The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Book One of The Wrath and the Dawn series
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.
She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.
What I Liked:
This is definitely a book you all do not want to miss this year. 2015 is quite the year for YA fantasy, and this book is definitely one of the best ones I've read for the year. There have plenty of other great ones that are as good or even better than this one, like An Ember in the Ashes or The Orphan Queen or The Girl at Midnight. The Wrath and the Dawn is right up there, and will most likely end up on my Top Ten YA Fantasy Novels of 2015 post at the end of the year!
Shahrzad is the next of a line of hundreds of brides who marry the King of Kings, Khalid, Caliph of Khorasan, at noon of one day, and is executed at dawn the next day. No one understands this senseless murder, but everyone is affected by it. Shahrzad volunteers as a bride, determined to kill Khalid for killing her best friend Shiva. Not only does Shahrzad survive past dawn - she slowly beings to fall for the caliph. But how? He's a monster that orders the execution of each new bride. But why? Shahrzad finds that the caliph is not who she thought he was, and the murders are not without reason. But can she put an end to the deaths, without killing Khalid himself?
I've never read A Thousand and One Nights, but I'm familiar with the story. I love the Simpsons' short version, with Ned and Lisa. This book is a retelling, or based on A Thousand and One Nights. The alone was enough to draw me in - fantasy! Retelling! And then the synopsis was revealed, and I went all OMG OMG OMG! I absolutely love stories that have romance in which characters go from hate to love. And then the cover was revealed, and it was like the icing on a (hopefully) delicious. To continue with the cake analogy (now I REALLY want cake), this book was quite delicious, well worth the wait and totally meant to enjoy again and savor!
I was a bit wary of Shahrzad in the beginning of this book. She was very hell-bent on destroying Khalid, and it was a little disturbing. I mean, I totally get it. If my sister or best friend or anyone I love was killed for basically no reason, I'd want to slaughter the guy too. But as a reader, we already know that Khalid isn't just killing innocent girls for no reason. We see that something is terribly wrong, and that he does not enjoy killing them. He isn't quite the monster Shahrzad (and the rest of the city) have in his head.
So I admired Shahrzad's bravery and determination, but I was also sad, because I felt bad for Khalid. But as the story went on, I grew to really like Shahrzad. She isn't afraid of Khalid, and she does as she pleases, consequences ignored. She has the attitude that, she could be executed at any point, so nothing matters, and she might as well do as she pleases, like take up wandering or shooting arrows or bothering people. I really like Shahrzad. She is the flame to Khalid's ice.
Oh, Khalid. I have the biggest crush on him right now. He's eighteen, but honestly, his demeanor gave off the age of someone much older. He's mature, but mostly, he's weighed down by all the deaths he's sanctioned. He will do anything for his city. We find out why he does what he does late in the book, and it's so heartbreaking. I have a lot of respect for Khalid, because he shoulders much. Khalid appears unfeeling, quiet, icy, but he is lonely, guilty, burdened. He lets Shahrzad in slowly, and it's the most beautiful to read. The first time he calls her "my queen"... my heart melted. And then his words got sweeter and they were so genuine and you really couldn't help falling for the guy.
These two characters are wonderfully developed protagonists. The book is written in third person, limited to Khalid and Shahrzad (more Shahrzad than Khalid). It doesn't flip back and forth, but each character gets a fair amount of third-person-perspective exposure. I loved reading from both of their perspectives. I don't even have a preference. That's the beautiful thing about third person - no matter limited or omniscient, the story is told by a remote narrator, so I won't be caught up in liking on character's point-of-view more than the other's.
Did I mention that I LOVE the romance? The whole hate-turned-love thing is probably my favorite romance trope in the whole world, and I LOVE how it is exemplified in this book. I love Khalid, I love Shahrzad, and I love seeing them fall for each. Slow-burn romance, slowly developed trust.
The fantasy is stunning, and the world-building is so well-written. There is magic and lore and curses and swords and assassins and basically my favorite kind of fantasy. This book is much more than a romance story between Khalid and Shahrzad. Breaking the curse becomes quite important especially towards the end of the book, when Shahrzad finds out about it.
There's also an entire side to this book I have yet to mention - Shahrzad's family never stopped trying to find ways to get her back, should she survive. Eventually, they all hear of how the caliph is taken with his new bride, and names her his queen. Tariq, Shahrzad's old childhood friend and the boy she used to love, still loves her, and will kill Khalid for taking her and killing the other girls. Shahrzad's father invokes dark magic to gain power, in order to overthrow Khalid. There's quite a lot of craziness that comes together at the end of the story.
Speaking of the ending... it isn't all that happy at all. Definitely a cliffhanger in terms of certain relationships... and not a satisfying ending. The issue with the curse isn't resolve, the romance is teetering, and the full-on war that we get a taste of is is brewing. It's nice to know that there will be a sequel but I wish this book had ended a little more nicely, especially in terms of certain, um, people.
What I Did Not Like:
The ending definitely makes this one's rating lower than it could be. Theoretically, this book gets five stars from me. But with the cruel ending (I HATE these types of endings), this book was bound to lose at least a star.
The other part that really annoyed me is the possible emergence of a love triangle. We all ship Khalid and Shahrzad (you will be the end of the book, there is no doubt of that). Tariq's mere presence just BOTHERS me. I don't even like him. I mean, he's doing nothing wrong - he's trying to rescue the girl he loves. That's really noble. But, dude, just NO. She's not for you anymore. And he sees that by the end of the book. And yet... the ending has me so furious about certain things, and it has nothing to do with neither Khalid nor Shahrzad. I'm blaming everything on Tariq. And the author, of course. Ha.
Would I Recommend It:
This is definitely a favorite of the year, I can tell. So I would recommend wholeheartedly. What would make this book even better is if I could get the next one in my hands right now... impossible. You don't have to be a fantasy fan to fall in love with book. This is definitely one that I would pre-order as soon as possible, and not just because of the pretty cover.
4 stars. More like 3.5 stars, but in terms of how I feel towards individual things, this book gets five stars. But if I were to "calculate" the rating, it's 3.5-4 stars. I've already reread this book several times, so you KNOW it's good when that happens! Despite the cruel ending, I would get a copy of this one as soon as possible if I were you! And then suffer quietly with me as we wait for 2016 to roll around.
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