Title: The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn, #1
Format: Hardback, bought
My rating: 3 / 5
A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights
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.
-- As seen on Goodreads
How in the world can a book be both awesome and underwhelming at the same time?! I have so many conflicting feelings about The Wrath and the Dawn, and I’m not really sure where to begin this review. How about with the positives?
The story itself was actually really gripping and held my attention pretty consistently throughout. It’s a One Thousand and One Nights retelling, and if you’ve visited my blog before, you know how obsessed I can be about retellings! It’s written in the third person with multiple POV’s used, and I absolutely LOVED the writing style. The pacing flowed so beautifully, and the descriptions, wow! It really felt like I had been transported to the Middle East and was walking through the halls of beautiful buildings and towns. And the food, oh so yum! The only possible down side to vividly described food is being constantly hungry while you’re reading.
Technically – for writing style, imagery, atmosphere, pacing etc., – I want to give all the stars under the sun to The Wrath and the Dawn. But, something is holding me back, and it’s a pretty big something. I knew going into this book that it would be romance-heavy, and I was completely okay with that. But, you see, here’s where my problem lies. The romance left me feeling ice cold. I didn’t feel any emotion or passion between Shahrzad and Khalid – all the words are there, but the emotions and feelings that should have been evoked didn’t translate over to me. I love romances where I’m practically climbing through the pages of the book to mush the characters faces together. That tension and the not knowing if they’re going to give into their feelings is half the fun! I was hoping for something along those lines here, but the romance developed a LOT sooner than I had expected.
Shahrzad – or Shazi – is a character I wanted to love, but unfortunately I struggled to care what happened to her. She certainly makes lots of threats, but in actuality she did next to nothing to back up her words. I was also very surprised at how quickly Shazi developed feelings for Khalid. Last time I checked, rage, resentment, hatred and a desire for vengeance are all pretty strong emotions. Add them together and I really doubt they’ll disappear within two days. Also, I don’t understand why Shazi is the one to have 'changed’ things for Khalid… and how is she not dead?! Just because of a few half-heartedly told stories? If I was Khalid with a penchant for killing his wives the morning after he marries them, Shazi would have been dead long ago. I don’t see what’s so special about her, nor do I see what all the other characters keep harping on about. So, she’s a good archer… well, so is the vast majority other YA fantasy heroines these days. We’re continually being told that Shazi is an amazing girl – fearsome, headstrong, opinionated, cunning, intelligent etc. – yet, I didn’t see any of this in practice at any stage. If anything, what we were shown completely contradicted all of these claims!
I wish I could talk to you about my feelings toward Khalid, but I felt absolutely nothing toward him. Logically, I guess I’m supposed to feel repulsion toward him at first, and that slowly transforms into sympathy… but, sorry, I got nothing.
Here’s the thing, I pretty much loved everything about The Wrath and the Dawn, bar the main characters and the romance. Yes, it’s unfortunate that both of these things take up the vast majority of the book, but despite all of this, I’m still really curious to see where the story goes next! As far as I know this is a duology, and I’ll definitely consider picking up The Rose and the Dagger when it’s released, and I really hope my opinions will change when I read it.