There are lots of books which I don’t really know how they ended up on my TBR, they just did – someone recommended it, someone blogged about it, someone instagrammed a great photo of it – or some combination of all three – and I’m left thinking ‘I must read that’.
The Wrath and the Dawn was one of those books. It might’ve popped up on a diverse books you should read list, it might’ve been ‘if you liked Rebel of the Sands, try this’, it could’ve been anything, I don’t know, but I picked it up, and I made my way into this sweeping romance set in a desert nation with a heartless Caliph who kills his wife every night. Shazi, the heroine, volunteers to be his wife, in order to give her a chance to get revenge for the death of her best friend, one of his previous wives.
A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights
Every 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.
This dreamy new reinterpretation of 1,001 nights has all the hallmarks of the original – murderous leader, kills a wife every night, volunteer, tells a story and leaves him hanging to get him to spare her for another day. But obviously it needs more than that, it needs something new and fresh to keep it exciting. So what it introduces is… a love triangle.
Shazi, the heroine, has volunteered to be the Caliph’s new wife, in order to exact revenge for her best friend’s murder. So far, so logical. But the thing is, she doesn’t really have uh, a plan to do this. It all seems a bit haphazard, that she just volunteers, and it’s only by chance that the Caliph comes to visit her that night. But okay, I’ll let her away with that on the basis that it’s kind of how the whole story starts, so the illogical premises are given a pass.
Khalid, of course, in order to be a sympathetic love interest, has to be something more than a crazed woman-killer (unlike in the original 1,001 nights, where the killing was because his first wife cheated on him, so he took to marrying virgins and then killing them the next morning… logical.), so the prologue introduces us to a curse that has been placed on Khalid, forcing him to do terrible things, in order to avoid more terrible things. Okay, so far, so sympathetic. Terrible choices must be made, and Khalid is suffering too.
But even still, although reading this book the first time I was on board with Shazi and Khalid falling in love, gently getting to know each other and the fiery depths of hatred turning to passionate love, having thought about it for a while after finishing the book, I’m not entirely sure I can get on board with this love story.
For starters, Khalid murdered Shahrzad’s best friend, and that’s the reason for her hatred, but he also raped her the first night they were together. And she just kind of goes along with this as if it’s no big deal. Nothing mentioned of it later on in the book, it’s just seen as his right as her husband. I definitely can’t get on board with that kind of attitude, not the way it was presented in the book. If the over-arching narrative had been more critical of this, I would’ve agreed, but it was just presented as an indisputable fact.
There are a variety of characters outside of the palace, including Shazi’s father, and her first love, who are doing… I’m not sure, strange and possibly evil things, in order to rescue Shazi from her fate. How, exactly, they embarked on this plan, though, is beyond me, as Shazi wasn’t expected to survive past the next morning, but she did, and so the rebellion is in force.
Khalid’s jealousy and possessiveness (and secrecy) are all things that Shazi tries to work though, because for some inexplicable reason she falls in love with this monster, and sees the tender heart underneath, and they begin to forge a new life together, find a way to overthrow Khalid’s curse, stave off the rebellion that Shazi has accidentally inspired, and … make amends for the 72 women Khalid killed before Shazi? Well, that’s not really mentioned yet.
And then the book just – ends. Big things happen, and that’s the end of the book, and we’re left to wait for the sequel, The Rose and the Dagger.
Okay, I’ve decided, if I were Khalid, and Shazi was my wife, and she left me with this big a cliffhanger? That’s it, she’s dead. I don’t care about the story, that was just mean.
Although everything I’ve said here seems very critical, I did actually like this book. It was very easy to read, the description was lovely, and when reading, I was totally on the Shazi/Khalid ship. It’s only with a few days’ reflection that I’ve suddenly gone ‘wait, what? This doesn’t make sense!’ and I’ve already gotten The Rose and the Dagger, and it’s high on my to-read list. Shazi is skilled and clever, and Khalid is mysterious and gorgeous. Shazi’s dad is doing something clearly terrible, killing animals for magic, and Shazi is on her way to discovering great things about herself (I hope!)
Despite its problems, I still actually quite enjoyed this book, and am looking forward to reading the sequel, too.