Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Published: 2016 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh is a young adult retelling of One Thousand and One Nights. Each night, Khalid, the mad Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride, who he has killed the next morning. Becoming Khalid’s bride is a death sentence, but a young woman named Shazi volunteers for the role. Her best friend had been one of Khalid’s brides, and Shazi sees this as her chance for vengeance. She will use the opportunity to get close enough to Khalid to kill him.
However, Khalid isn’t the monster that Shazi expected. Instead, she finds a tormented boy king who finds himself caught in a very bad situation and is doing the best that he can under the circumstances. Khalid is captivated by Shazi, and chooses again and again not to kill her. And the more time Shazi spends with Khalid, the more she begins to question her desire to kill him.
One of the things that I really loved about The Wrath and the Dawn was Khalid’s moral ambiguity. At first, you see him as a monster. He’s a stereotypical villain. But then you start to get to know him, and you realize that everything he’s done has been done for a reason. To me, that’s a more realistic viewpoint, and adds a layer of complexity to his character. Complex villains/antiheroes make me happy.
While I loved Khalid and Shazi’s story, I didn’t love the point-of-view of Tariq, Shazi’s former boyfriend. I get why Tariq is there though, and I think that his story is particularly important for teenage audiences; he and Shazi did have a strong connection, and were together for a lot of years, but things change and people grow apart. Tariq has a hard time accepting that Shazi has moved on, and feels possessive of her. He’s trying to rescue her, but Shazi can take care of herself and doesn’t need to be rescued. Learning when to let go is an important lesson.
As a whole, I greatly enjoyed The Wrath and the Dawn. The world that Renee Ahdieh creates in the novel is rich and imaginative. I loved seeing the relationship between Khalid and Shazi develop; both characters have suffered a lot in their short lives, and they find comfort in each other. But the story isn’t without its flaws. I wish that the magic would have felt a bit more consistent; while it’s present throughout the book, it has very little bearing on Khalid and Shazi’s day-to-day lives, and so when it begins to take a more prominent role toward the end of the story, it feels abrupt.
I read The Wrath and the Dawn in one sitting, as I just couldn’t put it down. I’d strongly recommend this one.