Author: Renee Ahdieh
Format I Read: Kindle
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Release Date: May 12, 2015
One word: finally. I feel like I've been waiting for this book forever, even though I've really only known about it for about two months. But those two months have been the most agonizing wait.
Alas, the wait was well worth it. I honestly just sat down and read all 396 pages in one four-hour sitting. Renee Ahdieh is a magician; her words are truly magical. That's the only way to describe it. I can't think of the last time I read a book with such captivating writing. But before I get too far into the review, I should probably explain what the book is about (for those of you who live under a rock).
I'm currently out of town so I'm just going to use the Goodreads synopsis:
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.
She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.
First topic up for discussion: the characters! Wow, did Ms. Ahdieh nail it with the characters. All of the characters had such astounding levels of depth. Everyone had genuine motivations and explanations for their actions. The prime examples are Shazi and Khalid. Their past really played into their present and their future and we got to see that. Fantastically well done. Beyond their depth, almost all of the characters experienced development. Even the minor characters were dynamic. It was amazing. Again, the prime examples are Shazi and Khalid. All of this just made them all the more real. I honestly felt like the characters were real people. So well done. [[And now is also probably a good time to announce my insane love for Despina. She was such an awesome character and I completely fell in love with her and Shazi's banter!]] Oh, and Khalid is completely swoonworthy.
Second topic up for discussion: the retelling aspect! I've never actually read A Thousand and One Nights, but I'm obviously familiar with the story of Aladdin (though that's the extent of my knowledge). But The Wrath and the Dawn managed to be a retelling without being a retelling. Ahdieh expanded on the story in so many new ways and took so many creative liberties; she really only used the bones of the original. This made for a really fascinating and unique story that completely sucked me in!
Third topic of discussion: real books! I read this book on the Kindle, which I felt didn't give me the whole experience. I definitely recommend buying the real book. First of all, it's beautiful. Second of all, there's a glossary in the back. You can't access this as well on an ebook. And the setting and culture are so foreign and new that it can be a little overwhelming and confusing at first. I think that easy access to the glossary would make the transition into Shazi's world a lot more seamless. Third of all, you're going to want to mark quotes. It's inevitable. Ahdieh's writing makes you want to coat the book in highlighter (this is coming from someone who is completely anti-writing-in-books). Her writing is that good. I've found it's easier to mark fantastic quotes with a sticky in a real book than highlighting on an ebook.
Fourth topic of discussion: my complaints! I have very few complaints, and they didn't really have a big impact (considering I still gave it 4 stars). Like I said above, the content can be pretty overwhelming. There's a lot going on and there's a lot that the reader has to juggle. However, it all came together in the end and it was a really awesome puzzle! At times, I just felt like there were too many plot lines and conflicts going on at once. But Ahdieh tied them all together at the end. My only other complaint is the love triangle! Tariq got a little annoying, simply because he was an obstacle for Shazi and Khalid. Which was frustrating because I really liked Tariq, outside of the complications he caused. Those are my only complaints though, neither of which had a huge impact on my opinion of the book.
Fifth topic of discussion: similarities! This book had very similar bones to lots of other books (which is not a bad thing at all)! I just wanted to include this to help some people with recommendations. Shazi's relationship with Tariq (and Khalid) reminded me a lot of Fire by Kristin Cashore and Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. The whole "leaving a boy back home only to fall for a royal/noble/important guy in this new place" was definitely repeated. The Wrath and the Dawn was also very similar to those two novels in terms of genre. So fans of Kristin Cashore and Victoria Aveyard: buy this book as soon as possible!
In conclusion: I was not disappointed by this book. The wait was well worth it and I have fallen in love with the world that Renee Ahdieh created. The characters, the setting, the diversity, the culture, the writing... it was all exquisite. Now I'm just crying as I wait for the next book (tentatively titled The Rose and the Dagger) because that ending, wow.
Congratulations, Ms. Ahdieh, on a fantastic debut!