The Wrath and the Dawn
I borrowed this book from my university library on a whim. This is an honest and spoiler-free review.
In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.
Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?
Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.
The Wrath and the Dawn is a book I did not expect to love as much as I did. I knew it would be a romance, but I’m always apprehensive about romances with a tricky power-dynamic, so I went into this story expecting a spoiled and ruthless king and a weak but brave girl who changes his heart. I had also read An Ember in the Ashes earlier this year, which has a similar middle eastern feel to it and that weak female protagonist, so those associations were enough to keep me from giving this book a chance. But I’m so glad I ultimately decided to pick up this book because it was nothing like An Ember in the Ashes!
This is a book that not only has a wealth of complex characters and breathtakingly magical world, but also an important message. The romance is just a one part of this book that serves to help the lovers change their assumptions and hope for a better future than the ones for which they believe they are destined. In other words, the romance of this book advances the character development and story and makes this book a treasure no one should want to miss!
One of my hesitations about reading books set in the middle east is that I will not like how the women are treated in their world. I do not like to read books where the female characters are unable to control their destinies, specifically because of their gender. It turns out I did not have to worry about this in The Wrath and the Dawn, as the women in this book were absolutely treasured by their families.
This story is about Shahzrad, or Shazi, who sets off to avenge the death of her best friend with the blessing–or at least the understanding–of her friends and family. But The Wrath and the Dawn is also about the lengths to which fathers will go to avenge their daughters. While their passion is clearly stomping out all reason, it is heartwarming nevertheless.
I think the tendency in most books these days is for the “bad boy” characters to realize the errors of their previous ways be redeemed by love once they meet the “right girl”. And I get it; I certainly had this girlish fantasy at period of my life as I’m sure most girls do. But Khalid, it turns out, is not so bad we go into this novel thinking. It turns out he has a secret that the protagonist realizes she must be uncover in order to avenge her best friend and also save the boy she realizes she’s fallen in love with. This mystery is part of what made this book such a page-turner!
The storytelling is so enchanting.
In The Wrath and the Dawn, one of the inherent themes at work is the power of stories. In order to live to the next night at the beginning of this novel, Shazi engrosses the king in a story that she is careful not to let end so that he is forced to let her continue to live if he wishes to find out what happens next. I worried these storytelling sessions might grow boring, but they were actually really wonderful and I was sad when they ended! It makes sense why: because Shazi and Khalid become the center of their own story which is the true purpose of the novel.
A valuable commentary on revenge.
The Wrath and the Dawn is a novel all about revenge. It starts with Sahzi’s revenge plot already set in motion, after she’s in the palace and getting married to the man who murdered her best friend. But this novel turns into a commentary on the true cost of revenge. We learn that past revenges have resulted in the current devastating state of affairs in Khorasan. But that is all I can say without spoiling the book!
I looked it them up, and it appears the setting of this book including Khorasan and Parthia were real, ancient kingdoms located in, or around, present-day Iran. So I think it’s marvelous to think that this magical world could have once existed. So I love that this book is in itself a love letter to a begone time and a reimagining of a classical work of world literature which not many young Westerners will know about.
I encourage anyone who has even considered the possibility of reading this book to give it a shot. It defied all my expectations and turned out to be an absolutely beautiful work of fiction. The ending was a little predictable for me, especially as I went into this book knowing there would be a sequel. So that was the one downside for me, but I could overcome my disappointment because this book beautifully sets up what will no doubt be an explosive second book in The Rose and the Dagger.