Part Beauty and the Beast, part One Thousand and One Nights, and wholly amazing, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN by Renée Ahdieh blew me away. It’s the best fairytale retelling I’ve read since the Lunar Chronicles series and promises a sequel just as entertaining as the first book.
Here’s the Goodreads, non-spoiler summary:
Before we jump into the details, can we just all bow down to the writing goddess that is Renée Ahdieh? Seriously. Her words read with the rhythm of a beautiful song, all velvety smooth and immediately attention-grabbing. Even the dialogue, which is so specific to each character I think I could tell you who’s speaking without attribution, manages to fit within the flow of the narration. It’s such an outstanding feat that even writers and readers who aren’t as obsessed with YA literature as I am would benefit from reading this book. Three cheers for Renée Ahdieh, we are not worthy!
OVERALL RATING: 4.5/5.0
“Characters or Caricatures?”
Characters. Only a little hesitation on that, because, of course, the characters are based off/heavily inspired by other characters. That being said, Renée Ahdieh clearly makes them her own. The main character, Shahrzad (“Shazi”), is a quintessential strong, female character, with depth and humor. She’s a great example of strength in tenacity and you will absolutely root for her. While she goes into her marriage to the “Boy King” Khalid with the clear goal of murdering him (to stop what appears to be his reign of senseless terror), as she learns more about him, she understandably begins to question her motivations. Normally I’d find this wishy-washy and annoying in a main character – but it’s absolutely not. Shazi has her reasons, good ones, and her ability to adapt and shift her desires, while still admitting that she feels she’s betraying what she once wanted, is fascinating and well-written. She’s flawed, she’s brash, she’s sassy, and there are consequences to her actions, both good and bad.
I LOVED the minor characters in this book. They were truly my favorite part, and what pushed this story from “Great” to “Fantastic!” Each has clear motivation, each has their own wonderfully hilarious personality. Khalid is sexy and strong (and I’ll get to him below), but I’d want Jalal to call me up.
“The Plot Thickens”
As this is a reimagining of the Arabian story of One Thousand And One Nights, you can get a good idea of the premise here. The additional inspiration from Beauty and the Beast is shown between the main love interests. Check out below if you need a quick reminder of this little-known film:
But Renée has a twist up her sleeve! (Because of course she does.) Taking this story to an even more fantastical level, there’s some magic and curses involved. Without giving too much away, there are some damn good reasons for the level of death before and throughout this (and inevitably in the next) book.
“Love Me Tender, Love Me Sweet,…”
The relationship in this story falls squarely in the hate-turned-to-love category. It’s a little trope-y, but mostly wonderful. Our villain-turned-hero, Khalid, is captivated by Shahrzad the instant she first volunteers to become his wife (as everyone knows what happens to them…). He’s further mesmerized by her stories, by her passion, and by her quick wit. He’s a man of few words, but they hold a power when he does speak. Both he and Shahrzad are stubborn in similar ways, hesitant to open up, and fear revealing their own intentions.
My favorite part of this coupling is that both are very human. They fight. They make mistakes. They have poor assumptions of the other that have to be corrected as they learn more. Their love story makes sense, doesn’t feel too rushed, and makes your heart flutter as you read.
Spoiler-ish: there’s a fake love triangle in this. I call it a fake love triangle because, while there’s a subplot involving someone from Shahrzad’s past potentially still being in love with her, I think it’s made very clear that Shahrzad does NOT reciprocate the feelings. This is disputed by others who have read TW&TD, so your opinion may vary. No idea how this will develop in the sequel. /spoiler-ish
“Weird Wild World”
The descriptions of all the delectable food in Khorasan, reminiscent of Mediterranean and Indian food, WILL make you hungry. Get a snack, and some good tea, before reading. (Seriously. That’s how immersed you will be in this setting.)
“The Danger Zone”
If you don’t like Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast, or you sit firmly in the camp that thinks it’s a film glorifying Stockholm Syndrome, DO NOT READ this book. You’ve been warned.
And here’s my one personal complain. SPOILER: Khalid has sex with Shahrzad the first and second night, when she’s still very much wanting to kill him, and it’s still expected that he will kill her. Later, he says that he hadn’t slept with any of the other wives who came before her. Excuse me? It was the first night! You barely knew her! This never seems to be reconciled. Shahrzard does mention the strangeness of how he’ll have sex with her, but won’t kiss her. She also mentions a detachment during the act itself. This is as far as she goes when thinking over the consummation of their marriage. (When they have sex later, when they’re both decidedly less kill-happy and in love, there is kissing. It’s passionate and shows the contrast to what happened before. Still, I’m not quite content with this facet.) /spoiler
Reread! Unless you already have the sequel on hand, in which case, plow right through! Either way, I’m going to argue for rereading anyways, just to be able to return to Khorasan!
- “A shared history does not entitle you to a future, my friend.”
- “Get up, Shahrzad al-Khayzuran. You kneel before no one. Least of all me.”
And this one SLAYED me:
- “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.”
“IYLTRT (If You Like This, Read This)”
CINDER – the first book in the Lunar Chronicles. It’s also set in/inspired by a currently uncommon setting in YA fiction, and it’s a retelling of Cinderella. (Do it, do it, do it!)