Published 2015, 388pp, Putnam Juvenile
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
The Wrath and the Dawn is a Young Adult retelling of A Thousand and One Nights and is packed full of political intrigue, secrets, a hint of magic and gorgeous food as well as the stories within the story. Khalid is the 18 year old Caliph of Khorasan, Shahrzad is the girl that’s going to kill him. The Caliph takes a new bride every evening, and at each dawn orders their death, hung by a silk cord. After her best friend is murdered by the King of Kings, Shazi decides to take his life. She volunteers to be the next bride with revenge clouding her judgement. She has a plan to escape the dread of the dawn, she will tell the Caliph a story all night so that when dawn comes, he will need to keep her alive to hear the end. Khalid had never visited one of his brides again after each marriage. It’s too painful for him, but this time, he is intrigued by the defiant girl who volunteered to marry him. He has to meet her, he has to find out how she could possibly face marrying him, and her certain death. He discovers she is not at all what he bargained for.
It has been so refreshing to read a novel so immersed in a different culture. I’m ashamed to say this is my first novel set in the Middle East since I read The Kite Runner and it was captivating. Ahdieh’s prose is stunning, she builds the world perfectly with detailed descriptions of the clothes, the food, the language. She even provides a glossary at the back which allows her to use descriptive words without the reader losing the true meaning. That’s not to say the glossary is strictly necessary, I feel her meaning is always evident, but it is a nice touch. Even the pages are gorgeous, made to look and feel like ancient text, the book as a whole is a masterpiece.
Told from different perspectives, the story really draws you in. Why does a bride have to die every day? Who is the Caliph? Is he really terrifying? Can she pull it off? Will he care about the stories? The character development is huge. Shazi begins the novel headstrong, proud and arrogant, believing she knows the Caliph is nothing more than a monster who deserves a painful death, but ends with far more knowledge than she expected, a kinder heart and much more vulnerable. You begin to see a tender side to her you wouldn’t have been able to imagine her capable of at the beginning. The Caliph too, is not all that he seems. He holds a secret that is tearing him apart, and as he slowly begins trust Shazi we learn not to judge a book by it’s cover. (Although in this novels case you totally should as it is gorgeous inside and out). Outside the walls of the Palace, Tariq, Shazi’s first love and best friend will not let her go lightly. He is furious when he discovers what she has done and promises to rescue her. However, by the time he pushes his way into the Palace, he meets a changed Shazi. What happened to her? Why is she suddenly protective of the Caliph that murdered her friend? Why won’t she go with him…
For those answers, you will have to read it. A jaw-dropping cliffhanger awaits though, I must confess. 2016 feels far too far away to wait for the sequel to this, the first of a duology. The Rose and the Dagger is due out next year.
Buy The Wrath and the Dawn here.