& Reviews: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh. Hardcover version.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh. Hardcover version.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. Young Adult Romance. Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers. May 2015.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. Young Adult Romance. Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers. May 2015.

The Book Itself: I’m putting both the paperback and hardcover versions here, because even though the hardcover is only different in that a screen-like pattern is overlaid on top of the main picture, I like it so much better. I’m not a big fan of pretty girls and/or boys gracing the covers of YA fiction (or even adult romance novels), because 1. It might affect how you picture the main character(s). And 2. I just don’t like it. The people always looked forced in their pose, or they look stuck up or haughty, or…I don’t know… it’s a pet peeve. I read the paperback version of this book, but I might go out and buy the hardcover for my collection.

My Review: 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.  

I was so very reluctant to read this book, but the overwhelming love and gushing about it on social media proved too much. Yes, I caved to peer pressure.

Why would I drag my feet so? I didn’t like that this book sounded like it was going to be, verbatim, Arabian Nights. A Thousand and One Nights. Scheherazade’s Tale. Call it what you will, but the synopsis of this book is that classic folktale. The names aren’t even changed. A young woman marries a man who kills his brides each morning. She stays alive by telling stories, captivating him with the narrative and characters, and timing them so that she must stop in the middle of a tale when the sun rises. The king spares her life to hear the rest of the story, only for the whole process to repeat again the next night, for one thousand nights.

In the original version of the story, the king was jaded from a past unfaithful lover, and thus would murder a new virgin bride every morning so that she could never be unfaithful to him (yep – super dark). He couldn’t bring himself to kill Sheherezade at the end of the thousand nights because he fell in love with her.

In other, less Grimms-Brother-esque versions of the story, the king is bewitched somehow – an enchanted scimitar that forces him to murder the brides, a prophecy, a curse, etc. And that is the avenue that The Wrath and the Dawn takes (not a spoiler – this is revealed on the first page. You knew the hunky love interest wasn’t going to be truly evil anyway).

Just don’t call it an “original story” I wanted to cry as I read some of the blurbs of praise on the back of the book. This has literally already been written before.

But not quite like this. This is a modernization, in a way, of a very, very old tale that has already been translated, re-told, and edited hundreds of times. It adds a pinch of that YA-romance that sells books these days and voila  – people are calling it a new classic. I am still stubborn, and say that it was already a very old classic, and is just ever so slightly tweaked here.  But it is a good story nonetheless.

I like that it isn’t instant love. Although how could it – this guy just murdered Shahrzad’s best friend. It’s a relationship that builds, from fear into curiosity into understanding into luuurve. It gets pretty spicy, too – no “G” rating here, folks. Some scenes were surprisingly sensual and sexified (that was the least sexy way I could think of to write “sexy”).

The writing and scene building are also very well done. And the secondary characters have colorful personalities that really round them out. Mostly the pacing was superb, and I found myself getting completely caught up in this steamy romance in a beautiful setting.

Couple of things: the stories this Shehrzad told weren’t as compelling as I thought they could be. They are supposed to make a murderer not want to kill you, girl. Come up with something better than Aladdin!

And there is a minor storyline/theme of magic that is so little paid attention to that I wished the book hadn’t included it at all. And yeah, there’s a magic carpet…again with the Aladdin.

It sounds like I hate/liked it, but really it’s a good story. If you’re very familiar with A Thousand and One Nights/Arabian Nights, you will find it lacking a whole lot of original spice, but it’s a well-paced YA romance with great character building and setting.

My Grade: B