Title: The Wrath and The Dawn (2015)
Series: The Wrath and The Dawn – Book 1
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 388 pages
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.
I’m a big fan of retellings, especially when what’s being retold is something different. The Wrath and The Dawn is the re-told story of Scheherazade, the legendary Arabic queen who wedded a king who would marry a woman every day and then execute her at dawn. Now, this made me even more biased because I actually love the story of Scheherazade—it’s an exotic tale and definitely not a ‘cliché’, as far as YA literature goes.
And how I love Shahrzad (Shazi), the incarnation of Scheherazade in this book! She was incredibly snappy, incredibly intelligent, and incredibly brave. I didn’t exactly identify with her, but I certainly connected with and cared about her. I wanted her to survive. When she started falling in love with Khalid, she was so conflicted, so torn between what she came to do and what she learned about him, that I couldn’t help but to sympathise with her. Shazi is definitely the highlight of this story, and for good reason, too.
“You are not weak. You are not indecisive. You are strong. Fierce. Capable beyond measure.”
Khalid is a different matter altogether. Like Shazi, I started the book fully expecting to hate him, to fear him, and to feel disgusted at what he was doing—and like Shazi, sooner or later I couldn’t help but to feel for him. He was rude, arrogant, and extremely closed-off and hard to get to know, but over time he became softer around the edges, kinder, gentler. This was a troubled young boy responsible for his whole kingdom—a position that he wasn’t actually fully prepared for. I couldn’t help but to want him to be happy, too.
Because of Khalid, many times throughout the story I pondered over the debate between good and evil. His actions were evil, and he should then be considered an ‘evil’ person—but when I found out why he was driven to commit these acts of murder, I had to ask: is he, really? If some of his actions are evil, does that automatically make him an evil person? What if his intentions are actually good—what then? It’s not always so black and white after all.
“I love you, a thousand times over. And I will never apologize for it.”
Now, this book is told in third person, and although we largely hear from Shazi, occasionally we get to hear from Khalid, her father, and other characters as well. Each character has their own goals and motivations, and this made the story dynamic and multi-dimensional, enforcing the idea that not everything is as it seems. What looks evil isn’t always evil, and what looks good isn’t always good, and Ahdieh did a really good job of weaving this never-ending debate into the story through the characters’ eyes.
One of my major complaints with culturally inspired YA novels is that oftentimes, the setting seems whitewashed, only with foreign-sounding names. Not so with The Wrath and The Dawn. Instead, the world Ahdieh has built feels authentic to me, and not just in name, too. Her writing is beautiful and elegant, and I loved how much time she spent polishing the little details and describing the little things—it made it feel all the more special.
“There is no one I would rather see the sunrise with than you.”
The Wrath and The Dawn is one of my favourite reads of this year. From the beginning until the end, this story captured me—it was otherworldly, suspenseful and downright enchanting. Ahdieh definitely knows exactly how to spin words into a tale that sucks you right in.
** TL;DR: I’m so, so in love with this book and I think everyone should go and read it now!