The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
I am so happy I read this book. I bought this book last summer, dragged it all the way to university for it to sit on my shelf and collect dust, then I brought it all the way home to read it now. I’m regretting not reading it when I bought it because I fell in love with this book. I loved the world, the characters, the story, everything. There were only a few things I found to be confusing, and they were fairly minor so they didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the story in any way.
Writing: I found Renée Ahdieh’s writing to be beautiful and easy – it felt so natural and effortless and I loved it. Some of her descriptions were gorgeous and I loved her use of traditional Middle Eastern terms for clothes, weapons, etc. I know that’s because it’s set in the Middle East, but I feel other authors would have shied away from using the proper terms for these things. It really added to the feel and flow of the story. While I didn’t know what all of the terms meant, Ahdieh provided enough context to subtly hint at what each term meant, such as caliph and calipha, meaning king and queen in English terms. There was also a helpful glossary at the back of the book that provided an English definition for the Middle Eastern terms (it would have helped if I discovered it before I finished the book, but for those of you who haven’t read the book, there is a helpful tidbit for you). I thought it was an awesome way to learn more about this culture, even if there were some fictional parts (such as the magic). Overall I loved Ahdieh’s writing and I can’t wait to devour the sequel.
Plot: I found the plot to be done quite well, with plenty of twists and turns like I was going through a labyrinth. There were some aspects that were predictable, such as Tariq’s actions, and others that caught me truly off guard, such as (SPOILER) the curse on Khalid and the kingdom, and the attempt on Shahrzad’s life by the mercenaries. I really enjoyed the revealing of the curse, and how Khalid really wasn’t a bloodthirsty murderer. I wasn’t super happy with the ending, but that’s only because I want Shazi and Khalid to stay together, and I do think the little epilogue/last chapter was super sweet. I never found the plot to be slow or dragging, the only thing I found confusing was in the prologue of the book, I believe it’s Khalid’s brother and father talking, but then they are dead by the time the main story happens, and there isn’t a tone of context for that prologue, but I was able to infer it. All in all I was impressed with the way the plot unfolded and I found it to be so well done.
Characters: I really liked almost all of the characters, apart from a few minor ones, who I’m sure will play an important part in the sequel, such as Shahrzad’s father, and close family/friends. I didn’t feel that they played a large enough role in the first novel to get a true gauge on them.
Shahrzad: I loved Shazi. She was fierce, bold, determined, and even though she didn’t accomplish what she intended to do, it’s very hard to go against your heart, so I don’t blame her for a second for not murdering Khalid. She may have been brash at times, but that’s exactly what kept her alive – her denial to be compliant, quiet, and a “good wife” is what made Khalid notice her and keep her alive in the first place. I also loved how she told off even the caliph himself, and it made Khalid fall for her even more, such as when she kept saying that she was not an object
as she should because no woman is ever a man’s object or possession. I also loved her character development of learning to listen to her enemies, and being open to hearing their stories. If not, she would never have fallen for Khalid and learned about the truth behind the “murderous” boy king. I also thought it was awesome how she learned that just because you have known someone for years does not mean you must always stay with them ( Tariq you fucking imbecile).
Khalid: I loved learning Khalid’s story even though he was the whole “prince with a tragic past and daddy issues” trope (I’ll let it slide for him since his dad was dead in the book and did sound like a real asshat). I enjoyed his character and the love he only showed for Shazi; I liked seeing the contrast between the cold king who needed to seem ruthless as he’s so young, and the passionate boy (man?) who sees Shazi as his sun and earth. I also never found his love to be corny and over-used clichés – it was a swoon worthy, burning, passionate love for her. One of his descriptions was his soul sees her as his equal and I almost died. For once a man who saw his wife as his equal and nothing less.
Tariq: I’m only writing a whole paragraph about Tariq because he bothered me so much. I did not like his character. He was selfish, inconsiderate, and waaaay too cocky. He never considered if Shazi would want to leave Khalid and escape from her marriage, never considered that she actually enjoyed living there, considering she was the only girl to survive more than one night. He only cared about his desire for her, his feelings, and his plan to kill Khalid. He never considered that Khalid might be framed or that the killings may be out of his control. Tariq just infuriated me. Especially when he showed up and just expected Shahrzad to still love him. The cocky dick didn’t think that maybe, just maybe, Khalid was a real person with emotions and feelings like Shazi? Or that Shazi had found both friendship and love at the castle, and that she wouldn’t come crawling back to Tariq because she’s a woman capable of making her own decisions?
I’m not sure if Ahdieh intended to write Tariq in this way, but that’s how I felt about him. Can you tell I hate when men think they know what’s best for a woman?
Despina: I really liked Despina. I thought she was a good way to add humour to the text, however small it may have been. I also liked how she and Shazi found friendship in each other, and they truly cared for each other even if they argued like no tomorrow. I really hope Despina has a role in the sequel since I want to learn more about her character and see her friendship with Shazi evolve. I thought it was hilarious how she blatantly admitted she was a spy for Khalid but was on Shazi’s “side” per say. I’m excited to see more of her character.
Overall, all of the stars to Renée Ahdieh for writing this beautiful novel. I want to read everything by her if they’re all written like this. It makes me sad that The Wrath & the Dawn is only a duology instead of a trilogy – I would love even more of Shahrzad and Khalid’s story but it makes sense why there will only be two books.