“In my life, the one thing I have learned above all is that no individual can reach the height of their potential without the love of others.”
The Wrath and the Dawn is Renée Ahdieh’s debut work, a re-imagining of A Thousand and One Nights. The story is set in Khorasan, a kingdom whose ruler takes a new bride every night and kills her by the following dawn. We follow Shahrzad as she volunteers to be the caliph’s next wife, in the hopes of avenging her best friend’s murder. When she arrives at the palace, however, she realizes that all is not as it appears. Her task proves harder than expected, and she realizes that the murders might be more than just the whims of a blood-thirsty leader.
The writing itself is my favorite component of The Wrath and the Dawn. Renée’s prose are gorgeous and poetic, without trying too hard to be flowery. They go above and beyond typical YA writing, and I was pleasantly surprised by how vivid her descriptions were. The wording really made her world come to life. The setting was also a lovely change of pace, as it is modeled after Middle Eastern culture instead of Western culture. The food, attire, and vocabulary of such a place made this a fresh story to read, particularly since I’m so used to reading stories set in the Western sphere. This novel made me want to step outside of that comfort zone more often.
For the most part, I also really enjoyed the characters. Shazi is intelligent, fierce, and brave – though she never seems to harbor the level of hatred inside her that an assassination would require. I often wondered whether her mission was futile from the start. She barely even attempts to kill Khalid at the beginning, and she doesn’t even seem to have a plan set up when she walks through the palace doors. Khalid comes off as a complex character, and I think he has the right balance of guilt and severity for all of the things he’s done. Jalal and Despina are both amazing additions to the cast. My only character complaint is in regards to Tariq. Structurally, I suppose he adds conflict to the story. I’m interested to see where his political plot line goes. But personality-wise, he’s dull, possessive, and annoying. I often found myself yawning through his chapters. His perspective just doesn’t live up to the others, and it made me want to rush through most of his chapters.
The relationships between the characters are also A+ in my book, and I absolutely loved watching them interact with one another. Khalid and Shazi have so much chemistry between them, and I didn’t find their romance insta-lovey at all. The friendships that build up throughout the story also made it a worthwhile read, especially the one between Shazi and Despina.
My biggest critique of this book would have to be its usage of magic. Readers can piece together that there is a curse from the very beginning, and that eventually does get explained. Unfortunately, that’s the only fantastical element that receives any in-depth explanation. There is frequent mention of people having powers, which oddly begins about halfway into the book, but these powers are never detailed in any meaningful way. There’s also some weird voodoo going on with Shazi’s father and a stolen book, but I couldn’t tell you what the purpose of it is. The rules of Ahdieh’s magic system are unclear, and it makes these scenes confusing. It’s a shame because I feel like she could have done a lot more with the fantasy component of The Wrath and the Dawn if only she’d given it a bit more time.
All in all, I gave The Wrath and the Dawn a 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. I recommend it to YA fantasy readers, especially those who get hooked on the romance subplots. I’ll be continuing on with this series and reading The Rose and the Dagger sometime in September.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this book and its sequel in the comments below!