Title: The Wrath & The Dawn (The Wrath & The Dawn #1)
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Source: Purchased from Amazon
Page Count: 388 pgs.
Summary (From Goodreads): 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.
The Wrath & The Dawn is one of two novels I’ve seen recently that were inspired by A Thousand and One Nights (AKA Arabian Nights). The story of Shahrzad weaving tales every night to save her life is one that has intrigued me since I first learned about it in my 7th grade social studies class and so I’ve been meaning to read this book since it first came out. I had read a story based on it during our unit on The Middle East (since that was also my English class) but I don’t really remember much about it except that I didn’t like it that much, instead I had wanted to read Cameron Dokey’s The Storyteller’s Daughter. Of course, like most people, I remember the individual fairy tale like stories of Ali Baba and Aladdin as opposed to the frame narrative and so I appreciate The Wrath & The Dawn‘s ability to fill in the gaps.
I’ve had this book for a while (since it was first released) and I had never read it for a number of reasons, most of them being that I had been busy with school. After purchasing the hardcover, however, and signing up for the #ReadThemAllThon, I was determined to finally read this book and I’m so glad that I finally did.
The Wrath & The Dawn takes place in the kingdom (caliphate?) of Khorasan which is ruled over by a seemingly soulless and evil caliph who takes a woman for a wife every night only to have her killed the next day. The reasons behind these senseless murders are unknown to those who live under the caliph’s rule but they are angry at the thought of having to give up their daughters. Shahrzad, who has lost her best friend to this cycle of marriage and murder, has volunteered to be the caliph’s next wife in order to enact a plan of vengeance and to end these killers. Her plan is to tell stories to bide herself more time while she waits for the perfect opportunity to kill the man who took the life of her best friend.
First of all, Renée Ahdieh is a master at vivid descriptions, which is something that I adore when it comes to books. I know that some people can feel overwhelmed by lengthy descriptions and feel that it doesn’t add much to the story but The Wrath & The Dawn works hard to describe things in vivid detail without overwhelming the reader, striking a balance between what is necessary and what is too much and the story is all the better for it. I especially love her descriptions of food, which several people told me were going to be absolutely perfect before I’d even started the book. They were definitely worth reading and definitely made my mouth water. I also adored her descriptions of clothing, even if I didn’t really know what everything was (the glossary in the back was super helpful) and of Shahrzad’s make-up and jewelry. I felt as though nearly everything in the book came to life in front of me and now wish that Renée Ahdieh was there to describe everything for me all the time.
Shahrzad, as a main character, embodies so many of the things that young adult heroines traditionally are. She is independent, brave, defiant, etc. This is both good and bad to me as I liked her but there didn’t really seem to be much that set her apart from other YA heroines. I also felt like there were times where she was judgmental to the point that she made me uncomfortable because it didn’t make sense to me. She was rash to the point where she tried too hard to enact her plans and they didn’t work out because they weren’t exactly well thought out. She was definitely more developed than other female characters but that’s because there weren’t many aside from Despina, who she alternated from hating to using to taking advantage of to being sort of friends with. I understand that she had to keep her guard up but I was a bit disappointed at Shahrzad and her character development.
The male characters weren’t very much better. The only one that I really liked was Khalid, to be honest. This comes from the fact that a lot of the men in the story seemed to assume that they know what was best for Shahrzad without any input from her. Tariq is, honestly, one of the biggest culprits of this. Tariq, Shahrzad’s first love, and easily the most annoying character in the entirety of the novel. At the beginning, I assumed that his intentions were from the right place, but honestly, he gets more frustrating in his attempts to save a woman who increasingly doesn’t want to be saved. He’s selfish and he seems to only see Shahrzad as a prize, something that she doesn’t want to be. Alternating chapters often featured the story from Tariq’s point of view and I had to put the book down and ready myself to read his chapters because I knew I was going to get annoyed. His character really seemed unnecessary, especially since even the dust jacket tells you that Shazi falls for Khalid.
I know that YA loves a good love triangle but this one wasn’t good or even sort of interesting. Tariq increased drama in the story but at the cost of my enjoyment of it. That and the fact that there wasn’t more Despina in this novel were my only real problems with it. I also found the ending unsatisfying, but maybe that’s because I just haven’t read the second book yet. Also, the relationship between Shazi and Khalid seems sort of rushed and that wasn’t really my favorite. There was also a relationship between two of the side characters that I wish had been explored more and there are plot developments left open and unresolved that were confusing and made the story feel unfinished and like it dragged on at points.
Overall, the book was enjoyable except for the parts with Tariq and I can’t wait to read the second book.