“It would not be a welcome dawn.”
Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn is a retelling of one thousand and one nights. Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan, marries a new bride each day and in the dawn has her strangled with a silk cord. Shahrzad, or “Shazi,” volunteers to marry Khalid in an attempt to get revenge for her childhood best friend, who was one of the murdered brides. She tells stories to capture his attention so he will spare her life, and in the process she starts falling in love with him while her first love and father try to rescue her/incite a rebellion, etc. etc. etc.
In short: woof. I honestly find it disturbing that this book has gotten so many rave reviews, because it’s really fucked up.
In order to discuss why this book made frown so severely, I’m going to need to slightly spoil some stuff, so just deal because I can almost guarantee you don’t want to read this book, unless you’re really into misogyny disguised as “romance.”
So, OK. Because this is a story told from multiple perspectives, we, the reader, know that Khalid is not murdering these women because he’s a psychopath, though we don’t know exactly why until towards the end of the book, which incidentally is the same time that Shazi learns the truth, as well. As Shazi gets to know Khalid via spending evenings together telling stories or whatever, she realizes that he’s all brooding and tortured and she has a feeling that he’s not the monster she thought he was, and starts falling in love with him.
HE STILL HAD ALL THOSE WOMEN KILLED.
INCLUDING HER BEST FRIEND.
I DON’T FUCKING CARE HOW ANGULAR HIS FACE IS OR HOW MANY TIMES YOU SAY HE HAS “TIGER EYES.”
(Seriously, I got so sick of that description, it’s used at least 739 times in less than 400 pages.)
HE STILL HAS KILLED AT LEAST 90 WOMEN OR SOMETHING, INCLUDING HER BEST FRIEND.
AND HE ALMOST LET SHAZI GET KILLED, TOO.
As Shazi gets progressively more fluttering butterflies in her stomach, I had to keep pausing and asking myself, “if I found myself married to the murderer of my childhood best friend out of some ill-conceived idea of vengeance, is there ANY way I could forgive him, let alone fall in love with him?”
Hell. Fucking. No.
I don’t care that she felt conflicted or remorseful or guilty about her feelings for this guy, or that we do eventually learn that he’s not committing these murders of his own free will. The fact remains that she somehow unbelievably fell in love with him before she learned this, and as far as I’m concerned that makes her a bullshit protagonist who is cool with violence against untold numbers women because that’s no big when compared to a hot bod and some sword fighting skills.
In addition to being an idiot in general, Shazi was an annoying, overdone character in just about every way. She’s brash, witty, supposedly a feminist even though I guess murdering women gets a pass as far as she’s concerned, effortlessly beautiful, and, of course, is really good at archery. In other words, aside from being an actual moron, she’s perfect. I am so sick of reading wish fulfillment characters like this. I want flaws! I want depth! Or at least, I want someone who is not also a knockout in addition to all these other fantastic qualities, because just like I’m tired of seeing perfect looking people on TV, I’m also tired of reading about perfect looking people in books. Oh, and also? There is already one Katniss Everdeen, so way to go on the originality with the archery.
Add to that overblown writing with way more angst than I could stomach without eye rolling all over the place, and this book is a hot mess. I had my suspicions that it could be problematic going into it, but I figured since so many people have loved the hell out of it that maybe Ahdieh told this story without it being a nightmare. Guess I was wrong! Still, I did manage to read huge chunks of it at a time and I did finish it, so I guess there’s that.
There are a lot of people who love this book, so I guess there’s a chance you might, too, if you’re really into romance (I’m not, so there’s also that) and can 100% suspend your disbelief. For me, though, this was a total dud that I don’t know if I can in good conscience recommend to anyone.
Forget musical recommendations, I’ve wasted enough time on this book.