The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
All it took was opening the cover for The Wrath and the Dawn to DESTROY ME.
You know how sometimes they print an excerpt on the first page of a book, before the title and the copyright and the actual story start?
THAT. That is all I read. And I just…dissolved.
THIS BOOK IS FANTASTIC! BEYOND FANTASTIC! SO FANTASTIC I’M AT SUCH A LOSS FOR WORDS I JUST KEEP SAYING ‘FANTASTIC’!
The Wrath and the Dawn is a retelling of (more so inspired by) the old Middle Eastern story One Thousand and One Nights or The Arabian Nights. In the original story, the basis is that the caliph takes a new wife every night only to kill her by morning until he marries Shaharzad who each night captivates him with a story. By leaving each tale unfinished every night she manages to keep the caliph so intrigued for 1001 nights that he doesn’t kill her. This is the part that Ahdieh takes into The Wrath and the Dawn, as well as her own versions of the traditional tales, but the rest is an entirely new world and an altogether mesmerizing new creation. And it is–wait for it!–FANTASTIC!
A slight deviation from my usual review format, this time I’m going to start with the structuring of the book. It begins with a prologue introducing the caliph but instead of being in his POV it’s done through the eyes of his cousin/friend talking about the caliph to his father. It’s so mysterious and intriguing that you immediately want to know more before they’ve even told you anything. The story itself jumps in literally right away. There’s no set-up for what Shaharzad is about to do, no character debates or emotional breakdowns or decision-making; the book starts on the day of her wedding to the 18-year-old caliph Khalid and rapid-fire throws everything into gear. It’s unconventional…and really freaking cool! Instead of getting all the info from the start you have to piece it together as the book progresses, like a mini mystery in the middle of an actual mystery (that is, the reason he’s killing wives). I love love loved not having to wait at all for the story to begin–slow set-up is one of my most major pet peeves about reading. I am not a patient woman! You just get thrown in there with tensions running high and all the crazy oh-shit-am-I-gonna-die fears running amuck, all with the thick air of vengeance because Khalid you’re going down. It’s amazing.
In terms of structure there are also numerous POV switches which at first I thought were kind of pointless and bothersome but turn out to be really really important. Pay attention!!!
The world…oh, the world! Full disclosure: I love history. I study history. Also full disclosure: Middle/Near Eastern history is one of my favourites. I’m not saying this because I’m some kind of expert or anything (seriously. My medieval program focuses of Western Europe which is so damn frustrating, don’t even get me started) but because it means I may be a teeeeeensy bit biased when it comes to loving a historical world. BUT I LOVED THIS HISTORICAL WORLD. It’s rich and compelling; mysterious, authentic, heady. Beautiful. Ahdieh’s world is so vivid, so real, and so so so easy to get lost in.
Character time! Shaharzad, or Shazi, is beyond fierce. She is literal fire. Smart, cunning, strong, independent, determined–Shazi is basically what you’d get by throwing all of your favourite heroine’s into a blender and serving it up with some extra whipped cream and a cherry because she needed a little of something more. She’s wonderful and I love her to pieces. Only Khalid’s love can compare to mine.
Now Khalid is a tough one to figure out, which is precisely what makes him so lovely! It becomes apparent very early on that he is not the monster everyone thinks him to be. He’s loving and gentle–but he is not soft and he is not weak and he will not break. I like that you’re forced to piece him together along with Shazi because it means he surprises you just as much as he surprises her. Most books are different; most books I have figured out in 2 seconds flat.
THEIR ROMANCE IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL, SEXY SLOW-BURN BASICALLY EVER. THAT FRONT PAGE THAT DESTROYED ME? IT WAS ROMANCE. NEED I SAY MORE? BECAUSE I WILL, AND WE’LL BE HERE FOR ANOTHER 700 WORDS.
Other characters include Tariq who pisses me off (YOU STAY FAR AWAY FROM MY PRECIOUS SHIP OKAY), Despedina who’s hilarious, Jalal whom I also love, and a plethora of others whom whether or not you like them are fleshed out and real. They’re not accessories, they feel like people.
The plot is always surprising and for the most part forward-moving (though remember, romance. Romance will take precedence at points. WHICH I AM TOTALLY ON BOARD WITH but, like, you may not be) and I will say no more because I want you to be surprised. I’ll say though that there is a fantasy element I didn’t think would be there and at first it felt unnecessary but it looks like it’ll be a major factor in the second.
I could go on for hours, guys. Hours. Days. Weeks. Months. That’s how much I loved this. Love love love love loved this. I give it all the stars in the freaking universe because…wow. Just wow.
Click here for the book synopsis on goodreads!