“After all, every story has a story.”
A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights
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.
The Wrath and the Dawn is an inspired retelling of A Thousand and One Nights – a collection of Arabic, West, Central and South Asian, and North African folk tales. These tales has different versions out but there’s one thing common in most of them – the framing device wherein a King marry a girl each night only to be executed the next dawn.
In Renée Ahdeih version she introduced us to Khalid the murderer boy-king who is set to marry his next wife Shahrzad. Shahrzad volunteered to be the next bride with a goal to revenge her best friend’s death. Everyone expect her to die the next morning just like the other girls before her, but with her wit, ferocity, and stories Shahrzad managed to survived her first dawn at the palace and the next and the next. How long can she outsmart Khalid before he decide to finally end her life? Can she still have the revenge she intended if she found out Khalid’s reason for killing his brides?
As a debut novel, I am surprised with The Wrath and the Dawn and Renée Ahdieh’s writing skills. I expect the book to be predictable being inspired from other book but The Wrath and the Dawn is anything but predictable. The inspiration is clearly there from the frame story to the stories inside the stories but it was all weaved and masterfully plotted to create a more thrilling and gripping new story.
Renée Ahdieh has a very luscious and enchanting descriptions of her world. Her style of writing is imaginary making Khalid and Shazi’s world rich and vivid. It so easy to get lost in the surroundings, magic, cultures, and characters. Reading this book is like being transported to Arabic land with its rich culture and colorful stories.
The world building though slow is perfectly paced. Every bits of the plots are important to the culmination of this gripping story that is filled with real fear as I traced the path leading to the characters motives and actions.
Khalid I think is supposed to be hated or at least not to be like by readers. He is a killer for God sake! I’m not supposed to root for him, or least forgive his wrong doings. So I am surprised that I am rooting for him even when I don’t know yet his reasons for killing his brides. That for me is one successful skill from Renée Ahdieh. She makes me care for her characters, to want to understand them, to forgive and justify their actions and decisions, and root for them.
Usually I don’t like when the main character choose love over reasoning or logic, but in here I am glad that Khalid did it. It’s a tough decision to make. If I am in his shoes I think I will choose to continue the sacrifices, so I am surprise that I want Khalid to choose differently. I believe that if he sacrifice Shazi – it will finally break him. I don’t want to see what he will become after that. And I don’t think he deserve to continue to suffer because of one mistake from his past. He had more than enough.
Khalid sacrifices are for the greater good but when he chose to spare Shazi he undo all his past sacrifices. By then he reminds me that sometimes love can limit the sacrifices we are willing to make. His decision to stop the kill and loose everything he has is made from love – selfish but pure and real love.
“Love is a force unto itself, sayyidi. For love, people consider the unthinkable…and often achieve the impossible. I would not sneer at its power.”
Overall, The Wrath and the Dawn is a compelling rich story that is extremely enjoyable and highly intriguing. I was charmed by this novel, from Renée Ahdieh writing, to Shahrzad and Khalid’s gripping story, to the stories inside the story, and to the rich world and culture it offers. Definitely surprising for a debut novel.