I absolutely LOVED this book! Shazi is one of my favorite protagonists ever. *fangirling so hard*
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.
It is hard to put The Wrath and the Dawn into a specific category. It is a retelling of 1001 Arabian Nights, but having never read/heard the story, I can’t speak to how closely it matches the original. It has fantasy elements, and the tone matches that of fantasy books, but the main plot of the first book lacks supernatural elements. People expecting high fantasy might be disappointed–however, the second book promises to have a more substantial fantasy portion.
I am in love with Shazi. (Sorry, I won’t be calling her Shahrzad. Her personality matches “Shazi” better, and it’s easier to type.) If you’re looking for a strong female lead who falls in love but retains her own character, you are in the right place. At times, she was headstrong and fearless, but she also had a sensitive side. Driven by vengeance, Shazi uses her wit and charm to outsmart the sultan into keeping her alive. She also has a badass side, and she is not afraid of stand up for herself in the face of more powerful men.
In case you missed it the first two times, I love her. She was exactly the protagonist this story needed to make the romance between the caliph and her be sweet and alluring instead of Stockhome syndrome-y. Khalid (the caliph) was reserved, but I still got a sense of his troubled conscience and his duty-driven character. The romance between Shazi and Khalid developed slowly but clearly. Even if technically not very many days pass over the course of the book, the romance still has a slow-burn feel that avoids the curse of Instalove. Shazi is clearly conflicted over falling for a murderer, and her tumultuous emotions surrounding Khalid struck me as realistic and powerful.
As Shazi fell for Khalid, she also grew as a character, stepping into her new role as the calipha with aplomb. Her stubborn character suited her well for the diplomatic role that she was trust into, and her interactions on the political stage helped to showcase her growing emotions for Khalid. Instead of overpowering or changing her character, the developing romance with the caliph enhanced Shazi’s personality.
There are a lot of side characters and subplots in this book. I liked the guards and the maid that Shazi befriended; they added a boost of humor and lightness that the story needed. However, the subplots presented one clear problem that this book faced: it needed backstory.
I know. I know. The usual advice is to avoid backstory and focus on the main action. In this case, the lack of backstory made me not care about things I was supposed to care about, which separated me from Shazi’s character. Specifically, I had never met the best friend that Khalid executed. Because of this, I had a “get over it” reaction to Shazi’s worries about loving Khalid. On a logical level, I knew that he had killed her best friend, but I’d never met the girl, so the emotional strife wasn’t there for me. Also, from the prologue, it is clear that Khalid isn’t murdering girls out of wrath or evilness, so I had already forgiven him for his crime committed in the name of the greater good.
Additionally, I had never seen Shazi in a relationship with Tariq, the love he left behind to avenge her friend. When Tariq chased after her, I found him tiresome and annoying. I was watching Shazi and Khalid fall in love (and loving it), and I had no emotional attachment or loyalty to Tariq. I just wanted him–and his entire subplot–to get out of the way.
The Wrath and the Dawn suffered from its subplots, in my opinion. The story of Shazi and Khalid’s relationship was so powerful that the other plot lines (dealing with her father and Tariq) were distracting. In the second book, they will undoubtably be more important and I will grow to appreciate them, but in the first book, they were superfluous.
Still, The Wrath and the Dawn earned nearly a perfect star rating. I loved the story, and the second it ended, I wanted to read it again. It was magical and alluring, powerful and emotional. The fairytale elements woven through added a whimsical mood to the dark story. A word of warning: this book has a severe cliffhanger ending (it ripped my heart open) and the second book doesn’t even have a release date. I don’t know how I’m going to wait!
I also got the pleasure of meeting Renee Ahdieh at San Diego Comic Con! Here is my signed copy of The Wrath and the Dawn. A thousand and one thanks to Ahdieh 🙂