Book review: The Wrath & The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

The Caliph of Khorasan kills his wives the morning after the wedding. When he marries and kills her best friend, Shahrzad volunteers to be his next bride and swears to get her revenge. She is a quick thinking storyteller, who manages to outlive the dawn long enough to capture the Caliph’s heart. Shahrzad discovers the truth behind the murders, and realises that the man behind the rumours is not the monster she once thought he was. But what do you do when you fall in love with your best friends’ murderer AND find out that your love could destroy everything and everyone you care about?

I struggled to keep up with the first couple of chapters of The Wrath & The Dawn; I got a little lost with the introduction of a lot of new character names and changes of setting. I actually had to re-read most of a chapter before I realised that one of the characters was a bird (funny how different a story can be if you accidentally skip just a couple of words early on, isn’t it?!). This confusion brought on a frustration and exhaustion that made me put the book down and roll over to sleep and, to be honest, it was without a great deal of enthusiasm that I picked it up again the next night.

Oh, how wrong I was. I did not put this book down again until I had finished it and needed both my hands to order the second book in the duopoly (The Rose & The Dagger) to arrive into my grabby hands as soon as humanly possible.

The Wrath & The Dawn totally captured my imagination. The opulence of the setting, and it’s other-worldliness is addictive. I want to know more about it, I want to visit, or even live there (obviously, I too, would use my feminine wiles to persuade the handsome and enigmatic Caliph to let me live).

While reading, I actually felt like I was there – Ahdieh’s vivid descriptions transported me to Khorasan and every very reluctant break from reading was accompanied by genuine surprise at my rather un-exotic surroundings. I tried to manipulate the bath mat in the hope that it would awaken some dormant magic within me. Everyday English seems to harsh and lacking in lyricism.

I don’t normally go in for love stories but I adore Shahrzad and Khalid (the Caliph). The characterisation is so clever and nuanced that you feel part of their coupling – it’s us against the world. And I truly would take on the world for these two. They are so misunderstood and unjustifiably haunted by bad luck at every turn that I want to help them in any way I can.

The weaving of Middle Eastern folk tales into the plot (the story itself is a re-telling of 1001 Arabian Nights), adds another level of intrigue, and I got a heart-warming feeling of security whenever I recognised one of them.

I have only one minor criticism. Well, more of an uncertainty, really. This love story is billed as Young Adult, I suppose because the main characters are in their late teens, but I really felt like they – and the story – were more mature. That is not to say that young adults wouldn’t enjoy this book, or that it is in any way inappropriate for them, I just completely forgot that I was reading about teenagers in between mentions of their ages. I would definitely recommend it to adults. Even those annoying adults that think they are above a bit of YA.

In fact, I would recommend this The Wrath & The Dawn to anyone and everyone. With only three weeks to go before the end of the year, The Wrath & The Dawn is quite possibly my favourite read of 2017. I’m only glad that I discovered it in time to give a copy to everyone I know for Christmas (I give the best presents).

In the meantime, woe betide the postman that gets waylaid by the current snowy weather while delivering my copy of book 2!

UPDATE: all hail Waterstones, who have got a copy ready for me to collect less than ONE working hour after I placed my order!!

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