Title: The Wrath and The Dawn
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Age Range: New Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
My Rating: 3/5
In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.
Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?
Content Warnings: Character death
Okay, fair warning. This review is going to be pretty spoilery, mostly because what I want to talk about is the plot. I know this book has been out since 2017, but if you haven’t read it yet, tread with caution.
Let me start off with the non-spoilery part of the review. I initially got interested in this because I have a weakness for Arabian Nights retellings. Well, fairy tale retellings in general, but especially Arabian Nights. Something about the storyteller queen Scheherazade just totally enchants my imagination, so this was something I was really eager to read.
Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan, is reviled by his people for the girls he marries each night and executes each morning. When he takes a girl named Shazi to wife and has her hanged the next day, Shahrzad, Shazi’s best friend, vows revenge. She volunteers to marry Khalid, much to the horror of her father and sister. At first, she is determined to kill him and to discover the reason why he executes a new bride every dawn, but against all odds, she finds herself falling in love with him, especially when it seems that there is a reason behind the death of each girl. The Wrath and The Dawn is a beautifully-crafted fairy tale retelling with the ultimate fantasy book trio: love, magic, and revenge.
I want to make Renée’s descriptive writing into a person and marry them, I swear to God. I am in love, you guys. Her words really came to life in my mind. I could see it all. I could see Shahrzad, all beautiful and fierce. I could see Khalid, angry and torn and just trying to do the right thing. I could see the royal palace, and the city of Rey, and the marketplace where Sharzad and Khalid shared their first real kiss. I could smell the rain falling in the desert and hear the cry of Tariq’s falcon overhead. Renée’s writing transported me to a whole new world (pun fully intended). If you’re into beautiful descriptions and flowing prose, definitely pick this up!
Another thing that I loved about this is that Renée writes romance very well. Honestly? The last time I felt this way about a book ship was with Kaz and Inej from Six of Crows. And for me, that’s very high praise. The developing romance between Shahrzad and Khalid was slow burn and angsty in the best kind of way. Think of your favorite enemies-to-lovers fanfiction, the kind that made something your stomach curl and your toes clench, where you had to take a step back and take a quick breather because the sensual angst was too much. This has ten times the amount of sensual angst.
As I mentioned earlier, I adore fairy tale retellings, and Renée certainly delivers on that count. Her take on Arabian Nights, or One Thousand and One Nights as it’s also called, is unique and compelling. Naturally, you know from the very beginning that Khalid is no “murderous boy-king”, as the people of Khorasan believe, and that there’s an actual reason behind why he has his wives executed every morning. But Renée really had me wondering why. This book had me at the edge of my seat, eager to find out what was the big secret.
This is where the review gets spoilery! You may leave now, if you like!
Like I said, I loved how Renée built up the tension regarding Khalid’s secret. However I have to say, ultiamately, I felt let down. My reaction was, That’s it? Basically, what happened was, Khalid’s first wife became depressed after she suffered a miscarriage, then committed suicide. To get revenge, her sacrificed his soul and his life in order to lay an evil curse on Khalid and on Khorasan. Unless Khalid sacrifices a person every morning (“one life to one dawn,” as the curse states) the rains will stop and the Khorasan people will starve. Thus Khalid and his advisors come up with the “marry at night, kill in the morning” scheme to save Khorasan.
Here’s the thing. This is the curse in full:
One hundred lives for the one you took. One life to one dawn. Should you fail but a single morn, I shall take from you your dreams. I shall take from you your city. And I shall take from you these lives, a thousandfold.
Nothing about this curse mentions women or wives specifically. All it asks is a death at dawn for one hundred days. Why couldn’t Khalid have executed criminals instead? Please don’t take me for being pro death penalty though, I’m not. But doesn’t that solution make more sense? Why resort to killing innocent women when there are less savory characters you can sacrifice for the good of the kingdom, if you really had to kill someone, I mean? For instance, in the book, Shahrzad and Khalid encounter a pervy passerby while wandering the market in disguise. Why not clap the fool in irons and hang him the next dawn? As we say in Tagalog, eh di tapos! Khalid and his council’s solution to the curse just doesn’t make sense. At least, not with the information we have right now.
Basically, there’s two reasons why I rated this a 3 instead of a 2: 1) Renée Ahdieh’s writing is a magic all on its own; and 2) maybe this will be addressed in the sequel, The Rose and The Dagger. So yes, despite what, for me, is a gaping plot hole, I would still read the next book to get my questions answered.