“The Wrath and the Dawn” | Renée Ahdieh | Young Adult | Pub Date: May 12, 2015
The Wrath and the Dawn is the best book I’ve read this year so far. That high of reading such a good book still lingers with me hours after finishing, which is possibly why I’m making a straightforward, HYPE statement at the beginning of this review. But after reviewing all of the other novels I’ve read this year, nothing hooked me and took my breath away like Renée Ahdieh’s stunning debut.
A retelling of A Thousand and One Nights (or you may know it as Arabian Nights), this new Young Adult fantasy is full of romance, mystery, and captivating characters. It all begins with a wedding. Shahrzhad has volunteered to marry the Caliph of Khorasan, an eighteen-year-old boy-king who marries a new wife every night and kills his bride by morning. His last victim was Shahrzhad’s best friend, and now she means to put a stop to his cruelty. Exacting revenge on the most powerful person in the kingdom isn’t easy, but Shahrzhad uses her wit, charm and beauty to beguile her new husband and survive to see another dawn. Only thing is that the king is as equally beguiling, and Shahrzhad starts to form feelings for him.
I felt a little troubled starting this book out because I couldn’t imagine falling in love with “a murderous boy-king.” That just reminds me of Joffrey from Game of Thrones, and that is literally the total opposite of what I think about when we talk romantic heroes. Friends and the like insisted how great this book is, so I persevered curious to see how this all goes down. One day later… I was blown away. This book is sexy, mysterious, and enthralling.
Shahrzhad is enchanting. She’s beautiful, but it’s her fierceness that makes her striking. Feelings of revenge and love war inside of her, and she makes this story so interesting because you’re never quite sure which feeling she’s leaning toward the most. Does her love for best friend outweigh her new, confounding love for the king? Is it even fair to compare the two? In order to somewhat justify her choices, she needs to discover the truth first. On that mission, she’s relentless–as are we–to figure out why someone like the king could kill so many innocent women. These confusing emotions of love and hate jump from the page onto the reader, making it so intoxicating and riveting. You need to know what happens next; each turn of the page leads us closer to the truth. The suspense swells, then eases, and swells again, creating a pace that allows readers to digest important moments but move on quickly enough to stay engaged.
The world-building in The Wrath and the Dawn is pretty remarkable. You’re instantly thrust into their world, and it doesn’t take long to figure out how the world is structured. There is a significant amount of political intrigue in the book, and it sounds like it will lead to something even bigger in the second. While a majority of the novel is focused on Shahrzhad and Khalid’s burgeoning relationship, it does take us outside of the palace to Shahrzhad’s first love, Tariq, who is looking to save her from the king. There is also a brewing rebellion forming with Tariq at the center, as well as something curious going on with Shahrzhad’s father who is also determined to save his daughter from the king.
The Wrath and the Dawn has everything and balances all of those things very well. It’s a rich, carefully written world full of diverse and intriguing characters. The romance is breathtaking, and Shahrzhad is just a wonderful, badass and feminine lead character, who you will unquestionably follow wherever she leads you. Read this book.
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh is now available wherever books are sold.