*Taken from Goodreads*
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?
Often, I find myself disappointed with some of the heavy hitters taking over YA via Bookstagram and Booktube. This was no exception. The Wrath and the Dawn came with some heavy backing from minority writers such as Marie Lu AND OTHERS I GUESS, and featured a minority cast itself. A retelling of 1000 and One Arabian Nights was hard for me to pass up. So, true to fashion I waited about a year or so after it came out then finally got around to reading it.
Honestly, I don’t remember much. For a character who is supposedly so masterful at telling stories that others become almost enchanted Shahrzad’s (Shazi) stories fell flat. After reading her three tales I immediately forgot what they were about, and what the book was about. It certainly wasn’t the retelling I was promised. Following along the terrible lines that A Court of Thorns and Roses did, I found myself believing that preschoolers could have done a better job coloring in this story. At least they try for the lines. What I got from this novel instead was a poorly thought out love story with little character development, a breakneck fast pace that left me wondering if anything happened, and a cliff hanger that did anything but leave me hanging.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
First of all, the romance between Shazi and Khalid lacked any all and sense of spark and drive. I didn’t believe their development as a couple, mostly because I didn’t see them grow as characters. Everything Shazi did seemed random to me, and her motivation was weak. Yes, Kahlid killed her best friend, but that somehow didn’t translate from the story. She had no fire, no drive to me. So, watching her fall in love was like watching a bad 90s movie on fast-forward, easily forgettable. Second of all, one of the things I hate the most is watching a soap opera about characters I don’t care about. There isn’t a single person in this story who stood out to me. Despina was annoying honestly, and her’s and Shazi’s banter fell flat again and again. Their friendship had no logical procession, so their relationship made no sense to me. There was the appearance of a magical negro with Musa, what with showing up and spouting off information about the mysterious prince and providing insight and the possibility of magical training, something we should really move beyond in literature. Shazi served at the Sassy/Sarcastic™ character, running her mouth and acting out in ways that would have either exposed her or gotten her killed in this situation. Maybe that was part of the problem for me, since there was no one to challenge her challenges it made the story much more low stakes than it should have been. Third of all, the pacing left me without much of an idea of what happened.
There was so much jumping from character to character, from the palace to the other romantic interest, to Shazi’s father that I was left confused a lot of the time. It didn’t make sense for these other characters to be here, and their part in the story never seemed to be fully explained. For starters the readers are never let into this apparent plot to kill the prince that Shazi and Tariq have, and his motivation to save her seems rather bland to me. Yes, we’re told they have a history as friends but it just doesn’t show in the writing. Furthermore, there is a presence of magic in this story. There is a flying carpet given to Shazi by Muse, her father can make roses bloom and steals a book with black magic, the prince is under a curse. As amazing as this all sounds, that’s literally all that we know. Instead of acting as a mystery I want to solve the magic served more as an annoyance, as only the curse holds any relevance to the plot and nothing is explained to us in any way that would make magic remotely possible or important to these characters. Honestly.
All in all, my disappointment with this book is showing, and honestly I wanted to expect so much more from it but I was left without much to go on. I certainly will not be picking up the sequel, so I should be spared a little frustration with these characters and the lack on engaging story.