And how will you know when you’ve found this elusive someone?
I suspect she will be like air. Like knowing how to breathe.
I began The Wrath and the Dawn with trepidation. My boss read it first and passed on the advance copy, saying, “It was amazing! Well, until the end.” This made me very wary as a die-hard romantic, but still curious. It was well worth the experience, especially now that I know that it’s slated to be a trilogy.
In Khorasan, the ruling Caliph, Khalid, is an 18-year-old monster. Every night, he takes another young bride from his city, only to have her executed the next morning. His people live in fear and anger, but none is angrier than Shahrzad, whose best friend was one of the doomed brides. Shahrzad devises a plan: to volunteer as a bride, make it past her sunrise death sentence, and kill the Caliph, putting an end to his reign of terror.
With her strong will and cunning, Shahrzad not only manages to stay alive, but also gets Khalid to fall in love with her. She did not expect to discover how much more there is to the boy-king she once saw only as a murderer – and to fall for him as well.
Renee Ahdieh wrote this as a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, giving a much richer backstory to the king and queen as they fall in love as well as adding mysticism and magic. Overall, she delivers a strong, intelligent protagonist with an exciting romance and a strong ending that leaves you clamoring for the next installment.
Ahdieh’s writing is touching and lyrical in a way that makes you want to underline entire paragraphs or print them up and read them all the time. Khalid and Shahrzad’s love story was especially poignant, though could be described as overly sentimental by less sappy readers than I. The couple’s steady ascent to love, especially the pinnacle, caused my eyes to water and my mouth to squee out loud.
I know love is fragile. And loving someone like you is near impossible. Like holding something shattered through a raging sandstorm. If you want her to love you, shelter her from that storm…And make certain that storm isn’t you.
Love triangles are no new concept to young adult fiction, but Ahdieh presents one in a refreshing and realistic way I didn’t realize I wanted until I was reading it. Instead of the classic “Which one?” conflict, our heroine falls in love with Khalid while simultaneously falling out of love with her first love and betrothed, Tariq.
There are many significantly underdeveloped plot points in the novel, most notably the mysticism Shahrzad’s father explores to save his daughter, and that Shahrzad herself later gets a hint of. It’s difficult to analyze how much of an oversight this was, since there was definitely evidence more will be revealed in the following two books, but at the time of reading, it fell flat in the overall story. The first half of the book was also a little slow to get going, but as the action and romance picked up the pace, it became near impossible to stop reading.
The Wrath and the Dawn’s ending left me languishing in misery for days, desperate for the next book. I don’t get a lot of book hangovers, but this story definitely stuck in my mind long after I’d finished reading.
If you don’t like romantic books, you’re not going to enjoy this one. There’s a lot of romance, and it’s awesome, but not for everyone. Beyond that, I’d recommend to anyone looking for a strong female protagonist, especially a diverse one, which isn’t found often in epic love stories like this one. There is also sexual activity (not graphic at all but very clearly occurs — they are married, after all) and violence, so if you’re thinking about giving this to a teen, they should probably be over the age of 14. If you’re a reader looking for fantasy, I can’t recommend this one to you YET, but I maintain hope that the rest of the trilogy will have a strong magical influence.
4 out of 5 stars
Amber Neva Brown is assistant manager at Main Point Books and a graduate student in Publishing at Rosemont College. She grew up in North Carolina, and her ultimate fandoms are Harry Potter and Doctor Who. She could recommend a book to probably anyone. Find her at Letters from a [Future] Editor and on Twitter @ambernevabrown.