For this month’s “Feminist Fiction Book of the Month” I chose The Wrath and the Dawn. This book had been recommended to me for some time. When I finally picked it up, I fell in love. The main character, Shahrzad, stole my heart the moment she stepped on the page and the author’s writing had me turning page after page.
The Wrath and The Dawn starts off as sort of retelling of the classic books One Thousand and One Nights or more commonly known in English as Arabian Nights. The classic book is a collection of middle eastern folk tales compiled into one place.
The method for telling these folktales is common throughout the entire book – a king marries a woman but kills her on the first night they are married. A woman is chosen to be his next queen, who tells him a story with such an incredible cliffhanger he keeps her alive one more night to hear the ending. She then starts another story, leaving another cliffhanger, granting her one more day.
The Wrath and the Dawn follows Shahrzad and King Khalid. King Khalid, an 18-year-old monster, takes a new wife each night and kills her before dawn by wrapping a silk cord around her neck. Shahrzad volunteers to be his next wife to avenge her friend’s murder. To prolong her life, she tells the king one story after another like in the classic tale and secretly plots his death.
Then, of course, the unimaginable happens – she starts to fall in love. Shahrzad discovers that nothing is what it seems in his castle of ivory and stone and there is more to him than what meets the eye.
The author, Renee Ahdieh grew up with a North Korean mother and an American father and was influenced by authors and novels that supported diversity. She published The Wrath and the Dawn in 2015 and because of its Persian, Arabian, and Indian influences. It hits close to home for me.
I fell in love with Shahrzad, AKA Shazi. She’s small and spunky with a quick wit and a sharp tongue. She can be sweet when she wants to be, and has a romantic heart. She is a more realistic character than some other powerful female characters in novels – one some girls might relate to more.
More than Shazi, I fell in love with the writing. I’ll be completely honest, this is more of a romance than it is an action novel. Ahdieh replaces some of her action-packed scenes with lyrical and romantic writing. And I did not mind it one bit.
If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you I’ve never been a fan of romance. I wouldn’t be caught dead reading those romance novels you can buy at airports. I slept through the classic movies like The Notebook or The Titanic.
But The Wrath and the Dawn. It had me swooning. I had to stop reading after a particularly well-written line and give myself a minute to soak it in. I regretted reading this book so fast when it was over. I wish I had taken my time to appreciate Abhdieh’s writing. I loved the romance in this book because I had the chance to fall in love with each character individually and start to feel the chemistry between them. The romance was a true slow burn that allowed me to become invested in their relationship.
Lines like “My soul sees its equal in you…” had me squealing into my pillow. My heart was a pile of mush even as I read the last line.
For the first time in a long time, I saw true diversity in a book and real intellectual conversations between women. The secondary characters are well developed and don’t feel as though they’re simply there to drive the plot. Despina is a friend we all need in our lives, and Yasmine’s snark left me wanting more.
You know a book is good when it incites a powerful emotion in you, and that is what The Wrath and Dawn did for me.
Whether it was love or hate, I was living the characters’ adventures with them. Feeling their pain and laughing alongside them.
But this book wasn’t perfect. There was frustration when Shazi missed obvious moments where she could have had her revenge on King Khalid, or how long it took Khalid to trust her. It took me a little bit of time to get hooked, but overall, it was a small price to pay for the majesty of this book.
One of my favorite parts of the story was the love triangle. Or the lack of one. It feels like a written rule that every single romance needs to have a love triangle. Although this book does, Shazi does not spend the entirety of the novel trying to choose between two boys – she has her own agenda and no time for games.
The only way I can describe Ahdieh’s writing style is poetic. She has a way with words that melt your heart. That keep your eyes trained on the page. You can pull beautiful quotes that can stand alone, and you’ll believe they were written by a famous poet.
I adore the mysterious plot and characters. There is a pinch of magic in the story which hints to its sequel and gives away just enough to keep us guessing. I’ll be reading the second book, The Rose and the Dagger very soon.0