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?
The Wrath and the Dawn is inspired by A Thousand and One Nights AKA Arabian Nights from which many famous tales, such as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Aladin's Magical Lamp originate. I'm all for fairy tale retellings nowadays so, of course, I was excited about this book.
First, I want to talk about the setting and culture because it's the most unique thing about this story. TWATD is a fantasy, but, unlike most fantasies which are set in medieval-esque landscapes, this one takes place in world heavy influenced by Arab culture with elements of Indian culture blended in. Everything from the clothes to the food to the castle itself. The official titles of the different people in the castle, the weapons used by the fighter, and, obviously, the names of the characters. The culture of the world is weaved into every aspect of this story. Being a Muslim Indian who is regularly exposed to both Indian and Arab cultures, this was really exciting for me. It was exciting to be able to say "I've had the food that this character is having" or "I know what this non-english word means!" or "I know someone in real life with the same name as this character." I can't think of any other book (in YA) that had the same effect. (Well, the names part aside) It was nice and refreshing to see diversity and to see in portrayed in such a profound way. This is not a book that is mostly western/white with a smattering of diversity. This is a book in which practically everything counts as diverse. I loved the cultural representation and the new elements introduced to the world of YA fantasy through this book and I hope to see more such diversity in future releases in this genre.
The story in this book was also great. I didn't find it to be particularly predictable and I, though I haven't read Arabian Nights, I don't think readers of the original story would find the book to be too predictable either. Most of the known of plot lines of the original story are covered pretty early on in the novel and there are added elements to the story that didn't exist in the original. For me, this was definitely one of those books where you get really invested in the stories and the characters.
Speaking of characters, I was being really serious when I said that you will get invested. You will get invested, so be prepared. And it's not just Shaharzad and Khalid, the main characters, but the supporting cast as well. You will get invested! Shaharzad and Khalid not only start out interesting but develop into even more fascinating characters. You get to know them as they're getting to know each other and you get to understand their characters why they are the way they are. I love when that happens!
And if the story, characters and setting wasn't enough to sell you on this book, there are also beautiful quotes to look forward to. Like,
She was a dangerous, dangerous girl. A plague. A Mountain of Adamant who tore the iron from ships, sinking them to their watery graves without a second thought. With a mere smile and a wrinkle of her nose.
Love is a force unto itself, sayyidi. For love, people consider the unthinkable...and often achieve the impossible. I would not sneer at its power.
And that's just a little taste. There are a lot of beautiful romantic lines too! You know, the ones that sound really cheesy and lame when you say them but in context sound so beautiful and perfect. Yup, lots of that here. Oh and did I mention the food! There is a lot of food present in this book and it's described so wonderfully that it's guaranteed to at least make you hungry, if not have your stomach growling and your mouth drooling.
I'm eagerly anticipating the sequel and will most likely not be leaving The Rose and the Dagger to gather dust on my TBR shelf.