Title: The Wrath & the Dawn (The Wrath & the Dawn #1)
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication date: May 12, 2015
Summary (via Goodreads):
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.
The Wrath & the Dawn is one of those 2015 releases that deserves all the hype it's been getting. Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, it's set apart from the start – a fantasy novel that takes place in a culture typically underrepresented in young adult literature. My thoughts are a little scattered, so once again I will review this in list form – these are the things I loved about this book:
1. The different story lines happening in parallel. All the weirdness going on with Shahrzad's father, Jahandar. (You read his side of the events and you're just like "oh god please don't.") The face-palming that happens when you experience events from Tariq's perspective (well-intentioned but painfully obnoxious in his ignorance). The self-exploration of Shahrzad and how she slowly comes to terms with her heart (the best and most essential and most rewarding part of the book). I almost wanted there to be less of Jahandar and Tariq and Rahim because they only got in the way of my time spent with Shahrzad and Khalid – but I guess this is how plot development works, so, you know, fine.
2. Shahrzad. Just an amazing character. So fierce and brave and sharp-tongued and funny. (Tiny cucumbers!!!) She knows how to dish it out and she's just fun to read. But I love the softer side of her too – the side that mourns her best friend, the side that hates Khalid for what he's done, the side that desires friendship from Despina, the side that wants to be deeply loved. Shahrzad is unabashedly herself and she is human and she is someone we can all see ourselves in, even if she is royalty and wears diamonds and sapphires and emeralds and pulls them off and throws them on the floor like a baller.
3. The careful development of Shahrzad and Khalid's relationship. This is no insta-love, and it's not a case of opposites attract either. It's about timing and circumstance – and miraculously, the inevitability of love in spite of all reason. Renée Ahdieh's pacing is on point. Truly. It's a slow burn and you want to savor every moment as Shahrzad struggles with whether to give in or stand firm.
4. Khalid, my complex baby king. Patient and gentle, but rough and brutal and unforgiving at the flip of a switch. He is a boy who has been through trauma, who is a victim of his upbringing, but he is shrewd and observant and capable and has worked for everything he's accomplished. I am most impressed by his devotion to Shahrzad. (And the fact that he asks for consent! This is so heartwarming to me.)
5. The writing is so lovely. From the palace to the gardens to the sky... Everything seems utterly resplendent. So many gems – I wanted to underline entire pages and write about countless moments but I was too captivated to stop reading. Renée Ahdieh seems a master at the art of storytelling – the writing shifts from lighthearted to heavy and back again at exactly the right time, and she knows how to pull at exactly the right heartstrings.
6. The food. This needs to be noted separately because Renée Ahdieh's food descriptions are next level. A thousand thank-you's to her mother-in-law for bringing such deliciousness into the world and into her awareness. I generally don't care for lamb or goat cheese but her writing is making me reconsider. She should write a food blog. I mean, after all the books are done, obviously. I would buy her cookbook. I would pin all her recipes to Pinterest. I would watch her Food Network show. Gimme dat lavash and buttery saffron rice and tureens of soup and marinated chicken and red radishes splashing brilliant colors across the table. I'm talking about her food descriptions way more than I initially planned, and I'm hungry again, so I'll just stop here now. (Let's all just take a quick snack break and reconvene here in five.)
7. Subtlety and wit. This book does not hit you over the head. I love when authors respect and trust their readers enough to draw connections on their own. It makes the reading experience so much better – for me, at least – when you're expected to understand what's happening without being spoonfed the plot. You can immerse yourself in the story and draw out certain characters and exercise your imagination and make everything real inside your head, and honestly I think that's one of the best things about reading, which is why I'm so in love with what Renée Ahdieh has done here.
Closing thoughts: This was a book I did not want to put down. I read it at a measured pace, trying to soak in every little bit of it. It's a beautiful book, both on the inside and out, and I'm eagerly and impatiently awaiting the next book in the series, The Rose & the Dagger. (Is it here yet? How about now? What about now?) MY BODY IS READY.