“She was a dangerous, dangerous girl. A plague. A Mountain of Adamant who tore the iron from ships, sinking them to their watery graves without a second thought. With a mere smile and a wrinkle of her nose.”
I really wasn’t sure what to expect with The Wrath & the Dawn because I don’t read a lot of romance, or at least books that have romance as the primary component of the story. Yet this book had been recommended to me enough times by respected reviewers that my interest was piqued. As well, Ahdieh’s new book, The Flame in the Mist, was just released and with all the buzz surrounding it I decided to give one of her older works a try first. And am I ever glad I did. This book was a pure wonder.
In this 1001 Nights retelling, a murderous boy-king chooses a new bride every night and every dawn she is found dead with a silk cord around her neck. One life to one dawn. Until a cunning and courageous young girl named Shahrzad volunteers to be his next bride to seek revenge for the murder of her best friend. When she arrives at the palace she is burning with a desire for retribution on this King of Kings, the Caliph of Khorasan. That night she ensures her survival by beginning a story… and leaving it unfinished to buy herself the time she needs to plan her revenge. However she is surprised to find that Khalid, this boy-king, greets her with unprecedented kindness, albeit sad and withdrawn, and she begins to wonder if he really is the monster she has heard so much about.
From here the story unfurls gently like a blooming flower as the mystery of Khalid is revealed slowly over time and Shahrzad’s heart begins to soften towards him. What I loved about Shahrzad and Khalid was how empowering they are to each other. How their love is based out of kindness and mutual respect, rather than seduction. My heart was warmed by Khalid’s absolute admiration for Shahrzad’s strength and tenacity. They are definitely equally matched in stubbornness and strength of will, however, which made for some humourous and endearing dialogue.
“My soul sees its equal in you.”
While primarily a romance, there is a bit of action, intrigue, and a hint of fantasy to keep the pages turning quickly. A cast of loveable side characters add just the right amount comic relief to balance the angst of the story. And yes.. there is a hint of a love triangle. Normally love triangles as a trope annoy me to no end but for some reason it just worked in this book because it felt like a natural extension of the story. I kept thinking about how possible it all could have been if this had happened to a real life girl with a childhood sweetheart. It was poignant and bittersweet, and allowed for the plot to develop into something more than just a love story, scout’s honour.
And I can’t fail to mention just how delicious Ahdieh’s writing is. It is minimal and simple, yet evocative and lush and alive. It prickled my senses with descriptions of sunlight on colourful silk fabrics, exotic foods and warm desert sand. Every sentance was a sensory delight and every scene drew me further and further into this lovely story. Oh and I suggest getting ready to grab book two, The Rose & the Dagger, as soon as you finish because that cliff hanger will wreck you.
“What are you doing to me, you plague of a girl,” he whispered.
Or, what have you done to me, you plague of a book? My normally cynical and frozen heart is a melted puddle on the floor. I even gave my copy a nice long hug after I closed it upon completion. There may have even been tears. Oh, my dignity is out the window.
My rating: 5/5 stars
Title: The Wrath & the Dawn
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers