Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
The Wrath and the Dawn is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, with a slight fantasy twist and a few delicious romantic moments.
I am a huge admirer of anything with an ancient Arabian flavour, and especially A Thousand and One Nights. I’m not sure why, but I possibly owe it to Bugs Bunny, perhaps to Rimsky-Korsakov, or just to the romance of it all, although it’s not so romantic to be forced to tell stories all night to forestall your own execution!
In a close retelling of the original tale, the Caliph of Khorasan found out that his first wife was unfaithful to him, so afterwards he takes a new bride each night, then has her killed at dawn. Shahrzad volunteers as the Caliph Khalid Ibn al-Rashid’s next wife, telling him a story each night with a vague plan to get revenge on him for the murder of her friend Shiva. But what if Khalid wasn’t the monster he appears to be, but is forced to carry out the murders for some other reason?
I think what I loved the most about this story was the richness of the setting. The palace and its marble rooms, the descriptions of the clothes and the food – oh my god, the food. It’s all beautifully written, and while occasionally felt almost too descriptive, the story never slowed down at all. The characters are also excellent, with Shahrzad being a fearless and determined fighter and secondary characters like the handmaiden Despina and the Captain of the Guard Jalal having important roles as well. There’s also a touch of magic outside of the tales, although it doesn’t play much of a role just yet.
In the original Thousand and One Nights, the Caliph eventually falls in love with Shahrzad and spares her life after her stories are finished. This retelling speeds things up so that Khalid and Shahrzad fall in love with hardly any development in their relationship. Khalid is still a “monster” who killed all those women, but she just can’t help herself from falling for him. That, plus the fact that there is hardly any actual story-telling from Shahrzad within this book, means that I only went for four stars instead of five – I would have loved more of that. I really did enjoy Renée Ahdieh’s writing though, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
The Wrath and the Dawn would actually work as a rather tragic stand-alone novel, but the fact that there is a sequel coming (The Rose and the Dagger, May 2016) means that the story is not over – there is hope for a happy ending after all
For more epic & sumptuous stories like The Wrath and The Dawn, check out the Coop’s range of romance novels