Review: The Wrath and the Dawn

wrathTitle: The Wrath and The Dawn
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 388
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available now

Summary: 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.

Review: When I was in junior high, I read a (sanitized) abridgment of One Thousand and One Nights, and I loved Scheherazade. I admired her bravery and cleverness in using her sister and her stories to buy herself one day after another, thereby putting a stop to the horrific marriage-then-execution merry-go-round. So when I found out that The Wrath and the Dawn was going to take Scheherazade’s frame story and run with it, I was thrilled.

Shahrzad is a compelling heroine, and I loved the mixture of bravery and vengeance that fueled her for the beginning portions of the book. Her mission to exact revenge on the man who murdered her friend and many other girls drove all of the characters forward, from her father, Jahandar, to her boyfriend, Tariq. In addition to Tariq, I was particularly fond of Shahrzad’s handmaid, Despina, and Khalid’s cousin, Jalal. However, many of the other side characters introduced fairly early on in the narrative, like Omar and Reza, were essentially put into holding patterns for future books instead of taking a more active role in this book. I thought that the rebellion plot would have gotten a lot further along than it did for how early it was introduced.

While Shahrzad is the main point of view, we do get occasional glimpses into other characters, including Khalid. Khalid was an interesting character, but I wasn’t willing to give him nearly as much as empathy as I think I was supposed to. I can’t go into depth as to why Khalid killed dozens of girls (there are many book-ruining spoilers there), but at the end of the day, I’m not particularly inclined to forgive him. Luckily, Renée Ahdieh doesn’t let him off the hook easily and has both him and Shahrzad point out his own hypocrisy. Still, part of me wishes that Shahrzad had taken a lot longer to fall in love with him than she did.

The world Renée Ahdieh built is infused with (mostly) behind-the-scenes magic. It quietly simmers for most of the book, showing in smaller ways, with occasional glimpses into just how dangerous, far-reaching, and catastrophic it can be. The finale is an exercise in destruction and is one of my favorite descriptive sequences in a book filled with many memorable passages. I’m looking forward to seeing how the role of magic will expand in future books—I hope it will. Khorasan is a well-developed world, from strife with its neighboring country to the intricacies of palace life to smaller things like the descriptions of clothing and weapons and food.

Recommendation: Get it soon, if you’re a fan of revenge-turned-to-romance stories or One Thousand and One Nights. If you’re uncertain about a romance where the heroine falls in love with her best friend’s murderer, I would suggest you borrow the book from a friend or the library. While The Wrath and the Dawn suffers from the fact that it leaves several beginning plot points unresolved so they can be dealt with in later books, it is a mostly satisfying story with a fascinating world, a brave heroine, and the promise of a broader story in the future.