Top critical review
I really love a good retelling of 1001 Nights
Reviewed in Australia on 26 January 2017
The Wrath and the Dawn was VERY disappointing for me. I really love a good retelling of 1001 Nights, unfortunately this didn’t qualify. Though the writing itself is good and the descriptions are immaculate, the characters and plot left a lot to be desired.
I’m really burned out on the “Female assassin goes to kill target, misses prime opportunities, and falls in love with target. She finds out he’s not evil just “misunderstood” or a victim” song and dance. And of course it usually involves her getting a cushy lifestyle while doing all of this.
Khalid needs to kill 100 girls. We find out later that he’s “close” to that number. So let’s just put that number at 90. This man has killed NINETY girls. The recent being Shazi’s best friend. And after THREE days she’s already getting fluttery feelings and so on for him? The romance aspect of this was absurd on so many levels.
Shazi sends her family into hiding, assumingly because she plans on killing Khalid and not getting away blameless, maybe even plans to sacrifice her life towards this cause. First off, why the fuzzy pickles would the General or the Captain not be assessing these women? Shazi VOLUNTEERS to be married to a guy who’s close to his 100 goal kill count. How did that conversation go in this supposedly super strict security place?
“Oh hey, Khalid. So we have some woman who wants to be number 91. I’m sure it’s not at all suspicious that someone’s volunteering.”
“You’re right, General. I say we do not check into her history and find out who her family and friends are.”
“Sounds like a plan, Khalid. I’m sure she doesn’t have a fiancée she loves who she’s leaving for this marriage or any close friends/family who you’ve killed on your recent murder streak.”
The story starts AFTER Shazi is in the palace and never once are we told/shown how she got in without suspicion or why the dingbat, super protective people in Khalid’s life didn’t check her background.
The first night, Khalid comes to Shazi’s room. We’re later told that he’s never done this with any wife but his first. Why Shazi? Hope you don’t want to know because you won’t find out. He also shows up and she decides to have sex with him. He tells her she doesn’t have to, but she persists, so they proceed to have the most passionless sex you can imagine. It’s not described or anything, we’re just told in Shazi’s words that neither one of them enjoyed it.
So WHYYYYY!? Why did he come to her room if not to sleep with her? Why would she insist on sex if he didn’t want it and she didn’t want it? Then she launches into a story which is the actual reason for why he lets her live, so the sex didn’t even buy her another night.
The next night they do the same thing!! I don’t get it!!! This time Shazi is extremely stupid and wraps up her story just as dawn is arriving and then tries to start another story. Of course, there’s no time so she’s rushing, and nervous, and doesn’t end the story on any sort of hook, but insists that it’s the same story. Terrible storytelling tactic, and I’m not sure why it worked.
He doesn’t show up the night after that and the following morning she’s dragged out to be killed. She’s screaming and kicking and pitching a huge fit the whole time, which okay, I MIGHT understand if it wasn’t for the fact that hello, what did you expect? And she’s shouting the whole time about how she’s the queen and she demands they release her.
Eye roll moment. Come on. She has to know that title doesn’t mean squat. How many women have held that title in the last couple of months? She also knows that this is how it works. One wife dies every day. They’re not going to stop just because she says so. Besides the only reason they’d be there to kill her is because Khalid(the king) told them too. That takes precedent over her order any day of the week.
Khalid interrupts the murder in progress and punches the lights out of the guy attempting it. Now, that makes you think “did they go above his head?” It takes most of the book to get a definite answer and it’s a no. Khalid DID order her death, so why beat the poor guy up who was just following orders. We can talk about the bystanders later, but as far as Khalid taking it out on someone else when he told them to . . .
And here’s WHY he stopped the execution, because her lurves her!! She’s his air. He can’t breathe without her. Again, we find that out near the end, but think about it . . . they’ve known each other for 2 nights. The only communication they have is during that storytelling time and it’s mostly Shazi telling a story. There hasn’t been enough time, communication, or anything to warrant love(or anything close to it). Khalid has killed so many women, that I’m sure he’s walled his heart off good and distanced himself as much as possible. I don’t think one extra day with someone is going to break it down and send him into love’s grasp.
Then can we talk about all of the missed opportunities? I can’t believe Shazi didn’t have a poisoned hair stick or something on her person. Nothing? Really? Poison laced fingernail polish? She had sex with the guy for kitten’s sake. She could’ve stabbed, scratched, or poisoned him anyway you please. Instead we’re treated to lots of missed chances, and excuse after excuse.
Day 3 rolls around and Shazi’s in love. Wow, in love with your best friend’s killer after 3 days of little to no communication. Scheherazade is smart, witty, intelligent, storyteller. Her stories and her genius is why I love her tale. Instead I get some cheap knock-off bimbo who doesn’t have the good sense God gave a goose.
And Khalid . . . there are two things that stand out. First, if you were cursed to kill 100 women without explanation or watch your people suffer, at one point would a person decide to off themselves? No really. This guy has no kids, no siblings, no mom, no dad, no grandparents. His wives are one day wonders, so that doesn’t count. If he really was such a good guy, why didn’t he just kill himself after electing a replacement?
This is why I like the story when the king is actually a screwed up human whose heart has been ripped out and he’s lashing out at the world. I like the redemption arc. The knowledge that yeah, he is terrible, but he’s changing.
Not the oh, he’s a victim and it wasn’t his fault because that excuses his choices in a case where I can look at it and go, “No. There was another choice and you didn’t take it.”
Secondly, the guy is a jerk. He really is. He’s hostile and violent. He treats his cousin who only wants to help and protect him like crap. Jalal should’ve been the ruler because he was decent, and all he got was beaten up and yelled at by Khalid. Khalid snaps at everyone and is just a grouchy, angry, violent person. I didn’t like him! I don’t see how Shazi fell in love with him.
And then there’s the no sleeping thing. It’s never explained why Khalid doesn’t sleep!! He’s got some voodoo guy who does something(we aren’t told what) and I guess that maybe helps him function without sleep? Though obviously it doesn’t work well. But still, there’s NO explanation as to why he’s not sleeping in the first place.
Shazi gets called a brat often by her handmaiden, but never when Shazi’s actually being a brat. I didn’t get that. The time Shazi’s being terrible is when there’s no name calling, but when Shazi’s insisting on an answer about a suspected posioner, then she’s a brat. Not so sure a lot of the name calling fit the setting of the story. Some of it felt a bit modern.
Lastly, if you’re so close to hitting your 100 count, please just finish it! I mean, he’s so close and he’s already done enough damage, you might as well get the last 5-10 people so the rest of the city isn’t cursed. If he doesn’t hit the 100 and the curse is somehow broken anyway, it means all of those people died for no reason. The reason they died is sorta-stupid, but at least there is one.
I liked Tariq. He seemed like a nice guy and I liked that he was getting people gathered to take out Khalid because someone needed to do it!! I liked that he was trying to rescue Shazi(not that she deserved it).
I thought the plot from the people outside the palace was interesting and would’ve liked to see more of that. I thought the descriptions of the world and clothing were amazing. The writing style was easy to read and the characters(even dislikeable that they were) had been fully fleshed out and developed.
I won’t be reading the next one.