Katie Reads: The Wrath and the Dawn

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One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

IT SHOULD BE MANDATORY FOR A BOOK TO DISCLOSE EITHER ON THE COVER OR IN THE DESCRIPTION THAT IT IS PART OF A SERIES. I HAVE BEEN SO UNPREPARED FOR THE CLIFFHANGER ENDINGS ON BOOKS LATELY.

Aside from the pain I feel at not realizing that this was the first in a series and not a standalone book, I enjoyed The Wrath and the Dawn. I was excited by the premise – a retelling of the story of A Thousand and One Nights. In the flood of retellings that have swamped YA fiction lately, I hadn’t seen one retelling A Thousand and One Nights, so it sounded like it had a lot of potential.

I loved the writing style. The author’s descriptions of the world were fantastic – every time she described the food being served I got so hungry, and given how relatively unfamiliar I am with ancient middle eastern culture it was fascinating to see it depicted. The author did have a tendency to drop in foreign words without enough context to easily figure out what she was referring to, and sometimes it was a challenge to keep the characters straight because everyone had multiple names and forms of address. The prose is beautiful and immersive though so I really felt like I had traveled to a foreign world.

Although this is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, it really felt like a retelling of Beauty and the Beast in a lot of ways too. The romance had some rocky moments, but I bought into it for the most part.

TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE. My biggest complaint is the glossed over rape scenes at the beginning of the book. Sure, Shahrzad married Khalid, and given the time period husbands owned their wives and things were expected. BUT I almost stopped reading because of how uncomfortable these two scenes made me. We aren’t given much detail, but what we do get is quietly horrifying:

“The instant Shahrzad brought her palm to his, she felt a cool wash of dispassion take over. As though she had floated beyond her person and was now a mere witness to everything around her.

Thankfully, he did not try to kiss her.

Nor did the pain last; it was but a fleeting moment, lost in the welcome distraction of her thoughts. He did not appear to enjoy himself, either. Whatever pleasure he derived was brief and perfunctory, and Shahrzad felt a stab of satisfaction at this realization.” (29)

Shahrzad feels herself detach from what’s happening to her, and retreats into her thoughts. I understand that she feels she is doing her “wifely duties”, but this is still rape, and isn’t ever addressed. It doesn’t matter that they’re married and it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t enjoy himself or that they fall in love later.

Despite the overall high quality of the book, I can’t recommend it as highly as I might otherwise given the above problem it suffers from.

Stay magical readers!

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