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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ARC Review: ‘Kalahari’ by Jessica Khoury

ARC Review: ‘Kalahari’ by Jessica KhouryKalahari by Jessica Khoury
Series: Corpus #3
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated on February 24th 2015
Format: Hardcover
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Deep in the Kalahari Desert, a Corpus lab protects a dangerous secret…

But what happens when that secret takes on a life of its own?

When an educational safari goes wrong, five teens find themselves stranded in the Kalahari Desert without a guide. It’s up to Sarah, the daughter of zoologists, to keep them alive and lead them to safety, calling on survival know-how from years of growing up in remote and exotic locales. Battling dehydration, starvation and the pangs of first love, she does her best to hold it together, even as their circumstances grow increasingly desperate.

But soon a terrifying encounter makes Sarah question everything she’s ever known about the natural world. A silver lion, as though made of mercury, makes a vicious, unprovoked attack on the group. After a narrow escape, they uncover the chilling truth behind the lion’s silver sheen: a highly contagious and deadly virus that threatens to ravage the entire area—and eliminate life as they know it.

In this breathtaking new novel by the acclaimed author of Origin and Vitro, Sarah and the others must not only outrun the virus, but its creators, who will stop at nothing to wipe every trace of it.

I received access to this galley for free from the Penguin First to Read program in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Eeeep, guys, my first ARC! So excited. But anyway…

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I definitely have a soft spot for Khoury’s Corpus series. They’re more like companion books, really, but each time a new one comes out, I just know that I’ll have to read it and that I’ll really enjoy it.

Why is this? Well, because I know her books will always have a dash of romance, a couple of interesting characters, an awesome setting, some aspect of morality/depth, and most importantly, a whole heap of what I like to call…

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 4.49.50 PM… Scientist Sneakery! Yep, certainly sounds like a term I coined. What links the three books in Khoury’s series is that each stumbles upon the work of a super-secret lab funded by the Corpus company, whose experiments, well, are quite ambitious and not always for the benefit of all of humanity. 

I actually participated in a blogger panel once about the portrayal of science as ‘evil’ in Sci-Fi, and I mostly ended up writing about this series! (I also called the Corpus scientists “my favorite evil scientists,” haha!) I think I find Corpus so fascinating to read about because of how frighteningly real such a company could be. I mean really, how many Corpus-like companies could be out there??


Now, on to Corpus’ latest endeavor, in the Kalahari Desert of central Botswana…

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Khoury on a trip to the Kalahari.

While at first I was a little dubious about the setting, as I gradually gained more knowledge of it I was fascinated by the Kalahari, and how much life was to be found in the (semi)desert. Since I don’t come from an arid or dessert-like climate, this is something that I’ve only recently been learning, like during a recent trip to Joshua Tree National Park. From the Bushman’s traditional survival skills to run-ins with some of the Kalahari’s most dangerous residents (like a young, sexually frustrated bull [male] elephant!), the setting really came to life in the most vibrant of ways, and included deeper messages abut the environment.

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Is this Sarah, or Bindi? (rottentomatoes.com)

Our MC, Sarah, basically lives the life many of us imagined as kids watching the Discovery channel. She’s basically an older Bindi Irwin, if you know what I mean. She is the child of two zoologists, and has grown up riding elephants, stealing baby kangaroos, and learning to track in the Kalahari. Her cool factor is basically through the roof, even if she has a little trouble socializing with her peers (who aren’t that abundant in the Kalahari).

Besides having such a plain name, (Sarah? Really?) I think I was a little annoyed by how flat a character she seemed to be. In such a packed action story, there just doesn’t seem to be too much time for characterization. She does stand out in 2 major ways, however: in her kick-ass survival skills, and in her struggles over dealing with the recent death of her mother. Her struggles really made me sympathize with her, and her desert skills were what made me believe in her and root for her. Seriously, shoutout to anyone who can survive in the desert with practically no supplies, all while being hunted by mercenaries!

As for the other teens trying to survive the desert — characters don’t really seem to be Khoury’s strong point. But while I was pretty lukewarm about the characters in the beginning, I managed to warm up to them some, just like they did to each other throughout their crazy adventures through the Kalahari. Some of them were pretty good for providing a much-needed laugh in the face of danger.

“‘Uh . . . Guys? Is this what I think it is?’ Sam took a look, then gave a low whistle. ‘Bees?’ ‘Sickos,’ Joey muttered. ‘What do they do—sprinkle them on their cereal?'” [speaking of the Corpus scientists]

The romance, while cute enough, didn’t steal too much of my attention — it almost feels like the book didn’t really need it. In some parts, it even feels a little like insta-love, but the reason for this is revealed later. But what Sarah did definitely need was the emotional support that Sam provided, as they connected over their mutual loss of a family member. This was what I found most touching, romantic or otherwise.

“‘The pain does fade, Sarah.’ I looked up at him. His eyes were gentle and unwavering. ‘Does it?’ ‘It doesn’t go away, but one day you wake up and find it’s a part of you.'”

But of course, it is Corpus once again that steals the show. The book never really feels slow, per say, but after the group encounters a silver lion (scientist sneakery!!), everything kicks into high gear, and I couldn’t tear myself away from the rest of the book.


Though the characters are a bit weak, Kalahari‘s kick-ass setting and evil-scientist sneakery make for an entertaining read.

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