Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh | Book Review

The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
First Published: 2015
Young Adult, romance
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 terrible 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 get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she may be falling in love with a murderer.
Shazi discovers that the villainous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. It's up to her to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.
"So you would have me throw Shazi to the wolves?"
"Shazi? Honestly, I pity the wolves."
I've been trying to figure out a way to open this review for the last two hours, but I just don't know where to begin. So, I'll jump right into things - from the very first page, this novel grabs hold of you and refuses to let go, as it urges you to figure out what's going on, and find out the truth behind all this apparent cruelty.

Ahdieh made such a clever choice by opening the book with Jalal and his father and their worry and love towards Khalid, because that opening immediately colors what we think of him, allows us to be sympathetic towards him where Shazi and her friends cannot, and promises us that there is more to this boy king than meets the eyes.

Which also creates delicious tension between us and Shazi herself as we read of her coming to the palace with malicious intent, but hope she will be open enough to realize there is more to this story as she interacts with her murderous husband.

While I strongly suspected the nature of the truth, my biggest unanswered question was always why. I wanted to understand Kahlid. And I was blessed with a heroine who, despite vowing to avenge her friend, cannot close herself to these questions either, especially as she comes to know the man she's supposed to hate. Shazi is everything I wanted her to be - strong and stubborn, almost foolish in her bravery, but also loving and loyal.

Khalid and Shazi's love story is heartbreaking. And I mean that in the best way possible.

I cannot pretend there aren't some insta love elements to it, but despite my usual tendency to condemn and story who has those, The Wrath and the Dawn managed to completely win me over. I don't know how Ahdieh did it, but she managed to make the instant connection between these characters, the way Shazi immediately stood out to Khalid and how just a few conversations managed to melt her walls into something very natural and poetic. Into something captivating and genuine. Something that almost glowed in its rightness.

So yes.
Now, let's talk love triangles. Mostly to say - there isn't one in this novel. While The Wrath & The Dawn does have two guys in love with the same girl, the girl in question knows who she wants throughout it all. Even if it breaks her heart to admit it, even to herself.

That second guy I mentioned is Tariq. Sometimes, the book left our protagonist and the super engrossing main story to go and peek into his life and what he's going through... and, admittedly, those were my least favorite parts of the whole affair. I wanted them to be gone and stop threatening my beautiful ship, even though as far as secondary love interests go, Tariq is pretty decent as a human being and all.

But while Tariq didn't steal my heart, there were two side characters that totally did - Khalid's cousin Jalal and Shazi's handmaiden Despina. These two are so incredible. Not only do they offer constant support and levity for our main characters respectively, they also kick butt. I really wanted more scenes between these two, and this book definitely left me desperate for more of them.

The few things that stopped it from being a rounded five stars was the fact that, for an Arabian Nights retelling, I barely got any stories! What were there, one and three quarters of a story? I wanted more because those were fun, and they would have added some element of time to Shazi and Khalid's blooming romance.

Despite this, this book was utterly fantastic in my opinion. I started reading the sequel almost immediately.

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