Sunday, 27 December 2015

Review: The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

Title: The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publication Date: May 12th 2015
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Series: Book #1 of The Wrath & the Dawn trilogy

Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis: 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.

“What are you doing to me, you plague of a girl?” he whispered.“If I’m a plague, then you should keep your distance, unless you plan on being destroyed.” The weapons still in her grasp, she shoved against his chest.“No.” His hands dropped to her waist. “Destroy me.”

The Wrath and the Dawn essentially starts out as revenge story. Khalid Ibn al-Rashid is a mysterious boy-king who takes up a new wife, only to have her murdered by morning. In one instance the previous victim being the main character's best friend. Fueled by rage and revenge, Shahrzad al-Khayzuran, volunteers to be his new bride, with a set decision to murder him.

Of course, that is not what happens.

Once finishing this novel I've had the eternal struggle on what to rate this book. A part of me wanted to give this book 5 stars and another part of me wanted to give it 3 stars. I settled in middle with a solid four stars.

Let it be known to everyone that there is a GLOSSARY in the back of the novel for all of the uncommon phrases you will come across. I wish someone told me this prior to starting this because it wasn't until the end that I realized it existed. This would have greatly saved me a lot of time of looking them up on google.

I really thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I believe once I switched to my e-book version I was able to fly through this story much quicker. The Wrath and the Dawn is very languid almost sensual read. I really enjoyed the author's writing for the most part, and her prose seem to flow together. I loved the descriptive desert setting. Such a refreshing contrast, as it is rare to find many YA fantasy books set in the Middle East. I really wish I had read One Thousand and One Nights so I could make a just comparison to the actual book and this retelling, but I do plan on reading it sometime in the future.

I really grew to love and care for Shahrzad. She essentially made this story worthwhile. I love how she is a blend of sass, but also quick-witted and perceptive. My only qualm is how quickly her resolve to kill the king vanished. Her plan was never thought out well and see seemed to back out every time she had a perfect opportunity. I love the easiness and fluid way she interacts with the various characters. For some reason I kept picturing her as the talented and gorgeous Tina Desai, who plays who plays Kala Dandekar in the Netflix show Sense8:

(which is a really spectacular show, which you should watch)

It surprised me how much I actually enjoyed Shahrzad and Khalid's relationship. It was strangely fitting and they really seem to compliment each other. I appreciated how Shahrzad could hold her own and she wasn't seen as someone lesser next to the king. I all the more appreciated how Khalid could see this too.
“Get up, Shahrzad al-Khayzuran. You kneel before no one. Least of all me.”
I wish they would have been honest and communicated with each other more, but of course she first saw him with a hateful heart. Their relationship did develop pretty rapidly in the beginning, though it didn't bother me too much because prior to starting this I knew it would be a romance.

It takes a bit to get into, but once I did I was able to fly through this book. I found myself cheering characters aloud, getting visibly frustrated, even being shocked at times. You'll soon find yourself being consumed by the atmosphere as you are pulled into this world.

Though I did have my problems about this novel. It was a compilation of things which led to demotion of one star. The main one being that it felt like the author was trying too hard to absolve Khalid of his guilt and sin. I can tell you now that I particularly did not hate nor love Khalid, I was more indifferent about his character. But it came across as if Shahrzad was all to ready to see him blameless for his actions. Yes he may have had a horrible childhood, and yes we finally do get the truth behind all those merciless killings of those innocent women. But the thing is, it still happened. He still ordered the execution of those girls and that is something that kept running through my mind as I read on. Even though we get the truth and there were points where I actually felt bad for him I couldn't expel the thought from my mind.

It brought me to think about all the fantasy novels I've read where the main characters are murders, assassins, or tyrants of the like. There are many instances where I actually do still like, even love the character after all they did. Do I think Khalid is a truly evil person? No. Do I believe he is a truly good person? No. I believe Khalid Ibn al-Rashid is morally ambiguous, like a lot of people generally are. I just wished Renée Ahdieh focused on that particularly dynamic instead of trying to paint him as a troublesome boy with a troubled past and what happened essentially made him blameless of what transpired him, when that is truly not the case.

Other than that there were smaller things, such as the magic in this book had been explained more, it felt more of something thrown in halfheartedly and made me confused at times. I also wished the characters were more fleshed out and that there was bit more of political aspect to this novel. There is some, but romance is essentially the main focus.

I really loved how reading this in the ungodly hours of the night made me really ponder critically and morally of not only this novel, but many other fantasy novels I have read. It made me think of how I personally justify one character's killing over another's, whether for the greater good, self-preservation, or just sheer selfishness. Maybe it's a question without an answer, literature is always happening and there is a plethora of various situations to enthrall myself in and see my perceptions and variations change and develop.

In all actuality I have no idea where this story is heading and I'm beyond excited to read The Rose and the Dagger once it releases.

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