New Spin on Arabian Tale a Haunting Romance

New Spin on Arabian Tale a Haunting Romance

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh is a spin on the Arabian tale One Thousand and One Nights full of poetic writing, beautiful romance, and a touch of fantasy.

As in the original story, the Caliph (ruler) of Khorasan marries a girl everyday and then executes her at dawn. Shahrzad, the main character, volunteers to be the Caliph’s bride. She survives the dawn after by starting to tell the Caliph a story and promising to finish it the next night. Now the story deviates from the original. Shahrzad volunteered with plans to kill the Caliph to avenge the death of her best friend, one of the girls the Caliph had married and killed. However, Shahrzad begins to doubt her plan as she starts falling in love with the Caliph, Khalid.

Ahdieh’s writing is absolutely breathtaking. Since the characters are all highly educated, their speech and Shahrzad’s descriptions are formal and rich in vocabulary. This creates a more fantastical world where people say phrases like “might not need my tutelage.” In addition to formal registers, Arab words are also embedded in the story to add authenticity to the adaptation of the famous Arabian tale. For example, Khalid is commonly referred to as sayyidi, the Arab word for “my lord.” Another aspect of Ahdieh’s writing is it’s constant intrigue. No matter how many times you read the same sentence, paragraph, or chapter, it never gets old. Few books have the ability to retain the same thrill that results from reading a completely new story but The Wrath and the Dawn is one of those few books. Beyond the dialogue, the literary devices and rhyming creates an almost musical flow. “Her heart welcomed the intrusion as a songbird welcomes the dawn. As the dying find grace in an answered prayer.”

The romance between Khalid and Shahrzad is a beautifully slow burn. Shahrzad can’t understand Khalid’s monstrous actions and hates him for it, but she slowly sees a haunted prince instead of a monster. The transition between raw hate to reluctant companionship to love is slow enough to be realistic but fast enough that it isn’t annoying. Most books usually lean one way or another and The Wrath and the Dawn is the first book that has gotten the pace just right. One Thousand and One Nights isn’t the only story The Wrath and the Dawn is based off of. Ahdieh takes the classic fairytale, Beauty and the Beast to its full potential in the romance between Khalid and Shahrzad, which is perfect because it’s mature enough that it doesn’t feel like a childish fairytale but not completely unique that it feels strange. The interactions between Khalid and Shahrzad are nothing short of flawless. It escalates from playful banter to breathtaking words.

“‘You and your temper, Khalid!’

‘No, you and your mouth, Shazi.’

‘Wrong you wretched lout!’

‘See? That mouth.’ He reached up and grazed his thumb across her lips.”
I would recommend The Wrath and the Dawn to anyone, but especially to those who are frustrated by the shortcomings of other books. The Rose and the Dagger is the second book in the series and will come out on May 3, 2016. I cannot wait to return to the world Ahdieh has created.