Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Wrath & The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

My father's nickname for me was Scheherazade and One Thousand and One Nights was a (creepy) bedtime story from my childhood. How could I resist this new retelling (May 2015)? The Wrath & The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh adds a feminist twist: Shahrzad has volunteered for marriage to assassinate the boy-king, thus ending his chain of bridal murders.

After one night of betrothal, Khalid usually kills his latest queen, including Shahrzad's best friend. Using her skill at storytelling, sixteen-year-old Shahrzad entrances Khalid and survives to see another dawn and another. She hunts for his vulnerabilities and discovers that she is his weakness as he is hers. To her horror, she is falling in love with this handsome monster.

Author Renée Ahdieh, from her website
Is it Stockholm Syndrome or is Khalid not really a monster? Shahrzad searches for the hidden truth as she plots her revenge. Meanwhile, her childhood sweetheart is raising an army to depose their king and to rescue her. Conflicted Shahrzad is not sure she needs saving. She is no damsel in distress and prefers to fight her own battles with wit or a bow and arrow. Only Khalid truly respects her strength. He tells her, "I see my soul equal in you."

Add a touch of magic and The Wrath & The Dawn is more than a retelling. It has all the best elements of a young adult novel: a fantastic set up, complex characters, a swoon-worthy if disturbing romance, a pulse-raising pace and an exotic setting. The evocative writing transports the reader to the deserts of Persia. The only weakness was the narration and dialogue sometimes sounded too contemporary for the ancient time period, but that probably makes the book all the more accessible to teen readers. I've bought a second copy for my 14-year-old niece for Christmas and am eagerly awaiting the sequel, The Rose & The Dagger. This series would crossover well to adult readers too.

Reviewer's Disclosure: I bought the hardcover book at The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.

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@Barrie Summy


Rose said...

I remember reading at least parts of "One Thousand and One Nights" as a girl, and although it was the stories she told that I enjoyed, it always bothered me that she was telling them to save her life. I like this girl power twist!

Stacy said...

That's YA? Interesting. I'll have to check it out.

Barrie said...

I loved One Thousand and One Nights! I like the sounds of such a strong female protagonist. And there's so much room for conflict! It's been a while since I read a fantasy.... Thanks for reviewing, Sarah!

A Cuban In London said...

I have actually got "One Thousand and One Nights" to re-read so I was intrigued by this review and book. Thanks, I really appreciated your piece.

Greetings from London.

thecuecard said...

I don't recall too much about 1001 Nights but this retelling sounds fun and suspenseful. Of course I now want to know what happens!

Cloudbuster said...

I've never heard of this one, but it sounds awesome! I love retellings of folklore. Thanks for the great review.

troutbirder said...

Did I read this as a youngster or maybe see a Disney movie. The original sounds very familiar....:)

Sarah Laurence said...

Rose, we are of similar minds,

Stacey, I'm looking forward to your reaction.

Barrie, I don't read much fantasy either, but I really enjoyed this one. Most of the book is realistic with only a few magical realism elements. Thanks for hosting the book review club!

ACIL, this book made me want to reread the original too.

cue, it is indeed suspenseful.

Cloud/Rob, then you'll enjoy this one.

troutbirder, this is much better than Disney.