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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