Finally! Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn is probably the first book I’ve read in 2015 that felt like a truly immersive, page-turning experience. I’ve read plenty of good, but not totally fulfilling, books this year and it was so nice to read something so original and engaging for a change.
The Wrath and the Dawn tells the story of Shahrzad, a teenage girl who volunteers to marry Khalid, a young king notorious for killing his brides the morning after wedding them. There’s a long line of girls murdered at his command, including Shahrzad’s cousin – and she wants revenge. At first Shahrzad is just trying to stay alive long enough to figure out how to kill Khalid, but in the process she begins to realize that Khalid is not just an unfeeling monster, and perhaps there is more to his story.
Still, she is committed to finding his weakness and avenging her family. Things get complicated, however, when Shahrzad realizes that she is Khalid’s weakness. Both Shahrzad and Khalid have secrets, but they are drawn to each other despite themselves. (Because of course, otherwise this story would be way less interesting.) Meanwhile, Shahrzad’s childhood sweetheart is attempting to rescue her with the aid of her father, who’s playing with some dangerous magic.
There is a bit of a mystery running through the story, as both readers and Shahrzad try to understand how and why someone like Khalid is killing his brides, but the bulk of the story focuses on Shahrzad’s various attempts to strategize – first to stay alive, then to determine how to kill the king, and then other delicate, spoilery situations that arise as the book progresses. This aspect of the story reminded me quite a bit of The Winner’s Curse series, where the characters were constantly have to speak carefully and think one step ahead. If you enjoy that type of thing, I highly recommend The Wrath and the Dawn.
And even if you don’t, there are a lot of other things to love about this book. I really enjoyed the detailed world-building and ambiance of the book; although it’s a fantasy story there are enough elements of reality that it is very easy to picture in your mind as you read, yet it’s still a very unique setting. It did take me a while to fully wrap my mind around all the characters and their roles in the story, simply because quite a few characters are introduced very quickly and without a lot of initial context. Once you settle in, though, keeping track of the many characters and the quirks of the language they use becomes second nature. And the ARC of the book had a glossary in the back for anyone needing some extra help! Don’t let that scare you, though, I swear it’s easy to follow after a few chapters.
I’ve seen mixed reviews on the romance part of this story, so I’ll give you my two cents on that. Overall, it was done well. It’s not instalove, which is great, but there is a suggestion of that just in the fact that Shahrzad manages to convince Khalid not to kill her after her first night in the palace. Obviously there is something about her he likes. Which brings me to my one little complaint about this particular piece of the story – Shahrzad is kind of a Mary Sue. She’s a very intelligent, strong character with a quick wit and I understand why people might be drawn to her charisma. But other characters continually comment on her likability and how she is so beautiful without knowing it; so on and so forth. And apparently her beauty and charisma were enough to convince a king to keep her alive against all odds, even when he barely knew her. This seems a bit flimsy to me, and Shahrzad is sort of borderline in terms of whether she’s so amazing you can’t help but love her, or so amazing you want to hate her.
Fortunately Ahdieh does a really nice job of toeing that line carefully but, at least for me, never crossing into territory where I began to dislike Shahrzad or question her connection to Khalid. The parts of the story that focused on Shahrzad (which were the majority) were truly the best parts of the book. I was not particularly fond of the chapters that focused on Shahrzad’s father’s magic – it didn’t play a big role in the majority of this book but probably will in the next one, and I’m a little nervous about that since magic isn’t really my cup of tea.
The Wrath and the Dawn ends with minimal resolution and clear setup for a second book. I absolutely recommend this series for anyone looking for accessible fantasy and a unique spin on YA romance, but if you do pick up The Wrath and the Dawn be prepared to dedicate yourself to the whole series if you want a true ending. Personally, I’m just thrilled to finally be able to put a book on my “2015 Favorites” Goodreads shelf!
The Wrath and the Dawn Giveaway
To celebrate the release of The Wrath and the Dawn, TDQ readers have a chance to get a peek at this fantastic book! Enter below to win one of five prize packages including a hardcover copy of The Wrath and the Dawn along with three beautiful silk scarves featuring the book cover and designs inspired by the characters in the book (as shown above), courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers. Click through the link below to enter.