Review: “The Wrath and the Dawn” by Renee Ahdieh

Review: “The Wrath and the Dawn” by Renee AhdiehThe Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Published by Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated on May 12th, 2015
Format: Hardcover
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One Life to One Dawn.

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?

Inspired by A Thousand and One NightsThe Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

I wrote this review, and then I rewrote it. Because I wasn’t happy with the way the review turned out so much more negatively than I think I really felt about the book as a whole. And my post-reading reflection has really made me see the story in a new light (I wish I could reread it!).

I do think that perhaps the book is a bit over-hyped, because my expectations were up * HERE * (through the roof and up in the clouds!), while my experience reading it was much more mellow than I think I was expecting — what I was expecting being fiery hate turned to passionate love, breathless action and deceit hiding around every corner, and my heart being torn to bits by the romance.

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Yet this wasn’t the book I read at all; the book I read was a lot less flashy and fast-paced, but instead goes about carefully crafting a beautiful story in its own way. I don’t want to dump a bunch of metaphors on you guys, but I’ve thought of one that really represents quite well how I feel about the story and I can’t get it out of my mind. The Wrath and the Dawn is a lot like savoring an elegant, fine wine (or so I would imagine) — you take small sips as you come to distinguish the taste and are surrounded by the aroma, and it’s not until you finish the glass that you are affected by its potent, heady pull.

The rich and well-imagined setting drew me into a seductive world of intrigue, beauty and mystery. Never did I question if I was actually there in the story, because Ahdieh’s lush description and imagery surrounded me and really appealed to all my senses. You can feel the hot sun and blowing sand, smell the fragrant scent of flowers enveloping the courtyards, and taste the mouthwateringly delicious platters of food that are served. (Ohh guys, the food. THE FOOD. You will need to eat something while reading this, I guarantee it.) You will feel the silky touch of gossamer silk and the weight of the heavy mantles and jewels worn, and truly see the ornate magnificence of the palace and the beauty of the clothing.

Shahrzad (Shazi for short) is such a refreshing heroine who won all of my respect and admiration. Seriously, I would hug the girl if I could for being all that she is. I appreciate her to the moon and back for not underestimating herself like the plague of other heroines out there. She’s quite talented and very clever, and has incredible inner strength and mental fortitude. Most importantly, she believes in herself and doesn’t put herself down. Though at times she can be a bit brash and her stubbornness occasionally affects her ability to see things clearly, I had no doubts as to why the entire palace was so taken with her.

“You are not weak. You are not indecisive. You are strong. Fierce. Capable beyond measure.”

But what I really wanted to see more of from Shazi that I felt like I never truly got was her love for her friend Shiva. When I saw that she was volunteered to be the Caliph’s next bride to avenge her best friend’s murder, I was so ready for the best friend feels. I was ready for the heartbreaking Shiva flashbacks to start rolling in, to grieve alongside Shahrzad and fuel my own murderous anger towards Khalid. And I got but maybe two half-hearted memories and a few sentences of apostrophe directed towards Shiva.

Which brings me to the mighty Caliph of Khorasan, eighteen year-old boy-king Khalid. Khalid was not all all the person I was expecting, and there is much more to him than meets the eye. His horrid reputation precedes him, as he’s constantly described as a ruthless murderer, a true monster. Yet not once did I feel these things were true. Just from the synopsis alone, we are told he is incredibly different, “a boy with a tormented heart.” The prologue tells us that we should question the reason behind his “senseless” killings. He is incredibly jaded, has an exterior of stone, and a simmering temper that is fearsome when provoked. Yet it would be a mistake to think of him only as we are told (“monster”) or as he appears (cold). I think I clung to this portrayal far too long, and sometimes failed to see the truth. He has incredible depth as a character that must be unearthed bit by bit, revealed in its own due time. 

“Trust that the man you see now is a shadow of what lies beneath.”

The romance is the heart and soul of the story, and it is beautiful. Despite the adverse circumstances, the two have an instantly palpable chemistry, which initially leads to butting heads but slowly develops into captivating romance. I felt the love, and to me Khalid and Shazi seem to have an deep understanding of each other on another level, even when their secrets were like a gulf between them. Their romance is a fragile thing, intimate and dear, yet prone to destruction from so many forces. In so many ways their relationship is very serious and adult, so on my part, at least, there was no swooning or squealing. But it is still a force to behold, filled with emotion, subtlety, and intensity.

“I know love is fragile. And loving someone like you is near impossible. Like holding something shattered through a raging sandstorm. If you want her to love you, shelter her from that storm…And make certain that storm isn’t you.”

There are so many interesting side characters that I loved, though I do wish we had more from them. I liked humble and wise Omar, eccentric and caring Musa, sassy and sharp Despina, and so many more characters. I have a huuuge soft spot for Jalal, the captain of the guard who is Khalid’s cousin. His curls, his confidence and teasing, and his trust and insight wormed their way into my heart. Then there’s Tariq, Shazi’s childhood friend and first love who tries to “rescue” her. He’s misguided in so many ways, and while his sense of being entitled to having Shazi and not really listening and trusting in her nettled me to no end, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for him. Shahrzad’s family, on the other hand, could’ve used more fleshing out. I felt the least connected to them by far.

The pacing is what was tough for me, because it is unique and different from what I was expecting. It takes some time to establish the setting and the characters, and for so long nothing seems to happen that isn’t described in the synopsis. I think this is what kept getting me distracted and putting down the book. Sometimes the plot seems to flounder, meander. But what I think I recognize now is that because it is the romance that is central to the story, and must be carefully developed, the plot is bound to be slow. But the end part was GREAT — so much action, and all the potential finally fulfilled! I still can’t help but wish that it didn’t all have to be withheld to the end. It’s like I saw all that Ahdieh was capable of writing, but confined only to the last part.

AND THERE IS A HEARTBREAKING CLIFFHANGER. I liked its delicious torture, though I’m actually pretty confused about things. View Spoiler »

I think my biggest complaint is that I just wanted MORE. Of a lot of things. Which isn’t entirely awful. As a matter fact, the book even started to deliver on it near the end, and I actually have a good deal of faith that book 2 WILL deliver.

Also, PSA: the very important glossary is wedged BETWEEN the end of book 1 and the sneak preview to book 2.  Oh, if only I had known!


The Wrath and the Dawn was not the book I was expecting to read, but it slowly drew me in until its ending pulled me under.

Intoxicating, beautiful, and full of secrets.

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Comments

  • I’ve seen sooooo many reviews of this now and I think you may have just convinced me. MAYBE. I’m still hesitant because of the hype, and the pacing doesn’t sound like my FAVOURITE, but…still. If it’s something to be savoured, that sounds like something I want to read 🙂
    Emily @ Loony Literate recently posted…Can You Give Too Many Five-Star Ratings?My Profile

    • Ahh, that makes me so happy! 😀 All the work I put into reviewing this one was really tough because I had to mull it over for a day to reconsider how I really felt about it. I think the endless stream of 5 star reviews really put it out of perspective for me, so I think it’s best to go into it with as few expectations as possible, expecting a “quieter” read.

  • Lina, teach me your way with words. Your review is just so … beautiful.
    It’s nice to come across a review for a hyped book that isn’t as positive. It convinces me to read it even more, oddly enough. I am happy that it picked up for you towards the end. I find a lot of books do that, allowing the second book to jump right into action from the beginning. Hopefully that is the case with this one. 😀
    Sarah @ The Reading Petal recently posted…You (You #1) by Caroline Kepnes — Terrifyingly RealisticMy Profile

    • ?? Thank you Sarah, you just made my day! ? I spend a long time on my reviews, so I’m glad you enjoyed it! When I feel that I’ve gotten them just right, it’s such a great feeling.

      I know what you mean — to hear just a bit of criticism amongst a sea of raving reviews makes a book more approachable sometimes. And if the next book can really start off just as great and continue to the end, I’ll be * so * happy. It’ll probably make me feel even better about this first book, even.

  • YES OH MY GOSH THE FOOOOOOD. IT ALL SOUNDED SO DELICIOUS. Also, if you’re interested, Girl of Fire and Thorns has some DELICIOUS-sounding food in it omg. Can’t I just live in a book world!? I’m so glad you liked this one, despite it being overhyped. And I totally see what you mean by the pacing, but it was actually something I quite enjoyed. I really did enjoy this one. Loved it, actually. I honestly didn’t know when I’d get a chance to read this one — but then, thankfully, a friend literally forced it on me, haha. I ended up reading it in less than three hours. xD Gah. Which is kinda terrible because now I have to wait until next year for the sequel. 😉 Lovely review!
    Kara @ Diary of a Teen Writer recently posted…Ten Books With Gloriously Crafted Worldbuilding || Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught Worldbuilding 101My Profile

    • Oh, I’d never heard that about that series! I’ve always thought about starting the series, but my library never had the 1st book and I was too lazy to put a hold on it, haha. It’s great to hear you liked the pacing — I’m really wondering if I would like it too if I had the chance to reread and go into the book with a different mindset. And thank goodness for book-pushing friends! 🙌 Kara, less than 3 HOURS IS CRAZY!!

  • I NEED T READ THIS! I have actually been dying to purchase this book but unless I can do that with some non-existent money then well I’d go right ahead and buy it! …maybe I’ll beg the parentals….*flutters eyelashes at them* So glad to hear that you enjoyed this book! 😀
    Kristin @ Simply Bookish Things recently posted…August’s Monthly Rewind And Other ShenannigansMy Profile

    • I feel you! You parents * must * have mercy and get you this. Or ya know, get it from the library if you can (and maybe purchase it later) because it’s too painful to wait around for! Hope you enjoy! 🙂

  • I didn’t quite like this as much as you did Lina, but I do agree that it was an amazing read regardless. The world-building and the romance especially were so strong and well-written. So glad you enjoyed it so much and, as always, thanks for sharing this brilliant review! ♥
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  • I still need to get around to reading this book myself D: Sad to see that this book was overhyped for you, sometimes the hype really does dampen a book. The writing and Shahrzad’s character do sound refreshing though! I never heard of Jalal until now but I’m looking forward to his confidence and teasing, those comedic side characters always get to me 🙂

    • I wish I could’ve escaped the hype to appreciate the book better! Honestly, if you’re tired of the same old heroines, read it JUST for Shahrzad!! 😀 She’s the greatest. And YES, Jalal! I would love a short story on him.

  • Tasya says:

    GLAD YOU LOVED IT! It’s one of my favorite reads this year, and I just love it so much! Your description of Shazi is really accurate, and while Khalid wasn’t as intimidating as I thought, I still love him! Lovely review!<3

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