Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Summary: “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.” (Summary found on Goodreads).
“The more a person pushes others away, the clearer it becomes he is in need of love the most.”
This was the first book I read for Booktube-a-Thon 2017 and I loved it so much. Surprisingly, I actually started it sometime last year and I was so bored I had to put it down…and yet now I’m giving it a raving 5 star review with little complaints. A brief explanation on how that changed: I got out of whatever book slump I was in at the time. Let’s just say, I am beyond glad I gave this novel a second chance.
The Wrath & the Dawn is an atmospheric retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, the story of the man who marries a new woman each day and kills her at sunrise. This continues Shahrzad comes along and tricks him into keeping her alive by telling only part of a story. He becomes so interested in the story that he must keep her alive to hear the rest. Gradually, they fall in love at the end. I had already read a retelling of this book ages ago, Shadow Spinner, which was required reading for my seventh grade year. This was so much better than that, and I had a ton more motivation because I wasn’t forced to read this book for a grade. Honestly, people need to stop giving kids required reading, just give them opportunities to choose a book. That’s another argument though (and I think I have a “My Thoughts” post on it from approximately two years ago when I still did those oops).
This retelling was so perfect because it encapsulated (nearly) everything a retelling should be. I’m not so much for loose retellings, and this wasn’t one of those, but it wasn’t strict either. It followed the general idea and the main character’s name was Shahrzad as well. Then it continued to the idea of them falling in love, and so on and so forth. The Wrath & the Dawn was more interesting than the original, with characters that are, in my opinion, more fleshed out and intriguing. It was beautiful.
“Some things exist in our lives for but a brief moment. And we must let them go on to light another sky.”
On the characters, I loved Shazi (and what a cute nickname, it perfectly suits her). She’s such a strong female, determined to avenge her friend’s wrongful death at the hands of Khalid, and has a conscience when she realizes her feelings for him. Furthermore, Khalid was a really exciting character to read about. Especially, when it came to the “big reveal” plot twist because I didn’t see that one coming. It’s always nice to not be expecting one, especially when most books have a level of predictability that this one didn’t have (and I’m so grateful for that). I especially love morally ambiguous characters, and more so when you cannot see their motives.
I also have a soft spot for secondary characters and I loved Jalal. I’m very glad that he didn’t develop a romance with Shahrzad (and I was worried in the beginning) because they worked out so much better platonically. I also think I have a thing for captains of the guard (I’m looking at you, Chaol Westfall).
“You honestly expect me to breathe in a world without air?”
Lastly, Renée Ahdieh has a gift with words. The Wrath & the Dawn trapped me inside its world and I never wanted to leave (despite reading it in a singular day). Everything about it was beautiful. I aspire to write so wonderfully as Ahdieh.
“It was because they were two parts of a whole. He did not belong to her. And she did not belong to him. It was never about belonging to someone. It was about belonging together.”
Leaving with this quote seems right because I want to touch upon a theme I noticed…I think there was a strong bit of feminism and equality here. I’m not sure if this has been mentioned in many other reviews, but Shahrzad and Khalid always made points to claim each other as equals, which is something you so rarely see in fiction. It was just another touch that made me fall in love with it a bit more.
If I have any complaints here, it was that the addition of magic to this novel felt a bit out of place. I would probably not have included it, but maybe it works better in the sequel. It was so loosely thrown in and it played such a small role to the plot, I just felt as though it didn’t have a point. Hopefully this’ll change with The Rose & the Dagger.
I highly recommend picking this one up! And if you don’t like it at first, maybe you’re in a slump.