Monday, 29 May 2017

A Review of The Wrath & The Dawn and The Rose & The Dagger

The Wrath & The Dawn and The Rose & The Dagger are a duology by Renée Ahdieh, who also wrote Flame in the Mist. They are loosely based on 1,001 Nights. Shahrzad "Shazi" Al-Khayzuran has volunteered to be the wife of Khalid Ibn Al-Rashid, the Caliph of Khorasan, who is known to kill his brides come morning. She is taken away from everything she ever knew, including her childhood friend and crush, Tariq Imran Al-Zayid. One of his brides, Shiva bin-Lateif, was Shahrzad's best friend, and Shahrzad is determined to find out why she had to die, and to bring revenge on the Caliph for all the girls he killed.

Of course, it plays out slightly differently in practice. Shazi and Khalid fall quickly in love. And by quickly, I mean within about three days, while Shazi still thinks he's responsible for killing his other brides. I don't always complain about instalove - I feel it's quite realistic to how people can develop feelings in real life and even if it's often not love, just a very strong attraction, it can feel like love. However, I was having a real hard time swallowing it here. Her feelings literally switched from strong hatred to love within three days! I did love some of the things they said when they were being romantic - and when they were verbally sparring. And by the way, there is no love triangle, despite Shazi having two guys interested in her.

I did enjoy the story, and it's characters. Shazi is a snarky, sarcastic and good with a bow. I had a hard time buying her as a woman from a Middle-East inspired culture, but then I thought if I can accept the medieval European tomboy Princesses, why can't I see it here? Khalid is of course the love interest with a tragic backstory, and what I felt was too much of a temper at times. I adored Despina. I liked Tariq and appreciated the lengths he was willing to go to rescue Shazi from the danger her thought she was in. Yasmine is a character that is extraordinarily rare in fiction - she likes the protagonist's love interest, but isn't treated at evil or mean over this. I appreciated that.

In the first book, as per the original tale, Shazi spends a lot of time telling stories, something that is very hard to represent via text. The true joy of listening to a good storyteller is in the cadence of their voice, changing their tone for different characters and in doing actions. They may add their own twist to the tale, and they have the entire thing memorised. In the text, all we have are pages of Shazi talking.

I find that there are two sorts of sequels - those where after the first has done the set-up and exposition, the sequel is much better and those where the sudden change in characters and location leaves the reader feeling vaguely homesick. The Rose & The Dagger falls into both categories. I missed some of the characters who got less focus in the book, and the Palace of Rey. However, Khalid and Shazi's relationship bothered me less now it was already set up and the plot now starts shaping up for all-out war. Spoilers: However, the actual war is over very conveniently. I find that it's rare to have an actual war in YA fiction. The ending can feel a little rushed or like a cop-out.

I recommend this series to people who like books set in faraway places. These books contain some of my favourite things in literature - maps and a glossary! Definitely recommend having a look at the glossary while reading if there are terms you don't understand.

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