Title: The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Published by: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication date: May 12, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
“You have never understood Khalid. It is not about strength. It is about substance. What follows will destroy all that remains of his, leaving behind a husk—a shadow of what he once was.”
For our heroine, Shahrzad (Shazi)—who is strong, passionate, and quick minded—to fall in love with a murderer caliph (king), there has to be more to this story. Everything is not as it seems. This mystery is what drives the book and acts as the linchpin to the success or failure of Shazi and Khalid’s relationship. Even when we discover the truth, it’s rife with complexity. I liked the complexity. I’m glad it wasn’t wrapped up in a neat explanation, and Khalid was not quite the villain, but also not really a hero.
I also like that Renée Ahdieh wrote Shahrzad’s journey without taking away her strong spirit. When she makes her final decision about either revenging her friend or loving Khalid, it didn’t feel like a departure from her character. In fact, I think her decision magnified her strength.
Meanwhile, others in Shazi’s life take dramatic strides toward war with the caliph (over the injustice of all his dead wives). Among them, Shazi’s father and her first love, Tariq: both are desperate to assert love and protection. Desperation leads one down a dark path of magic.
Though the ending was a little ambiguous, I loved this book. Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights (or Arabian Nights) The Wrath and the Dawn has a rich Arabian setting, with bright descriptions and a LOT of Mediterranean food…um, yum. I probably took more joy in reading about what Shazi ate than she fictionally enjoyed it. I also loved the glimpse into a cultural past probably unfamiliar to many teens and adults. It certainly ignited my curiosity about the time. Caliph? What’s that? Why are these suffixes added to the end of names and what do they mean? What is a shamla? Thankfully, Ahdieh includes a glossary for all these questions.
Would I let my teen read this book?
It’s refreshing to read about a fantastical place that mimics a real time in history, especially when you know little about the culture. If you’re teen enjoys fantasy, than they’re sure to like this story, and it might lead to some cultural research!
Death lingers and dark magic plays a role. If these things don’t bother you, than I think you’ll really enjoy unwinding this mystery and discussing the complexity of these characters and the decisions they make. There are some violent and sexual themes, and for those reasons I recommend this book for people 16 and up.
Age recommendation: 16
Drugs & Alcohol— Characters casually drink wine with meals
Sex – Married couple has sex three times–Not graphic, with few details, the first two times is more the knowledge of it–that Khalid came to his wife, Shahrzad, at night; the characters get “lost in kisses”; We also know that other characters are sexually active outside of marriage.
Violence – Some violence, most not graphic and in self-defense. Khalid’s wives are being strangled to death; The magic in the book is blood magic, which requires death sacrifices—there is some brief violence to animals.
My Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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I read a lot. I'm a Mom. I'm officially in my 30s, but strangers often don't believe I'm old enough to drink. I love Young Adult fiction, and thought it was worthwhile to help teens and adults find age-appropriate options.