Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn # 1) by Renee Ahdieh
Number of Pages: 404
Date Published: May 12, 2015
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
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.
One hundred lives for the one you took. One life to one dawn. Should you fail but a single morn, I shall take from you your dreams. I shall take from you your city. And I shall take from you these lives, a thousandfold.
Damn it. I knew I should have listened to those incessant warnings about hopes rekindling and hearts melting to an alarming degree. I told you so, people. This book is a force to be reckoned with. Well, enough grumbling on my part. If it isn’t obvious enough, here’s my unsurprising verdict – I LOVED THIS BOOK.
The Wrath and the Dawn is the first installment of Renee Ahdieh’s series. It is essentially one of the many retellings of One Thousand and One Nights, the story of Shahryar, a king who was known for having his wives executed because of his first wife’s infidelity, and Scheherazade, a Vizier’s daughter who offers herself as the next bride, whose great wisdom spared her from customary execution. The Wrath and the Dawn follows a similar plot with Khalid Ibn al-Rashid as the Caliph of Khorasan and Shahrzad al-Khayzuran as the fearless daughter who harbors hatred in her heart and desires nothing more than revenge for the death of her dear friend.
I loved almost everything about this book. Even if I start reading another, I would not easily forget Shahrzad’s fierceness, her resolve, her struggle, her usual banters with Despina and Jalal, her development, etc. I loved the connection between Shahrzad and her companions – the Rajput, Jalal, and Despina especially. Everone has mastered the art of sarcasm, and I can never love them enough for it. Oh and did I mention that I love (in the very essence of the word) Khalid? Thank you YA authors for giving us complex characters to gush about.
There’s plenty of world building as well, so you don’t have to worry about that. It was like reaching for a light switch in the dark at first, but you get used to it after two chapters or so. The writing is gorgeous. Come to think of it, I guess everything I like about this book can well be attributed to Ahdieh’s writing style. Some samples:
Sarcasm and wit – One can never have enough
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, my lord.” Shahrzad offered him a ready smile. She bowed her head and touched her fingertips to her brow.
“By all that is holy, Khalid-jan – she is a vision.” Though Salim looked at her, he addressed Khalid, treating Shahrzad as little more than a tapestry hanging on his nephew’s wall. It rankled her.
Shahrzad held firm to her smile. “A vision with eyes and ears, my lord.”
“I wish I possessed your particular brand of optimism,” Rahim grumbled.
“And what brand would that be?”
Cultural practices (Why of course I’m going to use a paragraph about food)
Soon, platters of food were brought before them – steaming buttery basmati rice with bright orange saffron staining its center, surrounded by lamb in a savory sauce of dates, caramelized onions, and tangy barberries; skewers of marinated chicken and roasted tomatoes, served alongside chilled yogurt and cucumbers; fresh herbs and lavash bread, with rounds of goat cheese and sliced red radishes splashing brilliant colors against a polished wood background.
(Now wouldn’t we all just want to instagram that?)
Khalid and Shahrzad
“You were saying?” He was so close, his words were more breath than sound.
“How- how dare you say that to me?” she whispered.
His eyes glittered with something akin to amusement.
“How dare I imply you caused this mess?”
“Me? This is not my fault! This is your fault!”
“You and your temper, Khalid!”
“No. You and your mouth, Shazi.”
“Wrong, you wretched lout!”
“See? That mouth.” He reached up and grazed his thumb across her lips. “That – magnificent mouth.”
Surprisingly, this romance kept me up until the wee hours of the night. Yes, folks. I’ve always rolled my eyes at cheesy statements. Arduous sentences confuse me. Hence, my aversion towards NA and my sky-high expectations for YA, but hear me out first. I think the romance in The Wrath and the Dawn might have affected me greatly because (and this will sound illogical beyond words) I have not come across such an ideal match in a long time. Throw in the usual forbidden love scenario and their ridiculous chemistry and bam, you are granted access to the perfect ship. Maybe that doesn’t make sense right now, but it will, I promise.
Lastly, let’s talk about that 4-star rating. Why not five stars if it’s glaringly obvious that I loved the book so much? Because as much as I enjoyed the romance between Khalid and Shahrzad, I can’t deny the fact that the relationship is founded on some degree of instalove. Reread the first one hundred pages, and you’ll know what I mean.
Instalove upsets me, no question about that. Even though it was not as severe as “I couldn’t catch my breath as his amber eyes continued to gaze deep into my soul” (meh), the fact that our main character fell in love with a man she hated for so long in a span of ___ pages is unsettling. Khalid’s transformation was also puzzling. HOWEVER, (and I am saying this to reassure you) overlooking that matter was the best decision I’ve ever made. Their romance may have been too instantaneous for my taste, but it is the development of their relationship that is worth reading again and again.
Moreover, I wish there were more of Shazi’s stories. There’s just something weirdly appealing about stories within stories, so here’s to hoping some of them may be found in the next book.
Okay, let’s put everything into perspective. To me, The Wrath and the Dawn is a wonderful first installment. There’s enough world building to fill your fantasy cravings and this goes very well with an amusing set of characters, a gorgeous writing style, and a ridiculously good romance that is undoubtedly worth the fuss.
I also kind of, sort of have this conversation stuck in my head:
“What are you doing to me, you plague of a girl?” he whispered.
“If I’m a plague, then you should keep your distance, unless you plan on being destroyed.” The weapons still in her grasp, she shoved against his chest.
“No.” His hands dropped to her waist. “Destroy me.”
I know right. What has this book done to me? Help?
*Word of advice: Do not neglect the glossary. Context clues are never enough.
Favorite Quotes from the Wrath and the Dawn
“My soul sees its equal in you.”
“We women are a sad lot, aren’t we?”
“What do you mean?”
“Strong enough to take on the world with our bare hands, yet we permit ridiculous boys to make fools of us.”
“I am not a fool.”
“No, you’re not. Not yet.”
“I love you, a thousand times over. And I will never apologize for it.”
“Love is—a shade of what I feel.”