A monstrously murderous king kills his new brides each dawn after they wed. His next bride is determined to have her revenge for his murder of her best friend and survive long enough to kill the king in Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn.
Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, marries sixteen-year-old Shahrzad (a.k.a. Shazi) when she volunteers to be his next bridal victim. And Shazi’s cleverness and quick wit help her to stay alive past the first night by telling Khalid a story, which he eagerly listens to. Through plotting her revenge for the death of her best friend Shiva and the numerous other brides before her, Shazi becomes deeply intrigued by Khalid and wants to learn more about his dark past that drives his current actions while trying not to fall in love with him.
Right off the bat I was reminded of numerous other well known stories, such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and 1001 Arabian Nights. While using these familiar tales as a jumping-off point is a good idea and could lead to incredibly interesting stories, it felt like their use was more reductive and a cliched cop-out–not much was expanded upon and, as the Modernist Ezra Pound said “made new,” which was rather disheartening because there was so much potential to how the story could have developed and been depicted. There really wasn’t any world building or placing it in context in time–yes it’s in a kingdom where bladed and archery based weapons are favored in what seems to be the Middle East, but aside from that, all we know about Khorasan is that there’s lots of sand. The writing and language was pleasant and easy to get through, yet by the time I was at the ending of the story, I wasn’t wowed by what had transgressed despite the flowery words used to depict the scene.
Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.