Title: The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Publication date: May 2015
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books
Length: 416 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Young-adult, Retelling, Romance
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’d seen The Wrath and the Dawn floating around ever since it came out, but I was never particularly interested in reading it until I fell on Liam’s review. This was the first negative reaction I’d seen to this book and it piqued my interest more than any of the good reviews, so I decided it was high time to judge for myself whether this book deserved the hype.
(Well not entirely)
You see, this book could’ve been amazing, I readily admit that, but there were aspects to it that overshadowed all the good parts about the story as a whole.
- The world-building was excellent. Unlike a lot of fantasy books, there was no exposition scene, or a revelation through a character telling a story or something like that, instead readers are thrust into a vaguely Arabian setting where the fine details are slowly revealed through small actions as the story unfolds. While this might seem off-putting, it allows each reader to build up a world entirely their own, since there are barely any specifics. Much like the story itself, the world is a mystery to be discovered.
- Ahdieh did a wonderful job at describing Shazi’s perception of time over the course of the book. At first, like her, we are aware of every single second, but as she settles into a routine, it also becomes a routine for the reader with days flying by. Personally I was delighted by how well this was done, given the fact that time is one of the novel’s central themes.
- Expanding on that, the writing was spectacular—description wise. It was vivid, nothing bored me, and it immediately sucked me into the story; one of the things everyone else gushes over is the descriptions of the food, and I have to agree with them, I loved the way they were done (I was reading one of them while in class before lunch and, let me tell you, it did me no favours).
- The relationships between characters were something I really enjoyed. Shazi and Khalid aside (I’ll get to them further on), I loved the intricate web of relationships Ahdieh built between seemingly unconnected character, but also how those relationships developed during the course of the book. Despina’s relationship with Shazi was one that had me incredibly interested because Shazi recently lost her best friend which impacted the way she interacted with Despina and how close she was prepared to become with her. The fact that they formed a significant friendship, despite the external factors that might’ve prevented this in other cases, is heart-warming and I look forward to seeing more of it in the sequel.
- The image Shazi gave of herself was incredibly entertaining and one of my favourite things about her. I loved her sharp tongue, quick wittiness, and the way she manipulated pretty much everyone to get what she wanted. While the contrasts between what she actually felt and what she projected was incredibly well done, adding even more layers to her character.
- While there are quite a few aspects to the romance that I didn’t like, even I have to admit that some of Khalid’s lines made me weak:
‘What are you doing to me, you plague of a girl?’ he [Khalid] whispered
‘If I’m a plague, then you should keep your distance unless you plan on being destroyed.’ The weapons still in her [Shazi’s] grasp, she shoved against his chest.
‘No.’ His hand dropped to her waist. ‘Destroy me.’
The bow and arrow clattered to the ground as he brought his mouth to hers.
(damn if that doesn’t make me melt a little)
- Ahdieh’s characters in general are incredibly well constructed (with one exception) without fitting a single mould; each is unique with their own qualities and flaws while their true motivations are only hinted at, where most are concerned, which adds an extra element of mystery.
- The insta-love. I’ve never had an issue with insta-love, personally, but this book took it a little too far. The only reason Shazi marries Khalid is to avenge her best friend, Shiva, by killing him but she starts having doubts the second day of their marriage. Beyond having spent the night together where she narrates her first story, they hadn’t really learned much about each other at that point so it seems implausible that she would have a change of heart this early on. I mean I understand that each day is supposed to feel like a life time at first, but this makes Shiva’s death feel like it only existed to further the plot, which is something I take issue with (what with being quite attached to my best friend and all).
- Khalid’s behaviour is all over the place. I don’t know if this is intentional or not, given the way he grew up and all, but one minute he’s all dark and broody and then he cracks a joke before going back to the dark and broody persona. I’m all for the ‘character A is a hardass to everyone until he meets character B who makes him melt’ trope but the way it was executed here was mildly irritating. Instead of appearing tall, dark, and handsome, Khalid came off as a melodramatic 13-year-old who believed the entire world was against him, which didn’t do many favours for his character.
- Tariq’s entire character pissed me off to no end. He’s so incredibly childish about the way he reacts to Shazi’s plan, and I feel like he should have trusted her—at least in the beginning. Honestly, I’d rather he had been a separate antagonist who saw Khalid’s weakness in Shazi, and decided to use her, rather than add this unnecessary love triangle, when it’s clear from the second day who Shazi will end up with.
- The entire reason for Khalid’s behaviour was revealed in the prologue?? I think the book would’ve been so much better if the reader learned about it at the same time as Shazi. If you haven’t read this book, do yourself a favour and skip the prologue entirely, I promise you, it’ll make for a greater reading experience.
I still can’t decide how, exactly, I feel about this book. While I liked reading it well enough, the use of Shiva’s death as a way to simply further the plot left a bad taste in my mouth from the very beginning and I would’ve preferred it if the romance had developed much slower, showing Shazi’s growing conflicting feelings over Khalid—which would’ve been mirrored in the reader. The early reveal, no doubts in hopes of getting the readers on Khalid’s start from the very beginning, robbed the story from achieving a higher potential. On the other hand, there are elements about it that I simply loved and couldn’t get enough off, ones that I really hope are present in the sequel (which I will obviously be picking up because I have so many questions after that ending).