May 14, 2015

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

TitleThe Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publishing Date: May 12, 2015
Pages/Format: 396, ARC
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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.

Book in One Word: Huh.

I never really had much interest in The Wrath and the Dawn until reviews started hyping it up with five stars and saying it was amazing with all capital letters and lots of exclamation points. I didn't think the book sounded bad, really; the synopsis was interesting, and I liked the sound of the romance, but I was never like, "OH MY GOSH I need this book NOW." Despite the hype, I was never very hyped about it, so I can't really say The Wrath and the Dawn is a disappointment. It's kind of...wrathless? (If I can use a pun I WILL USE IT, SORRY.)

The Wrath and the Dawn is set in a Middle Eastern area, I believe--like Aladdin. With this setting comes a whole new culture I'm really not very familiar with, and that may have been a slight...problem with the book. I don't know if it's customary to constantly address people by their full names, but if it is I didn't know that and it was kind of annoying. (It'd be like people saying "Rachel Patrick" to me every other time they say my name. How about not.) Secondly, the terms. Most are italicized so the reader knows it's not a word from the English language, and also to reference you to the glossary at the back of the book...which starts right after the very last page of the story, which you might almost accidentally see and therefore spoil the book. So I didn't really bother flipping back to the glossary because a) I didn't want to get spoiled, and b) constantly flipping back and forth isn't any fun. (Really, the glossary should just be a bookmark; it'd be so much easier.) I think it's great that we can learn about a culture while reading fiction, but when I don't understand half the words I have a hard time understanding half the story.

The characters were...interesting. I didn't dislike them, and I'm not going to be all, "I didn't like this book because the characters were unlikable," because, hello, people are unlikable and we can't read about all the perfect ones, but, well. First, let me tell you what The Wrath and the Dawn is about. Every night Khalid, the Calipha of Khorasan (aka the King of Kings), takes a new bride and then executes her at dawn. His people are rightfully angry that he's killing their daughters, but he's the king--and kings do as kings do. Then one night Shahrzad volunteers as tribute to be his latest bride, and the people of the palace are suspicious, because what sixteen-year-old girl volunteers to marry a king who kills his queens? (One whose best friend was one of those brides and wants revenge, that's who.) But Khalid finds her interesting and lets her live past the dawn, and then Shahrzad finds him interesting, and, well, you can see where this is going.

Shahrzad is a very sassy, snarky, silver-tongued person. Girl is feisty. And that's totally okay--she's totally capable of taking care of herself, and she didn't come to the palace to kill a king without being prepared; she's not weak--but sometimes she was a bit much and a little brash. I mean, you thrust yourself into this situation and you could really die at any time--well, dawn--and yet you say these things and have this attitude that would have some people yelling for you to be beheaded immediately. She's like a rose: on the outside she's got the looks but once you get close--or within hearing range--she's got some thorns. Big ones. The only other female character of any importance was her handmaiden Despina--I could care less about Yasmine--and she didn't do much to make me care about her. The dialogue between her and Shahrzad seemed a little off, and some of the things she would say--um, you're talking to a queen. Off with your head! I did like Khalid. Some things he did seemed a little side-eye worthy (and frustrating, for ship's sake, though I guess Shahrzad did some frustrating things too), and there was obviously something up with him, but when we get a bit of an explanation, it makes some sense. I was a fan of his Captain of the Guard cousin Jalal, who helped ease some tension and add in some comedy. Then there's Tariq. At first, when he was all, "No, Shahrzad can't do this and I can't let her die, I'm going to save her," I liked him. Then I started to ship Shahrzad and Khalid, and Tariq was being stupid, and then I decided he could be called Jafar, so, no. No, Tariq. Go away. No one likes you. And I know it sounds like there might be a freaking love square--I was worried--but spoiler alert, it's not. It's just a love triangle. But on behalf of Shahrzad, she did leave her love behind and marry some other guy, so.

A large part of the novel is like a giant puzzle as people try to figure other people and things out. Everyone in the palace wants to know why Shahrzad went to the palace willingly. Shahrzad wants to know--really, really wants to know--what's up with Khalid and why he kills all his wives...but not her. Stupid Tariq wants to know how he can rescue Shahrzad and kill the murderous boy-king, and so on and so forth. It makes for an interesting little web of mysteries as you wonder where the book is going and what's going to happen next, and where it does go is the end. There are a few instances throughout the book where something happens and then the scene moves on to the next one and that's it, but I really don't understand what happened in said scene (and sometimes the time frame wasn't explained, which is confusing). (I read the prologue and just pretended I had any clue what was happening.) Did I miss something? Was there some little undertone I was supposed to catch? Which brings us to the end. My final status update on Goodreads was "The fuck?" WHAT HAPPENED? I don't understand it. I can't say anything specific because hello, spoilers, but one thing happened and then another and I couldn't tell you what any of it is because I don't really have any ideas. I have no idea how much time passed between POV switches, why one character said something and what was up with another character's letter. Yeah, I want to read the sequel--The Rose and the Dagger--because I liked The Wrath and the Dawn enough and I want to know what the hell that ending was, but, like, it wasn't even a cliffhanger, exactly. It was like, here's this stuff that happened to the plot, but you're not going to have any idea what it means until you can read book two NEXT YEAR. I'm not irritated. I just don't understand the ending like at all and I want to know what happened.

The Wrath and the Dawn wasn't a disappointment--since I didn't really have any expectations---but it wasn't a pleasant surprise, either. The writing wasn't bad but it wasn't my favorite--almost trying too hard to be really good writing or something? And why was everything constantly described by its color? How many times do we need to know what color someone's eyes are?--and I didn't love the characters, but this had a bit of a page-turning quality that made it kind of devourable. This isn't a bad book. I'd probably give it like 3, 3.5 stars on Goodreads? But after finishing it, upon being whatever about the ending and not exactly understanding some of the novel's schematics, I didn't really feel anything. I wanted to read The Wrath and the Dawn and be blown away like so many other people were, but I wasn't. I don't really get the hype? Hopefully this series ends up being one where the books get better as it progresses. Because right now I read the book and that's just about it.

Did I like it? Yes.
Did I love it? No.
Would I reread it? Eh.
Would I purchase it? The finished copies look really pretty and I think there's a preview of book two--which I want--but I'm not in any rush to put this on my shelves.
Who would I recommend it to? Fans of A Thousand and One Nights might like this, as well as people who like good romance, feisty characters, and a more Middle Eastern setting. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, and that in no way sways my opinion of the book.


  1. Great review. I have yet to read the book, but have pretty high expectations due to the hype. The things you pointed out would definitely annoy me though - and it sucks when you're hoping to be blown away and just end up feeling rather meh.

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