Monday, June 6, 2016

Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Adhieh

Title: The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) 
Author: Renée Adhieh
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Pages: 404
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One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

I purchased The Wrath and the Dawn when it came out last May, but have just now gotten around to actually reading it. Don't get me wrong! I tried. I tried a few times to start this book, but always gave up a couple chapters in. I don't know what it was about it, but I just could not convince myself to continue reading. When I found out I'd get to meet Renée Ahdieh later this summer, I decided I HAD to give it another chance and I am so glad I finally committed to it!

Shahzrad (known to her friends as Shazi) is out for vengeance in this incredible story based on A Thousand and One Nights. When her best friend is killed by the monster boy-king of Khorasan, Shazi decides to marry him and get rid of him herself, sparing any other families from losing their daughters to the Caliph. Everyone expects Shazi to be put to death the morning after her wedding, just like every other bride Khalid has taken. Everyone (including Shazi and Khalid) is surprised when she is put under the Caliph's protection instead and remains alive day after day.

I really wasn't sure what to think about Shahzrad for a lot of this book. She seemed strong most of the time, which I really admire in a heroine. At the same time, she fell in love with Khalid alarmingly fast and often seemed unsure of herself. There were times when I wished Shazi would make up her mind, either to carry out her plans for vengeance or embrace her feelings for Khalid, instead of going back and forth throughout the bulk of the book. Still, I could understand her reservations in trusting him and could totally sympathize with her need for answers. I did LOVE her attitude towards pretty much everyone, though. I loved that she didn't take any crap off of anyone and always spoke her mind, even when it wasn't in her best interest.

The love interest, of course, is Khalid, who also happens to be the seemingly psychotic king who is on a murder spree, killing one woman per day for no apparent reason. Before I really got into this book I saw people going on and on about how amazing Khalid was. I saw him on book boyfriend lists, book boyfriend products, etc. I still don't think that he's the most perfect guy in the bookish world, but he definitely did grow on me. Obviously, he had reasons for murdering innocent women. I didn't think he could possibly give a reason that would satisfy me, but what he did end up confessing actually made me understand him a lot more. I don't like that he felt like he could make decisions for Shazi (that kind of crap really irritates me to no end) but I did come away really liking the romance between him and Shazi after all.

There are also quite a few secondary characters in The Wrath and the Dawn that add a lot to the story. My favorite was obviously Jalal, the captain of the guard. I loved his relationship with Shahzrad and the trust that developed between them over the course of the book. Despina sometimes irritated me, but I did enjoy the friendship that she shared with Shazi for the most part. I just don't deal well with overly moody people - in real life or in fiction.

I really did end up enjoying the story a lot. Surprisingly, the connection to A Thousand and One Nights kind of faded off rather quickly, in my opinion, but I think that worked out well here. I prefer when retellings don't adhere so strictly that they're predictable and this one was not as predictable as I'd expected. I thought the magical aspects of the story were really well done and not overpowering. The world building was also fantastic. I believe this is the first book I've read that's based in the Middle East and I really enjoyed it and felt like Renée Adhieh did a fantastic job of placing me in the middle of the desert. I also really appreciated the glossary at the back, even if I only discovered it after it was over...

I really enjoyed The Wrath and the Dawn a lot more than I expected to, if we're being honest. While I will admit that it was a bit heavy on the romance and there was a little insta-love at play, I thought the other aspects of the book were interesting enough to make me overlook the flaws, for the most part. I definitely plan on reading the sequel soon!