THE WRATH AND THE DAWN
By Renee Ahdieh
PAYING HOMAGE to 1001 Nights and Beauty and the Beast, The Wrath and the Dawn is a stunning portrait of imagery. If you like purple prose (which I do!) then there are plenty of descriptions to savor as the characters’ every thought, dialogue, and action is described in painstaking, colorful detail. Sometimes it was to the point where I thought get on with it. Then Ahdieh would shake things up with an assassination attempt, and I would be dialed into the story again.
There was one major area the story missed the mark for me: the magic. It just didn’t quite have that “spark” of originality, given that it is, on certain levels, drawing very obvious parallels with the aforementioned tales and the stakes never felt as gripping as in those original tales.
On the surface, The Wrath and the Dawn has it all. There is a grim and secretive “boy-king” Khalid who has murdered his way through forty wives for reasons no one knows why (ugh, I hated that he kept being referred to as “boy-king” – I feel the story would have worked better and been more seductive if he was called how he acted – a man. I never got the impression of him as a young boy). There is a feisty and proud heroine, Shazi, who volunteers to be his wife with a secret mission of her own: revenge. There is an aspiring magician who cackles and waves his hands at the skies as he grows his dark powers in a way that made it impossible for me to not think of Jafar from Disney’s version of Aladdin. There is Shazi’s childhood sweetheart, Tariq, who is hellbent on saving her from marrying the monster boy-king. There is the wholesome and supportive handmaiden, Despina. And there is an evil Sultan.
And the story works, for what it is – a slow-moving, lush romance. The secrets behind why Khalid is killing off his brides are unfolded one by one, and we see multiple viewpoints of a nation building toward revolution. It almost reminded me of watching a musical. Each scene is neat, packaged, and executed like a scene on stage, although the writing lingers a bit too much on excessive detail to explain to the reader why the character is feeling that way. We are told innumerous times that Khalid is a monster but I never got that impression because none of his actions really made me that scared for Shazi. It seemed like he fell for her charms too easily.
However, I didn’t feel a connection to the main characters. The story just never really caught fire or had me brimming with curiosity over what came next. The reason behind why Khalid killed off his brides made me sigh. Really, where the story shone for me were the smaller moments: I loved the Rajput and Omar, who perhaps because their roles were much smaller, conveyed so much more of their character in what they didn’t say. I loved the two tales that Shazi tells Khalid to spare herself from death, and I was kind of interested more so in how those stories wrapped up. And I was really excited for one particular fight scene, but then Khalid didn’t even get a chance to show why he was the “second best swordsman” grrrr. I loved the world-building descriptions as well, but after a while, I began to dread each new scene with Shazi, because I knew I was about to receive a speech about what she was wearing down to the last amethyst earring.
There is a second book, The Rose and the Dagger, that wraps up this duology. Fans of slow-moving romances will want to check it out. Overall, a heartwarming and luscious story that exults in the power of love.
Recommend for fans of: Rosamund Hodge, Kristin Cashore, Marie Rutkoski, Amber Lough
Upcoming Book Review: Alpha Goddess by Amalie Howard