Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on May 12th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tales & Folklore
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One Life to One Dawn.
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.
After hearing all the raves on The Wrath and the Dawn, I wanted to love it so much. But why do I have to overthink things? Why can’t I just enjoy a story for what it is? There were so many things that irked me about this book.
Let’s start with the good bit. The sumptuous, atmospheric Arabian nights setting was written beautifully. From desert sands, to sultans and tzars, guards with scimitars and a magical atmosphere filled with spiced wines and delicate fashions. While I haven’t read the original 1,001 Nights before, I absolutely adored the setting here. The writing was also done beautifully, atmospheric and scenic. Every sentence made me picture hot winds blowing through the desert and a world of Arabic finery and sultans.
Then let’s get to Shahrzad. I LOVED her sharp tongue, her charisma and her wit. Her bold personality was so refreshing against a backdrop where women are subservient and come second. I loved how her arrogance and bravery could match any of the men in the story, which is why they welcomed her so quickly.
But I had issues with her characterisation. Shahrzad is a girl who puts herself in utmost danger, by marrying a monster to avenge her dead best friend and countless other women who have been murdered before her. That I can really get behind.
This boy-king, this murderer…she would not permit him to destroy another family. To rob another girl of her best friend – of a lifetime filled with memories that had been and never would be.
But soon, her disgust turns into conflicted thoughts on why Khalid chooses to keep her alive. The thing is, Shahrzad doesn’t really have a plan when it comes to revenge, and as a result, gets way too emotionally invested in the murderer of her best friend. She not only gets amnesia for why she’s there in the first place, but develops concern and care over this serious, sombre boy king with secrets.
You know how much I hate Stockholm’s Syndrome, and that’s exactly what happens her, despite her supposedly strong characterisation. But she doesn’t use that bond to her advantage. Instead she takes it upon herself to discover these secrets so she can make a better judge of his character, and make sense of the feelings she has for him.
Shahrzad’s fatal flaw is her pride. While I enjoyed her feisty personality and sharp remarks, there were a few things that could be put down to irrationality and ill judgement simply to preserve her ego. She puts down the Sultan in front of the entire kingdom because she does not want to be bested. That insolence is not without its’ repercussions, and you can just see the dire consequences brewing. Throughout the book, she stomps around, her feelings hurt when people upset her. “Don’t you do that to me. Don’t you walk around from me without acknowledging me. Don’t you treat me like that in front of my handmaiden and my guard.” Underneath all that bravado, is just a girl who just wants approval.
“…I could see her daring a cobra to strike, swearing her venom would kill first.”
There’s an alternate perspective with Tariq, who is rallying his group to overthrow the kingdom and save Shahrzad. Tariq and Shahrzad are childhood lovers, but unfortunately, there wasn’t any development or reminiscence here at all. He just ends up being an annoying interference, due to the romance between Shahrzad and her captor. If Tariq was the hero of the story, could you see how upsetting this ultimate betrayal of his childhood lover would be for him? For Shahrzad to leave wanting vengeance, and to be seen in love with his cousin’s murderer. This goes against the entire grain of her character – someone who’s supposed to be strong and steadfast in her resolve.
Unlike many others, I was not swayed by Khalid. He had his reasons for murdering masses of women, but how is one life more important than any others (especially the lives of women?? I mean are they more disposable or something)? How can you build the trust of your kingdom when you whisk away their daughters and kill them without any reasoning…even if it’s for the greater good? How can you develop a romance built upon secrets? I couldn’t love a man who I couldn’t trust, or whose actions I didn’t agree with. I just don’t understand how Shahrzad did.
The romantic development wasn’t very convincing either. I can kind of see how Shahrzad’s notions of encountering a bloodthirsty murderer could have challenged her foundations when she realised he wasn’t a complete ass. But for Khalid, all of a sudden he’s spouting off beautiful renditions of love, love is just a small facet of how he feels for Shahrzad, but for what? Because she tells him stories, like his mother used to? Because he likes the woman to wear the pants? Where was the development? Throw us a bone, please.
“You are – remarkable. Every day, I think I am going to be surprised by how remarkable you are, but I am not. Because this is what it means to be you. It means knowing no bounds. Being limitless in all that you do.”
Let’s also talk about the awkward consummation of their marriage, which I had to read multiple times to make sure I got the story straight. It happens within the first few chapters of the book, twice. No amount of passionless, brushing over and fading into black will make these scenes okay for me. Because Shahrzad gives herself over to him, and lets him do whatever she wants with her body, when she still thinks he’s a monster. She does this to gain his trust. Although it was for the greater good, it just felt so awkward and uncomfortable. Especially when she starts to look forward to it later when she actually develops feelings for him.
For someone who I assume is a virgin, how can you never ever give ANY thought to this whatsoever? How can you have your virginity taken away from you, in a way that you didn’t want, and not have a problem with it? I don’t have a problem with sex in YA, but I have a problem with how it meant absolutely nothing to her, or how it was portrayed to the reader. It just painted a sad truth that no matter how feisty and strong you are, you can still have your body taken away from you. And that’s just the sad truth when it comes to being a woman. Although she consented, her reasons for doing it were just heart breaking.
Apparently Shahrzad is the only girl who Khalid has done this to before, which I find extremely hard to believe. He didn’t know her from a bar of soap at the start of the book, so what changed his mind when it came to this? What was so special about her that he would do this to her but not anyone else? Does no one else find this awkward and glossed over?
The ending to The Wrath of the Dawn ramps up a bit too quickly and randomly, and before you know it, it ends on a massive cliffhanger. It was rather frustrating especially with limited build up, and I can just see it setting the scene for a long and drawn out sequel. I’ll probably read it, but not without reservations.
“You’re arrogant.” – Shahrzad.
“As you are, my lady Shahrzad. But I do not see this as a shortcoming. For without a measure of arrogance, how can one attempt the impossible?” – Despina
Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy The Wrath and the Dawn. I loved the setting, the retelling, and the beautiful writing. But the romance between Shahrzad and Khalid was not something that I shipped, and the inconsistencies with their characters and the way the sex was presented was not something I could overcome. I’m still looking for that perfect Middle Eastern book…but nothing’s matched A Thousand Splendid Suns for me so far.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5