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May 18, 2016

Book review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Genre: Retelling, Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

“Some things exist in our lives for but a brief moment. And we must let them go on to light another sky.”

I have to be honest, when this book first started getting hyped up, prior to its publication even, I wasn’t interested. But lately, I’ve been in the mood for books set in the Middle East, retellings of the Arabian Nights, so I had to pick this one up. Suffice to say, this one actually lived up to the hype. Everything about this book, the plot, the writing, the characters, and the world-building was fantastic.

Each day, the Caliph of Khorasan; Khalid weds a new girl and at dawn, she is executed. When Shahrzad’s best friend falls victim to this, she volunteers as the next bride and vows to kill the Caliph and avenge her friend’s death. The night of her wedding, Shahrzad extends the date of her execution by telling stories to the Caliph. This way, she manages the impossible feat; she lives to see the next day. And the next. And the next. Quickly, Shazi realizes that nothing is what meets the eye and Khalid is more than what the world thinks him to be; a ruthless, cold-blooded killer, who has his own skeletons in the closet.

"This boy-king, this murderer . . . she would not permit him to destroy another family. To rob another family. To rob another girl of her best friend–of a lifetime filled with memories that had been and never would be."

I absolutely love the setting of this book. It's a Middle Eastern/Arabian setting that's wonderfully depicted. Renee incorporates such rich culture and customs into her book from the food to the decorum, the speech to the costume, and the tales to the geography. This book is big on sensory details. And her writing style makes it all the more colorful and enticing. I felt as if I were transported to another place, another time, where golden sands buried powerful secrets.

Shahrzad (Shazi); the Calipha of Khorasan

She has made it my list of favorite female protagonist. She’s feisty, smart, bold and reliable. You can always count on her to not do something stupid. Her sarcasm, bravery, stubbornness and lack of indecisiveness made her a refreshingly wonderful main character.

Khalid, the Caliph if Khorasan, the King of Kings

To me, it was clear from the beginning that Khalid wasn’t mindlessly murdering girls so I didn’t out rightly hate him like Shazi did. Khalid is enigmatic and elusive. He's thoughtful and caring behind his icy facade. His closed off and standoffish attitude made it hard to relate to him but once we get a glimpse behind that icy facade, you can’t help but adore him.  Khalid is the kind of character that grows on you as more about his past is revealed. He's a well-rounded and complex character that I really loved by the end of the book.

The romance in this book is beautiful. It develops slowly, from hate to grudging acceptance to love. Their relationship is that kind that transcends all odds and I was rooting for them despite everything being against them.  Khalid had a bleak childhood and Shazi is the perfect contrast to that and Khalid in turn checks Shazi's reckless nature and they just fit like puzzle pieces. 

“What are you doing to me, you plague of a girl?” he whispered.
“If I’m a plague, then you should keep your distance, unless you plan on being destroyed.” The weapons still in her grasp, she shoved against his chest.
“No.” His hands dropped to her waist. “Destroy me.” 

The other characters that I really enjoyed seeing were Despina, Shazi’s haindmaiden, Jalal; the captain of the guard and Khalid’s cousin whom I absolutely adored. His unwavering loyalty to his family was inspiring.

There was just something really special about the story. This one mainly focused on Khalid’s secret and the romance and yet the plot was unique. Not much of action takes place but there were lots of hints here and there that I’m sure will be addressed in book 2.
This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I do suggest giving it a try if you’re looking for something unique with a strong heroine and some good romance. 

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