Rating: 5 OWLS
When it comes to fairytale retellings, there is no one more excited than I am. As a child, I was always reading stories, listening to stories on old vinyl, or being told stories by my grandfather. One of my favorites was the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves; the story is one of the many stories in A Thousand and One Nights, also known as The Arabian Nights. The Wrath and the Dawn is an extraordinary retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Arabic folk tales in which a king marries a new girl each day only to kill them at dawn the following day.
Renee Ahdieh re-created a magical world that I never wanted to leave. Ahdieh is a remarkable storyteller with outstanding world building skills and an astonishing ability to develop unforgettable characters. I don’t think that my review could ever do this book justice.
At its core The Wrath and the Dawn is a love story unlike any other; it is a magnificently beautiful love story, but extremely painful at times. I felt the story more than I read it. The world Ahdieh described felt enchanted; she spared no details about the palace, the clothing, and the food: she described the vivid colors of different attires, the most meticulous details of the palace rooms, and the smell of foods, making it very easy for the reader to transport themselves into the world she created.
Khalid, the Caliph of Kjorasan, the King of Kings, the monster boy-king, seems to be a ruthless killer. He is introduced to the reader as a monster who kills innocent women every dawn with no remorse or consideration for the girls or their families. Not only does he kill innocent women, but he seems to be oblivious to his people living in fear under his rule. I didn’t want to grow to love him, I didn’t want to excuse his behavior because I found killing women each night to be inexcusable. However, as the story progressed and more of his past and character developed, I found myself rooting for him. And I think that the reason I grew so attached to him was the fact that, besides all that was happening on the surface, deep down he is a feminist. I think the way he treated Sharzi proved that time and time again. He never saw her as his property in a culture where that seems to be the norm, he stood up for her at times, but also left her to fight her own battles. She becomes his everything but he allows her to be herself, with all of her fiery personality. He doesn’t want to tame her and turn her into a compliant wife. He respects and loves her for who she is.
Shahrzad, known as Sharzi to those who love her, is a girl who lost her best friend (Shiva) to the Caliph. She volunteers to marry the Caliph in order to kill him and revenge not only her best friend, but also all the other brides that came before her. During her first night (and what is supposed to be the only night) as the Caliph’s wife, she captures his attention and curiosity with her absorbing storytelling abilities thus earning a few extra dawns and soon Kaliph’s heart. Ahdieh created an amazing protagonist in Sharzi; she is smart, fiery, and extremely brave. I found myself rooting for her from the very beginning, although as the book progressed I was worried about her “mission” as I was swooning over Khalid. I can’t say much about her without spoiling some of the major story twists, but I can tell you that she is extremely strong and I was impressed with her ability to see past her own revenge and try to understand the bigger picture. She knew that some of her choices would lead her to betray her family and those she cared for, but her pursuit of the truth was more important. She was always able to read a situation and make quick decisions, which we rarely get to see in characters. All in all, she is quickly becoming one of my favorite female characters.
In addition to the two main characters, Ahdieh created many side characters that were equally well developed; Jalal and Despina were two of my favorites as they provided great comedic relief and managed to perfectly balance out the dark aspects of the story. I think one of the best things Ahdieh did was give a voice to several of her characters by writing the story from multiple characters point of view. This allowed the reader to get to know and form their own opinion about them.
At the end of the story there were many things left unanswered; and, there were many things that Ahdieh introduced and hinted at but never fully developed, that will leave readers immediately reaching for the sequel, The Rose and the Dagger.
One word of advice: there are many terms the author uses in the story that I was not familiar with; and, while for some the meaning could easily be deduced from the context, a glossary of terms has been included at the end. Make sure to bookmark it and refer back to it as necessary. I found it extremely helpful as I read along.
The Wrath and the Dawn is without a doubt one of my new all-time favorite novels. Ahdieh’s writing style is absolutely flawless, allowing the reader to be transported to a wonderful world full of romance, adventure, action, magic, and so much more. I would recommend this novel to everyone who likes to read; probably even those who think they don’t like to read might change their minds when they are done with this novel. Absolutely fantastic!