so kills the man in front of the party and Murad.
- Radu is waiting for Salih in Halil’s office and is snooping around. Salih and Radu kiss. Halil comes in and almost catches them kissing. Halil suspects what happened between them and reveals that Lada killed a guard.
- Lada goes on trial. Halil Pasha wants to kill her for what she has done and because of what her father had betrayed the Empire by joining Hunyadi. Radu intervenes and saves Lada’s life.
- Radu confronts Lada and says she is not worthy of him. Lada realizes her brother is in love with Mehmed. They fight and Radu reveals he doesn’t want to be Wallachian anymore. Lada is heartbroken.
- Lada returns to Amasya with Mehmed while Radu stays in Edirne. Lada is attacked by a Janissary who hates her and asks Mehmed for her own contingent of Janissaries.
- Edirne: Radu’s position in court has grown more powerful. He cuts ties with Salih and tries to get closer to Halil.
- Huma visits Radu and reveals that she knows about Radu’s feelings for Mehmed and wants Radu to kill Halil Pasha. In return, she will make Mehmed love him. He agrees.
- Amasya: Mehmed makes Lada complete a test before leading her own contingent. She passes and gets to pick her own army. She picks all of the Wallachians.
- Edirne: Radu visits his old friend Kumal’s home and catches up with Nazira. Murad makes Radu in charge of his own contingent of Janissaries. Radu sees Halil Pasha with the leader of the Janissaries and asks Lazar to keep track of them.
- Amasya: Lada and her Janissaries are training for the best ways to protect Mehmed. They infiltrate the Harem, where Mehmed is visiting his son. Mehmed reveals he is to be sent to war in Albania to fight against Skanderberg, a former Janissary turned rebel. Mehmed refuses to take her with him because he cares about her. Lada is angry and they fight.
- 1451: Radu is also in Albania. He learns that Skanderberg has burned his own fields and people to prevent the Empire from taking control. (Foreshadowing for book 2!?!?)
- Radu fights in his first battle.
- Amasya: Lada is in control of canons and gunpowder for the war. She learns how to make bombs (because that’s just a great idea to give her this kind of knowledge).
- Albania: Radu visits Kumal, who was also called up to war. Kumal is dying and makes Radu promise that when he dies, Radu will take care of Nazira by marrying her.
- Radu sees Mehmed in the middle of battle. Radu reveals he has been spying for Mehmed by working with Halil Pasha. Mehmed calls Radu his best friend (sob).
- Lazar writes his reports for Radu and sends a false one out.
- Amasya: Lada gets a letter from Radu that Mehmed has become ill and is close to dying. He tells her to flee Amasya.
- Lada tells Nicolae she is leaving and he says he will go with her. But Mehmed arrives in Amasya! They look over the letter and realize someone else wrote on behalf of Radu. (Wonder who that could be?)
- Albania: Radu is on his way back to Edirne. He meets Skanderberg who gifts Radu the epithet Radu the Handsome (Real historical fact!)
- Edirne: Radu sends word to Lada and Mehmed that Murad is ill and won’t survive long. Halil Pasha plans to take the city before Mehmed can claim the throne (!!) Lada, Mehmed and her Janissaries plan to infiltrate Edirne.
- Radu meets up with Mehmed and Lada and they make a plan by sneaking in through the Harem. When Mehmed sneaks into the palace, he meets up with Kazanci Dogan, the leader of the Janissaries. Mehmed promises to raise their pay in exchange for their support against Halil.
- Mehmed becomes Sultan again! Huma warns him of the other claims to his throne: a potential cousin in Constantinople and a half-brother in Edirne.
- Radu visits Mehmed and tells him that Kumal wants him to marry Nazira. Mehmed is angry but grants his blessing.
- Nazira reveals to Radu that she is gay and only wants to marry Radu so she can continue her romance with her maid. Radu agrees to the marriage.
- Radu and Nazira are married. Mehmed is angry when he finds out. Nicolae interrupts Lada and Mehmed’s fight to give her a surprise. He has found Bogdan! Mehmed is extremely jealous, especially when he finds out they were “married.”
- Mehmed receives word that Vlad Dracul and Mircea have died, killed by Hunyadi. Radu is next in line for the throne of Wallachia, but says he rather stay with Mehmed. Mehmed asks Radu not to tell Lada. (Bad move, bro).
how did it end?
Edirne is on fire and the Janissaries are revolting again. Lada realises that the fire is drawing soldiers away from the palace, leaving Mehmed unprotected. Lada finds Mehmed, who is safe, but is stabbed by one of the leaders of the Janissaries, Ilyas. He plans to assassinate Mehmed, to stop him from going to Constantinople. Lazar, who is in on the plan, tries to protect Radu but Radu kills him. Radu helps Lada stop Ilyas, who is later executed. Lada and Radu hug.
After the revolt, Lada finds out that Mehmed has had another son. Huma arrives and tells Mehmed that she has killed Mehmed’s baby half-brother, because he presented a threat to Mehmed’s throne. Mehmed arrests his mother, but not before Huma implicates Lada and Radu. Lada reveals what she did to remove Mehmed from the throne years ago, but says it was all her plan, not Radu’s. Lada convinces Mehmed to pass a law that a Sultan can kill his own brother if he thinks that brother poses a threat to the Empire. Mehmed does so, but is distraught as he has just condemned one of his own sons to death in the future.
Bogdan reveals to Lada that her father is dead. Lada tells Radu and is angry when he says he already knows. Lada tries to give the throne to Radu, who refuses, because he loves Mehmed more than he loves her or Wallachia.
Lada goes to Mehmed with her contingent of Wallachian Janissaries. She asks Mehmed to let her become prince of Wallachia. He asks her to marry him, but she refuses. She says she only will if he gives up Constantinople. He says no and then makes her vaivode.
Mehmed cries in Radu’s arms when Lada leaves. Radu consoles him by making him focus on Constantinople. Lada arrives in Wallachia and calls herself Lada Dracul, the dragon.