Book Review: The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

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A stunning and seductive story about love, betrayal, and sacrifice, The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh will leave readers gutted and begging for more.

wrath and the dawnEvery 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.

Let’s start with the wonderful characters. It is easy to see why Khalid is so intrigued by Shahrzad — as readers, we are as pulled into her charisma and verve as the Caliph is. Likewise, we are intrigued by this “monster boy-king” and the mysterious torment that plagues him; clearly there is more to his story than he lets his people believe — and, like Shahrzad, we are drawn to him and to the desire to know why he has done these monstrous things.

And while Shahrzad and Khalid are at the center of the story, Ahdieh has filled The Wrath & the Dawn with a bevy of supporting characters who really bring the story into vivid detail. This book would not be so richly rewarding to read were it not for ALL of these characters; Jalal and Despina and Tariq and the Rajput and the General and more. These are the characters that give meaning and purpose to everything that Shahrzad and Khalid must face.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that The Wrath & the Dawn is just beautifully written. Each description is so sumptuous, readers will be transported to Khorasan — and will see this fictional world come to life before them. (And if you’re anything like me, you’ll also be craving some delicious Middle Eastern feasts — the FOOD in this book! I was so hungry while reading this!!!)

But what really clinched my love of this book is the chapter titled, “Oblivion.” It falls on page 342 in the hardcover, and it’s the point where The Wrath & the Dawn becomes a truly extraordinary book; where every expectation you might have had about where things were going will be shattered. I literally cried out, out loud (sorry, sleeping husband!) at one point — and fought back tears as I continued reading. This chapter changes everything. And the book was already fantastic to begin with — but this is the major turning point, where in any other writer’s hands, the book could have gone one of several predictable routes and become mundane, even ruining what had already been written to this point. But no, Ahdieh shifts her players and her characters in unlikely ways, and the result is a gut-wrenching and achingly beautiful portrayal of what true love really means.

This book — and this chapter in particular — left me gutted in the best possible way, and I’m still not over it (nor do I wish to be). The Wrath & the Dawn is in stores now.

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