A good start to a series which gathers momentum in its final third.
If you want to know more about this story, inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, skip down to the bottom of this review for the (rather long) blurb.
The premise is great, the setting and descriptions are wonderful and the plot is sufficiently complex. I didn’t have any issues with pacing and, on the whole, the characters had depth and became increasingly three-dimensional as the book progressed.
Unfortunately, I had to take stars away because the writing style commits a serious crime: it jars you out of the story. Firstly, I found myself turning to the glossary at the back of the book several times (thank you Ashley for mentioning this – it helped!). Secondly, the characters often have conversations referring to several characters we haven’t met yet, discussing them as if we all know who they are and what’s going on. This was very disorientating, not helped by how long the character names tend to be, with formal and familiar variations.
And finally, I assume the writer was attempting to imitate the rhythms and some of the expressions found in Persian literature. Which is fine and an interesting approach to take, particularly if it enriches the narrative and pulls the reader further into the fictional world. However, every time someone “shuttered his/her gaze” – which I presume is unnecessarily fancy for “closed their eyes” – I ground my teeth and sighed.
All that said, I would recommend The Wrath and the Dawn and will read the sequel. I felt the book got into its stride in the final third, setting things up nicely for the next installment. I just hope the characters have learned to simply close their eyes by then.
The blurb: 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?
Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.