4 out of 5 stars
Sultry, sleek and lethal, The Wrath and the Dawn reads like the very silk cord used to kill the Caliph’s new brides at dawn.
The Wrath and the Dawn is the story of Shahrzad, as plucky a YA heroine as there ever was, questing for vengeance against the killer of her cousin/best friend. That killer is the Caliph of Khorsan, the King of Kings… and he’s a teenage boy. He’s taken many wives, and many lives: a new bride each day, who becomes a fresh corpse each dawn. To get close enough to exact her revenge, Shazi must
volunteer as tribute marry the monster herself.
Shazi, of course, does not die. Khalid falls in love with her. (So do we.) In a turn both predictable and wholly satisfying, Shazi falls for Khalid. In the meantime, forces ally against Khalid. Shazi’s childhood sweetheart Tariq plans a rescue, backed up his powerful uncle, a rival king and even Shazi’s own father, broken by his inability to stop her mad plan, and countering with an even madder plan of his own. It all comes to head as the city of Rey tumbles and burns around them. People want Khalid dead for a number of reasons, and Shazi finds herself among the few who want him to live.
The settings described in this book are gorgeous, sumptuous, and exotic. From the careful description of the clothes Shazi wears like armor to the scents and sounds of the palace, Ahdieh’s writing transports you to a magical Middle East-esque place of magic carpets and blood spells. Her characters seem huge, each a whirlwind unto themselves. Shazi is whip-smart and fierce, Khalid tortured and torn. Everyone’s willing to die heroically for the right thing, but no one knows quite what that is. The Wrath and the Dawn is intoxicating and luxurious.
It’s also written a bit too intricately – and this is why I gave it 4 instead of 4.5 stars. From the first page, a lot is happening, and the reader is too slowly introduced to it. Yes, there’s a desire to have the story unfold before our eyes, but the first few chapters left me saying, “This is lovely, only I have no idea what’s going on.” I wouldn’t want it dumbed-down, of course. All questions are eventually answered. But a little more info up front would have helped me dive fully into this world, rather than feeling like I’d skipped some pages and found myself a bit lost.
If you’re going to have a problem, that’s a good one to have. I’ll be reading book two, The Rose and the Dagger, right away.