I have binge read quite a few YA books lately, and The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh, has been the best I’ve read this summer break. For three reasons:
1) The protagonist. Shahrzad aka Shazi. Her nickname alone is one letter off from my name. I would stare at “Shazi” and I could imagine the “z” becoming an “r.” So, I’m almost the main character. And who wouldn’t want to be her? She’s like a witty Mulan and Katniss. (She actually reminded me of Meira from “Snow Like Ashes.”) Shazi can cut deep with weapons and words. Her dialogue is on point and she’s overall a strong heroine. From the beginning, I could feel how brave and smart she was, a little rash in her decisions, but still very clever.
2) The story. While reading it, I felt that Renee drew inspiration from Aladdin, Bluebeard, and Beauty and the Beast. There’s a mix of everything I like: magic, romance, action, and storytelling. Yes, you read that last one correctly. There are stories within the story. The tales are seamlessly interwoven into the plot and made to reflect the kingdom’s culture, and these stories mirror what happens within the main storyline. I recently took a folktale class and I learned how important the old tales are; how much influence they have on current stories. I mean, without them there would be no Disney. It was nice to see this appreciation and recognition for the building blocks of storytelling. Also, there were unanswered questions that gradually became clear, but while reading I didn’t feel confused. I knew what was happening and that more pieces would fall into place. It was like most of the middle of the puzzle was complete and all that was needed were the edges. The picture is clear, but there’s something missing that would make it perfect.
3) Culture. The clothes, makeup, and hair were described beautifully. Don’t even get me started about the food. There were whole paragraphs just dedicated to illustrating what was on Shazi’s plate. Warning: Do not read this book on an empty stomach. And the words themselves. You’ll notice a glossary in the back. You can pretty much figure out the words on context alone, but it adds this Middle Eastern flair to the book that makes it different from your usual YA books.
Renee gets an A from me on this book. (I’m glad Lauren DeStefano praised the work so much and intimidated her Twitter followers into reading this fabulous book.)
I’m going to say this book ranked as 4.8 out of 5 stars on my scale because there were some slow moments that I wanted to pass through.