A gorgeous but imperfect follow-up to one of my favorite books of 2015.
Unavoidable spoilers for The Wrath and the Dawn, sorry. My review of TWATD can be found here.
In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.
Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.
I was terrified to read this book. The ending of TWATD was one of the most painful cliffhangers I’ve ever read, and I didn’t want to see Shazi and Khalid’s love fall apart. While TRATD was intense and emotional, it wasn’t as heartbreaking as I expected, focusing more on character growth than drama.
I am still in love with Shahrzad’s character. Her spunk and fiery personality were a major of the story, though she tempered herself for her family’s sake. I understood why she had to hold her sass back in the rebel camp, but I missed her fearless temper that captivated me in TWATD.
It was painful to watch her be tormented for loving Khalid by her family and the other anti-caliph rebels. After she had grown so much and finally accepted her love for Khalid, she had to hide it and try to be the girl who hated him again. Needless to say, that hurt to read.
The new characters from the rebel camp were interesting. A lot of characters who had been mentioned in passing in the first book were given more complex personalities in the second book, helping to fill out the story. Meeting Shazi’s sister was one of my favorite parts of the book, as was seeing her sister get her own taste of romance. Thankfully, Tariq grew less annoying as we spent more time with him.
Back at the palace, Khalid was falling apart. Burdened both by the curse and the loss of Shazi, Khalid’s character grew more and more volatile. Again, it was painful to see one of my favorite characters so destroyed, but it also pushed his character to do new things and made him even more interesting.
Shazi and Khalid’s romance was still adorable. They are an amazing couple, and the scenes when they were together were some of my favorites in the book. I appreciated that Ahdieh held back from adding too much drama to their relationship, focusing instead on other plot lines to supply the heartbreak.
Still, I missed the excitement of seeing the two of them fall in love. That had been the most addictive part of TWATD, and without it, TRATD lacked some of the power of the first book.
In the place of Shazi and Khalid’s romance, changing loyalties and character growth came to the forefront of the plot in TRATD. Enemies were forced to find common ground, and characters developed in the face of war and relentless suffering. The growth was realistic for each character, and it happened at a reasonable pace. This was undeniably the most powerful part of the book.
The subplots and changing POVs in TRATD worked a lot better than it did in TWATD. They wove together better and created a unified story. I never felt annoyed when the focus of the story changed, something that had been a major problem for me in the first book.
Finally, fantasy elements that had barely been a part of the story in book one took on a more prevalent role in book two. Learning to use her magic and befriend magical characters helped Shazi’s character grow and made the story more interesting. I could have used even more fantasy elements, but I’m happy that any were included at least.
My main problem with TRATD is that the ending felt rushed and incomplete. I love that the series is a duology, and I don’t think that there was enough story there for a third book, but I wish that the second book had been a bit longer. As it was, the ending just appeared, tying up loose ends and resolving large conflicts quickly. Some parts even felt anticlimactic, which was mind-boggling for me after the series had been so emotional.
I would recommend reading TRATD to anyone who enjoyed TWATD. Our beloved characters are still amazing, and the story goes unexpected places. It isn’t the perfect ending, but it is worth reading to finish off the series.