A YA fantasy retelling that pulled me in because of the cover (yep, I’m that sort). I finished this book in one day for a desert-themed readathon. And here’s what I thought of it.
Title: The Wrath and the Dawn (404 pages)
Author: Renée Ahdieh (American-Korean author)
Genre: YA fantasy, retelling
Themes: Enemies to lovers, Middle Eastern myths
First publication: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (May 2015)
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (3 stars)
What I liked: Diversity and world setting
What I didn’t like: Transition to lovers and overall focus on motivations and characterization.
What is this? The Wrath and the Dawn is YA fantasy retelling of A Thousand and One Nights. The book (a debut novel, by the way) is the first in a duology with a sequel called The Rose and the Dagger. My hardcover copy was published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, which has beautiful deckled edges and shiny details. The overall reception of this book was positive and welcoming for its romance and political intrigue.
Plot summary: Heavily influenced by its source material, the story is about Khalid, a Caliph, who takes a new bride every day to kill her when night falls. Sharzad volunteers as a bride vowing to take revenge for her best friend, who was the Caliph’s bride before her. Sharzad escapes death for a few nights by telling Khalid stories about several themes that she thinks will distract him. On top of that she finds herself drawn to the mystery surrounding Khalid. Throughout the book we follow the dynamics between these two.
My review: I feel the need to put a small disclaimer. I know A Thousand and One Nights‘ premise but I have never read it fully. I suspect that this influences my review differently than someone who has.
The setup of this book had me enthralled and hungry for more, which prompted me to finish it in one day. The Arabic setting is one of my favorite aspects because it’s described in an incredibly vivid and human manner. The details of decorations and clothing were very nice to experience. The book is accompanied with a glossary for people who don’t know everything about the culture. I felt educated to learn a few words I haven’t come across yet in my work experience.
The writing style was a positive for me as well. Ahdieh uses a few metaphors but not in an extreme manner, which I can appreciate. I’m the sort of reader that gets disconnected if authors use an abundant amount of metaphors. It sometimes takes away my focus from the story and atmosphere. What I did notice is that some chapters had a lot of repetition in sayings or descriptions. An example is Despina, Sharzad’s maid, who “snickers” whenever Sharzad makes a funny remark. I think a few of these repeats could’ve been removed, or described in a different way, without taking away quality from the writing.
Now, this book is an “enemies to lovers” story. The main character, Sharzad, approaches the Caliph with the motive to kill him. She hates him for taking away her best friend and she regularly describes him as a monster. Basically, the transition to lovers is too short for my liking. There is some kind of instant love which I feel makes it unrealistic and rushed. I also missed motives from the main characters, describing why they felt attracted to each other. Just describing a character has beautiful eyes doesn’t do it for me. Sharzad starts out as an independent, strong woman but quickly turns into an emotional, influenced child. And I realize that sounds harsh but her transition in personality just didn’t set well with me. It felt distant.
Next to that, the book starts off with a rushed feeling as well. This is a choice a lot of authors make so they can start with the premise while avoiding slow setups (which some other books have). We start out with Sharzad being prepared for the wedding night, dressing up and such. What I would’ve loved to read about, though, is what happened before that. How did she volunteer as a bride? Was there a wedding? How did the Caliph or his servants react? I think answering those questions would bring a lot more depth into the story.
What I did enjoy is the political intrigue in this story. There are games at play to influence the Caliph and his rule, which will influence Sharzad and her family as well. It was very captivating to get taken into the scheming and that makes me very curious for the sequel.
Overall feeling: Enjoyable fast read but it missed character driven depth. A+ diversity and setting. The setup to the sequel is a smart way to keep your readers on edge. Would have more depth if it tackled slow burn romance.
Do I recommend this book? Brutally honest, this book won’t stick with me. It was an enjoyable read but I’m missing depth and motivation from the main characters. Because of this, it won’t be the first book I will think of when someone requests a YA fantasy recommendation. I will, in this specific post, recommend it if you like easy romances that won’t take too much energy from you.
What will I do after this book? One day, I will read the sequel because although this isn’t a favorite, the author still managed to keep me on my toes. I’m curious as to how it all ends and if the sequel will influence my opinion on this book. And I’ll probably make a mood board on Pinterest because the setting of this book makes me want to visualize everything!
Hope you enjoyed my review.
Did you read this book? What did you think of it?