Author: Renee Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn (#1)
Read: May 12th-14th
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: May 12th, 2015
Genre: high fantasy, retelling
In short: even months later, I’m so on the fence about this book. Was it good? In parts. But it was not so much a retelling that told the story differently than one that just…told us the same story over again.
Goodreads: One Life to One Dawn.
In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.
Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?
Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.
I’m not sure what I really wanted from this novel, but I definitely wanted something original, something that made me sit up and think about A Thousand and One Nights differently. This…didn’t. Too bad the writing was pretty, because I sure didn’t get to enjoy it.
≫ THE PLOT:
“Love is a force unto itself, sayyidi. For love, people consider the unthinkable… and often achieve the impossible. I would not sneer at its power.”
Shahrzad’s best friend Shiva has just been murdered by the insane caliph of Khorasan, and Shazi is determined to have her revenge. She volunteers to marry the caliph despite the job’s obvious risks—the caliph kills his wives the day after he marries them, just like he killed Shiva. She gives up her loving fiancé, her family, and her comfortable life all to finally avenge the dozens of girls that have fallen victim to the caliph. But Shazi soon discovers that Khalid is not all he seems… *drumroll* *sound of a thousand gasps*
I’d definitely give this a slow pace warning. There was no real foreshadowing of what might happen in the beginning of the novel, so there were barely any edge-of-the-seat moments. I wasn’t reading at top speed to find out what happened; I was skimming to get to a good moment. And there were far too many POVs! Even now I can remember reading from the view of Shahrzad’s fiancé’s friend and wondering why I should even care. There was a chapter from her sister’s POV too that I felt was unnecessary. That definitely needed to have been condensed.
What did this plot need? Originality! Except for some cray magic that stays in the background of the plot till the very end and a love triangle (of all things!), The Wrath and the Dawn is just the same story over again. Unless you count Shahrzad’s thirst for revenge as a twist? Even so, it’s a minor one. Bad enough that the story was tediously familiar, but then there was the typical angst one finds in a love triangle, which (you know me) I could definitely have done without. Honestly, I liked the parts when Shazi was telling Khalid the story of A Thousand and One Nights, because it meant we didn’t have to go through pages of her swearing she’d kill him and then thinking but oh the flutters in my stomach, whatever can they mean?!
≫ THE SETTING:
This was some good stuff. The setting felt genuinely authentic, and I liked that the author didn’t shy away from immersing the story in the language and culture of the region and time. Even something so seemingly regular as the constant use of the respectful sayyidi was a plus point.
≫ THE PROTAGONIST:
“I never lose, nor am I afraid to spill blood.”
I could’ve been on board the Shahrzad train if not for 1. the love triangle and 2. the countless clumsy mistakes she makes. The love triangle, as you can guess, makes for some ridiculous angst (although it’s even worse from the perspective of her beloved, Tariq). But the recklessness? The mindless defiance? Hello, excuse me, I would like to exchange this for Kestrel Trajan.
Isn’t Shahrzad supposed to be a brilliant schemer? Isn’t she supposed to have been compelling and charming—I mean, her charm literally keeps her alive. I get the idea behind making her a reckless teenager at the same time, I really do. It keeps her a little more relatable. But it means that some of the things she does—revealing her hand, being generally careless—make her look illogical if you dig deep enough. Her scheme is literally high treason, and being discovered could have horrible consequences for both her family and her beloved, no matter how rich and powerful they are. If she died in the process, what would her death achieve? Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that she needs to be as careful as she can possibly be. And what does she do? She shows the caliph’s best friend that she’s an excellent archer. Great job, Shazi. Really.
I get that she’s angry. But for once, for once, I’d have preferred a protag that wasn’t a typical hotheaded YA heroine.
≫ THE OTHER CHARACTERS:
I liked the other characters better than I did Shahrzad, except for her raging, annoying fiancé and his pal. Tariq and Rahim fumed a lot, paced a lot, waxed poetic about Shahrzad a lot, and then plotted extremely stupidly. Tariq reminded me a lot of that hopeless rebel guy from Falling Kingdoms, who’s apparently charismatic and brave or whatever but I never saw it. Honestly, Tariq, stop whining about your girl. His schemes are so painful to hear about, and not just because I wanted to skip through all his chapters. I don’t want to hear about what Shahrzad’s hair looks like under the setting sun, all right? I don’t think these POVs were supposed to be subtly telling the reader about how fabulous the MC is, but it wound up sounding like that anyway.
Khalid, though, I did like. Even though his dilemma is fairly cliché and reminiscent of the bad-boy-who’s-not-really-a-bad-boy trope, I actually enjoyed his chapters and his voice. Yes, all right, he’s tormented. But somehow I felt for him far more than I did for any other character.
I have a beef with Despina as well, though. I know it won’t sound very polite. But why exactly did this book require a white character? I’m dead serious. The setting lends itself to an all-POC cast, which is absolutely fantastic. And…our main character’s buddy is a white slave. Note: not to say white slaves never existed in all of history. I am no expert. But all I’m saying is, was it necessary? Could she not have had a POC buddy? Despina’s culture is irrelevant to the story; her status as a downtrodden slave matters more than her whiteness. So…why, again? It felt as if the white character was inserted so white people could relate. Hmm…hmmm…hmmmmmmmmm…now, what races really need that again?
≫ OF VILLAINS:
All I’m saying is…Jafar.
Kidding. But seriously, the villains are just about as ostentatious as he is. You can smell them from a mile away.
≫ THE ROMANCE:
“Love is – a shade of what I feel.”
So I won’t get into the love triangle, because I’m sure everyone who reads this blog knows how much I loathe them. Add in the fact that Tariq really got on my nerves, and you have one extremely unhappy me.
I liked the development between Shahrzad and Khalid, but it was far, far, far too rushed. Maybe that’s a by-product of the hundred and twelve POVs, but I wish it had slowed down a little so I could have enjoyed it more.
≫ THE ENDING:
The ending, in contrast with the beginning, happens a bit too hastily for my liking. And no one likes cliffhangers, no matter how meta the idea is.
≫ TO SUMMARISE:
I’m still on the fence about it, so I wouldn’t recommend this book—but neither would I discourage you from reading it. I mean, lots of other people liked it. Just go into The Wrath and the Dawn armed with caution.