My family is very big on comic books. I wasn’t super interested in them growing up, and most of the really heavy graphic novels my parents owned were considered “too adult” for an elementary school girl. Because my parents were really into DC Comics, we occasionally had a few smaller comics laying around from time to time on our kitchen table…and lo and behold, one day after school, I picked up my very first comic book – Green Lantern: 1001 Emerald Nights.
This short, 64-page mashup of folklore and superheroes was beautiful. I still think about how poignant the art and the colors and the story itself were for me to this day. With this in mind, it was an absolute pleasure to pick up The Wrath and the Dawn, as the tale of the Arabian Nights has been a favorite of mine for many years. This story begins with Khalid, the young murderous boy-king and Caliph of Khorasan, who marries a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. It is strange and surprising when Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid, but she does so with a plan in mind: stay alive to get revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her closest friend, and all of the other young brides he’s had killed since ascending to the throne. Quick thinking and clever storytelling get Shahrzad through the dawn, but her new status as Calipha comes with a price as she begins to fall in love.
What I liked: The first part of the book really stayed true to the original tale, as she was allowed to live until the next morning after telling a story she knew she would not complete. I really adore how ingenious this plan is, to keep him coming back every night with a story that works as a double-edged sword ensuring her survival…for now. Even after the book strayed away from the Arabian Nights and became more about the relationship between Khalid and Shahrzad, I was still captivated by the writing and overall flow of the book from beginning to end. I ended up finishing the book over the course of two days simply because I couldn’t put it down. Ahdieh has a wonderful way of filling in the background of the palace so that even the smallest details blossom throughout the text. To be frank, I contentedly sighed my way through this book, and am a happier person this week because of it.
What I didn’t like: I really wish the story-telling aspect had gone on for more than 2 nights, and even the second night was really forced towards the end…what was that even about? She brought up Aladdin, and then we never heard the rest of the tale! Very disappointing for me personally. There is also a period of the book where she is practically moony for Khalid, whether she admits it or not, and I did skim through that bit just because I got sick of it. By far the worst part was nearly every interaction with Tariq. I loved all of Shazi’s flashbacks about him, but when he actually came into the story, there was so little concern over what Shahrzad actually wanted and WAY too much regarding what Tariq assumed she wanted. I desperately wanted her to step in and be like, no. I am a strong independent woman who is capable of making my own decisions regarding my personal happiness. Alas, I can only hope we see this happen in The Rose and the Dagger.
I will be excitedly picking up the sequel on May 3rd~! I truly do recommend this book for anyone who likes retellings (see: Cinder, Uprooted, A Court of Thorns and Roses, Dorothy Must Die) or just a twisted romance gone right. Bonus: Is it just me, or are there a lot of Beauty and the Beast retellings out there lately? Like, I already mentioned two, but there’s also Cruel Beauty and Beastly, and probably several more I haven’t heard of. Not that this is a bad thing, I’m just constantly surprised by which trends take off in YA Lit. Comment your thoughts!