The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1)
By: Renee Ahdieh
Publication Date: May 12th 2015
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 have to admit, I bought the book in anticipation of a signing event happening in my neighborhood soon (my need for signed books is real). Also, because my co-blogger had recommended it to me. Because she has excellent taste, I wasn’t actually that surprised when Wrath and the Dawn turned out to be awesome.
I’ve read a few Arabian Nights retellings in my time, my (previous) favorite having been The Storyteller’s Daughter by Cameron Dokey. That is a more measured retelling, with a wise, clever Shaharizad who weaves tales with a mastery to keep her king captive. With that as my baseline, I felt totally unprepared for the fire inherent in Wrath and the Dawn. Shahrzad is a fiery, driven and independent young woman, who pursues her own path regardless of what stands in her way. And Khalid felt young, despite his horrific reputation–someone who combined the bitterness of age and the insecurity of youth. However, the emotion present throughout the book made Shahrzad and Khalid jump off the page.
You can debate about how much this is really a retelling of the Arabian Nights. Although it starts out with the same premise–the wife-killing king, the storytelling volunteer to be Queen, a love for the ages–it very quickly becomes Ahdieh’s book. The tension of whether Shahrzad will die is resolved in the first half of the book (spoiler: she doesn’t), and from the first page Ahdieh wants us to understand that there’s a tragic reason behind Khalid’s need to murder young women. Additional characters like Jalal, Tariq, and Despina help to round out the story and make it feel less like a retelling and more like an original tale. Although there are numerous vague hints scattered throughout the story, it becomes apparent towards the end that there’s a deeper, darker plot underneath. It makes me wonder whether Arabian Nights really was just a jumping-off point for Wrath and the Dawn.
What sold this book for me, though, was the romance. Call me a sap if you’d like, but I found the story of Shahrzad and Khalid to be far and away the most gripping part of the book. I anticipated that they would fall in love, but I didn’t anticipate the amount of raw emotion that Ahdieh would pour into the book, and how much it would tear at my own heartstrings. Say what you will about the idea of falling in love with a monster, there’s something…intriguing…about the idea presented, the almost helplessness of falling in love, that touched me. I also appreciated the potential for a love triangle with Shahrzad, Khalid and Tariq, but how that was neatly subverted.
This book is not without its faults. I had some difficulty getting into it, when there were so many characters (half of them unnamed) thrown at me from different angles. I wasn’t a big fan of the snippets of Tariq and Jahandar, even though they built up to a crescendo–they didn’t seem to make sense for a large part of the book. I also wanted more of a reason to root for Shahrzad and Khalid. Although I loved their story, I felt like there were some places where Renee Ahdieh was relying on my being so wrapped up in emotion to ignore some small plot holes and hurried character development. Which, kudos to her, I did mostly ignore in my desire to get to the sexy bits, but I did note anyways. For instance, Shahrzad’s connection to Shiva was never fully specified, which made it difficult to get behind the depth of emotion there, and yet surprisingly easy to ignore when Shahrzad abandoned all emotion towards her dead friend. But, like I said, I skimmed those parts in order to get to the parts with Shahrzad and Khalid, so I don’t feel like I can complain too much.
Arabian Nights isn’t my favorite fairy tale–it’s hard to forgive someone who’s murdered a few dozen women just for the hell of it–but I have to admit that Renee Ahdieh did a masterful job with Wrath and the Dawn, both for weaving a love story for the ages and using an ancient tale as a jumping-off point rather than the entire plot. I am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to read The Rose and the Dagger, and just as eagerly looking forward to having Renee Ahdieh sign my books.
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.