The Wrath and the Dawn

by Renee Ahdieh
First sentence: “It would not be a welcome dawn.”
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Review copy supplied by the publisher rep.
Content: There is some (implied) sex and there’s some violence, but it’s mostly appropriate for those who love grand, sweeping romances. I’d give it to an 8th grader and up, even though it’s in the Teen (grades 9+) section of the bookstore.

In this land, the king — 18-year-old Khalid — marries a new bride (chosen at random) every night, just to have her murdered the next dawn. It’s horrible for the people of the country who have come to look at him as a monster. But for Shahrzad, it’s personal: the most recent young woman sent to her death was Shazi’s best friend, Shiva. So (of course) Shahrzad volunteers for the job of bride.

And what follows is her attempt to stay alive.

If you know, even vaguely, the story of Arabian Nights, you pretty much know what’s going to happen. But, Ahdieh takes the story a step further: it’s not just the tales Shahrzad tells to keep alive. She gives motivation to Khalid (though in many ways it came too late for me to care very much) and she gives drive to Shahrzad. She’s there to exact revenge for her best friend, but discovers that there’s more to Khalid than murder.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I know people are loving this book. Seriously loving it. But, I just didn’t. I wanted to; I wanted to enjoy the sweeping Persian-inspired grandeur of the story, the fiestiness of Shahrzad, the illusions to the old tale. But, mostly what I wanted to do was smack Khalid and wonder why Shahrzad fell in love with him. (Too much telling, not enough showing?) It’s not that it didn’t make sense; it’s more that I just felt it was Decreed that they Fall in Love and So Mote It Be. I didn’t feel their love story. Then again, I didn’t feel Shahrzad’s rage. Or her first love’s betrayal. It was all Grand and Distant and I really didn’t care.

But since it’s getting pretty much universal raves from everyone else, it’s probably just me.

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