Title: The Wrath and the Dawn (Book 1 of a duology)
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (May 12, 2015)
A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.
She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.
Review: 5 Stars
I read The Wrath and the Dawn the day it came out and even though I have a few other books I read before this, I’m starting with this one today because I enjoyed it so.
Before it was released I was intrigued that it was inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. The premise of Sheherazade avoiding death through endless nights of storytelling prowess and eventually capturing the heart of a mistrustful (and alas murderous) king has long appealed to me. Go storytellers! I loved the way Renee Ahdieh took this and made it her own in this young adult novel. As a fan of retelling’s I also appreciated getting away from the European fairy tale vibe. The ancient Persian setting is sumptuous in its description of silks, scents, and foods.
The story focus’s relatively tightly around Shahrzad and the young king Khalid. Shahrzad is temperamental, mouthy, and angry but as she continues to evade death and her days in the palace are drawn out her footing becomes less sure. Khalid is cold but not cruel and her resolve to kill him weakens as circumstances cause her to question the reason all his former brides were killed.
Khalid is certainly not blameless in the killings. He could be the evil affecting a few or wash his hands of it and allow evil to affect many. I appreciated the lack of exoneration, I felt something cold and scary should remain of Khalid even after his skeletons aired in order for him to live up to the source inspiration for his character. However he is balanced out by the fact that he is not in fact evil, has deep self-loathing for what has transpired, and a genuine (though unexpressed) concern for his people.
Ahdieh writes some great verbal sword play! Most of this comes from Shazi and makes for some of my favorite scenes… especially dialogue that occurs during a large state dinner of sorts. I also loved the side characters! Each of them were so different and memorable. Here is a run down of a few of my favorites:
Despina: Shazi’s Greek handmaiden. Outspoken. Funny. Voluptuous. Irreverent. Even when I wasn’t sure if she was spying on Shazi for good or ill I wanted to like her. Their personalities were well matched (Shazi would have run over anyone timid) and her presence served an important role for the protagonist since Shahrzads best friend Shiva was dead.
Jalal: Khalid’s cousin and Captain of the Guard. Jalal is one of the only people surrounding Khalid that does not just roll over and accept that the killing of these girls is necessary. He is delighted when Shazi succeeds in staying alive and is one of her biggest supporters. He is also fiercely loyal to Khalid.
Musa Zargoza: A magi of sorts and former tutor of Khalid’s dead mother. He only appears for one scene, but he gifts Shazi with a rather interesting carpet (ahem) and I have no doubt both he and it will feature more heavily in book 2 The Rose and the Dagger.
Tariq: Shahrzad’s fierce handsome childhood sweetheart/fiance whose plan to get her out of danger and away from the king is complicated when he realizes her affections have changed. At first disconcerted, he grows increasingly vengeful and embittered as he plans a rebellion against the boy king.
This book is highly quotable! But I don’t want to spoil it by using my absolute favorites…here are some other good ones.
The corners of Despina’s eyes crinkled with a mixture of dry humor and pity. “The caliph is apparently so enamored, he has gifted you a member of his personal bodyguard.”
Shahrzad balled her hands into firsts. “So I necessitate a spy and a ready executioner?”
“More or less.”
“Tell me why you’re here.” It sounded entreating in his low voice.
I’m here to win.
“Promise me you won’t kill me,” she breathed back.
“I can’t do that.”
“Then there’s nothing more to say.”
“Invite all your bannermen to Rey -every last emir. Let them see that you are not your father. You are not the rumors that have been plaguing you of late. You are a king worthy of their allegiance …with a queen full of fire and promise.”
The edges of Khalid’s mouth turned upward, ever so slightly.
There are many many more where those came from and I left the best and most romantic out. I went into this book very unspoiled and I think enjoyed it that much more because of it.
The sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn comes out next spring. This is supposedly a duology which I am so happy about! Why does everything need to be a trilogy? Here’s to not drawing things out. I cannot wait to continue….this book ends on a very dramatic note that would be considered a cliff hanger.