Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

wrathandReview by Krista, grade 9:

With its romance, action, mystery, and magic, The Wrath and The Dawn is a book sure to capture the attention of many readers.

In the book, sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to become the wife of the Caliph (king) of Khorasan. This is a rather dangerous position to fill, seeing that the Caliph had his eighty or so previous wives killed after a single night at the palace. Shahrzad’s best friend was one of those wives killed. As the Caliph’s wife, Shahrzad hopes to survive long enough to find the Caliph’s weaknesses and vows to murder him when given an opportunity. For a while, her plan succeeds, but the closer Shahrzad comes to figuring out a way to kill the Caliph, the closer she comes to falling in love with him—the very monster who murdered her best friend. Revenge is complicated it seems, especially when involving love and secrets twisted with magic and curses that change everything Shahrzad thinks she knows about the Caliph.

The plot, I felt, left nothing to be desired. Yes, it was centered around a romance, something that can quickly become boring to me, but the plot was so full of mysteries and plot twists that it remained intriguing until the very end. The author knew just when to break from Shahrzad’s love story and follow Tariq’s rescue plot and when to dwell on the unknown and when to provide solid answers. This made the book impossible to put down.

Even without such an engaging plot, the beautiful writing alone would have made The Wrath and The Dawn worth reading. The writing elicited such emotion that a single hand gesture or breath was able to make me smile or cause my stomach to twist with dread. The descriptions in this book were so vibrant that it was as if I was eating the food they ate, walking the paths they walked, and hearing the sounds they heard. Because of these descriptions, the setting seemed very much alive as like a place I had visited before. Even the magic felt real.

The author had a way of expressing characters’ pain and sadness so genuinely that it made each character very easy to relate to. This is an impressive feat in that normally, I would find it difficult to connect to an arrogant girl like Shahrzad, a “madly” in love third corner of a love triangle like Tariq, an annoyingly bossy hand-maiden/spy like Despina, a much too confident guard like Jalal, and, not to mention, a man like Khalid, the seemingly selfish ruler of Khorasan with his bad habit of murdering innocent girls every morning. But despite these normally unlikeable character traits, I felt connected to each and every character both in their dark moments and in their happy ones. It goes without saying, that the relationships between characters were strong as well, especially the romance between Khalid and Shahrzad. I loved how the author didn’t put all the emphasis on the pair kissing and touching each other, but that things like smiles and small gifts like flowers revealed just as much beauty and love.

I admit that there were a few moments when Shahrzad’s tough attitude grated on me and I wished Tariq would find a different, preferably unmarried, girl to “rescue.” There were even a few times that Khalid’s frustrated me with his mysterious silence, although that was probably just me being impatient for the plot twist. I felt that the author could have developed Shahrzad’s best friend better seeing that her death was the catalyst for the conflict between Shahrzad and the Caliph. Overall however, it was easy to overlook these brief annoyances of mine and focus on the numerous amazing qualities of the story.

The Wrath and The Dawn could have very easily been another stereotypical romance set in the middle east, but Renhee Ahdieh and her masterful storytelling turned the story into something much more intense and meaningful. So if you are looking for an unforgettable story packed with emotion, this would be a great book for you. It is rather long, but easy to read, its vibrancy making it almost like watching a movie. Because of some romantic scenes, I would recommend this book mostly to high school and possibly upper middle school ages.

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