Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath And The Dawn Renee Ahdieh
The Wrath And The Dawn Renee Ahdieh cover

Title: The Wrath and the Dawn 
Author: Renee Ahdieh 
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1 
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling, YA 
Publication date: May 12, 2015 
Rating: ★★★★ 

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?

People fall in and out of love with the rising and setting of the sun. Rather like a boy who loves the color green one day, only to discover on the morrow that he truly prefers blue.

After everyone hyping about this book for months, I just couldn’t be left behind. I finally ordered the book and the moment I started reading it, I knew I was going to finish the entire series before the week came to an end. Sometimes you just know. Before you start being impressed, the series is only two books and three novellas long.

I loved The Wrath and the Dawn and most of all its characters. It’s loosely inspired by the stories of A Thousand and One Nights and I loved the Oriental atmosphere that was created. My mind start drifting away on the feel of magic, splendid palaces, silk and cashmere clothing, strong aromatic tea, beds overflown with pillows… You get the picture. The writing is excellent. The way the words flow and create pictures in your head is something else. Renee Ahdieh shaped her world so vibrantly. The storytelling is really vivid and beautiful.

Life in Khorasan is a constant struggle for teenage girls. Each night Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph, chooses a new bride only to have her hanged the next dawn. Anyone can be next. Shiva is one of those girls. When her family gets message of her death, her best friend Shahrzad Al-Khayzuran vows to avenge her. Not only will she make the monster pay for what he did, she will make sure no one dies at his hand ever again. So she goes to the palace and marries him and above all expectation manages to stay alive. She tells the Caliph stories that capture his interest and then leaves them unfinished – tempting him to let her live.

I will live to see tomorrow's sunset. Make no mistake. I swear. I will live to see as many sunsets as it takes. And I will kill you. With my bare hands.

Shazi was a… force. She was bold, brave, determined and most of all captivating. She didn’t ever take no for an answer and made sure everyone understood that. And yet she also had that delicate and vulnerable side that made her easy to relate to. She’s an inspiration to every girl ever and everything you want your heroine to be.

Get up, Shahrzad al-Khayzuran. You kneel before no one. Least of all me.

And then there is Khalid Ibn Al-Rashid. I should have hated him, at least in the beginning – but it was pretty obvious from the start that there was a reason for him killing all those girls. And I know that sounds completely hypocrite, because murder is always wrong – but I fell in love with Khalid anyway. So did Shazi. I think it’s proof of the great writing that Renee Ahdieh managed to create sympathy for someone who was clearly not deserving of it. I remember it made me wonder how often we do this in real life. Forgiving someone for something horrendous because we love them, or because somehow it seemed the right thing to do at the time.

The more a person pushes others away, the clearer it becomes he is in need of love the most.

There are some important side characters as well. Tariq is one of them. He was Shazi’s boyfriend before she decided to become the Calipha of Khorasan. We get a couple of chapters through his POV and we learn that he’s trying to raise an army to save Shazi from Khalid. I’ve noticed that most people couldn’t care less about him – and I for one think that’s completely unfair. I liked Tariq. A lot. And yes, I shipped Shazi and Khalid. That had nothing to do with it. It’s not his fault that Shazi decides to fall in love with a monster. How could he possibly have known that? I think it’s admirable that he tries anything in his power to save her. Even if she doesn’t need saving. I thought he was interesting and I understood his pain. He may not have always made the wisest life decisions, but I’m sure he will be important in the next book as well.

A shared history does not entitle you to a future.

There is also Despina, Shazi’s… lady in waiting? I’m not sure what to call her. Anyway, she soon becomes Shazi’s friend/confidante and… I didn’t trust her. Not for a second. Which is funny, because her everyone else seems to love. Ah well, swim against the stream and all that jazz. Other characters I loved a lot more were Jalal and Rahim. I hope they will get more important in the next book. Especially Jalal, he was a piece of work but so much FUN.

I liked this book a lot. I know it’s a retelling of some sort, but it didn’t feel that way. This read like an original. Maybe I’m just not familiar enough with A Thousand And One Nights. The most surprising element in the book was – for me - the fact that Khalid is such an anti-hero and that Renee Ahdieh made that work perfectly. And that I fell for it, despite my better judgement. That’s always the best thing, right? When year head is full of ‘buts’ and your heart just ignores them all.

There is potential for boundless good in the boy I knew. Trust that the man you see now is a shadow of what lies beneath. If you would, give him the love that will enable him to see it for himself. To a lost soul, such a treasure is worth its weight in gold. Worth its weight in dreams.

And yet there was still something missing for me. Some parts were rushed. I wanted more depth in certain scenes and a slower pacing for the development of Shazi and Khalid’s relationship. Sometimes Khalid was just not mysterious or distant enough. But this doesn’t outweigh everything there was to love about The Wrath and the Dawn, so go read it and fall in love with Khorasan.

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