“Some things exist in our lives for but a brief moment. And we must let them go on to light another sky.”
What is this book about?
Inspired by the premise of One Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn tells the story of Shahrzad – or Shazi – who lost her best friend to the murderous boy-king of Khorasan, Khalid. The eighteen-year-old Caliph has been terrorizing the families of his nation by taking a new bride every night only to have her killed come dawn, and Shazi has now volunteered as the next bride to avenge all the innocent girls who have died because of him.
Every night she weaves fantastical, mesmerizing stories, only to leave them incomplete by the time the sun rises, managing to narrowly save her own life day by day as she braces herself for the act she came to do. Except the unthinkable begins to happen the longer she eludes the noose; Khalid is not the monster the tales have made him out to be and is there more to his terrible reputation than the whispers she has heard?
Why is it boring?
I admit this criticism extends to the sequel – The Rose and the Dagger – in that these novels, while full of brilliant descriptions that wove a wonderful, magical land to be immersed in, seemed a little weak in term of plot resolutions and the ‘solutions’ it presented to the obstacles faced. In the end, all the answers seemed to conveniently appear with no real reasoning or sense. The cliché ‘destroy X magical object, and all your problems will disappear’ was a disappointing and feeble solution, especially given how built up and impossible the central conundrum was made to be virtually the whole of the first novel in this duology.
The climax was pretty swift, and while I’m not complaining too much because I was admittedly here for the promise of a tragic romance and not bloody battles, it seemed a little too expedient given the complexity of issues an imminent civil war should present.
Lastly, and this is more a personal grievance, I really wish the world-building had been a little more in-depth. The descriptions of architecture and clothes were stunning, and I really enjoyed learning the correct Arabic terminology in terms of honorifics, terms of endearment, types of clothes, etc which really helped bolster immersion, however, I wish there had been more insight into the lifestyle and structure of the society. Caliph has an indisputably religious title, and I would have liked to see the Islamic aspects of the setting addressed more or at all, really. It was a little disappointing to read a novel based in such an uncommon environment that completely neglected what I would think were such fundamental aspects of that setting,
Who would you recommend it to?
That was a pretty lengthy critique, but I want to emphasize that I really did enjoy this book. It was not the most mind-blowingly original or intricate tale by a long shot, but it was exactly what I was hoping for and expected having read the summary. Just an enjoyable romance with great pacing, fantastical characters, a competent and witty heroine, and some memorable one-liners, all swathed in breathtakingly dazzling descriptions.
I recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of a good romance and is not too fussed by some minor plot holes in the grander scheme of things. Definitely up there with my other feel-good, not-so-guilty pleasure reads.
Why should I read it if it’s boring?!
It is fun. A lot of reviews I read about this novel’s shortcomings seemed to criticise the same aspects I found lacking, but so long as you don’t expect a Game-of-Thrones-level of realism to political unrest and are prepared to brush off what seems like some obvious enquiries that, if made, would have spared a lot of innocent lives and resolved everything a lot faster, you’ll enjoy this read. It’s meant to be an enjoyable, fast-paced romance, so as long as you focus on that, you’re in for a ride.