Do you ever get the feeling when you read a book that you’re sliding into its world, that you’re so engrossed in it that you can, perhaps, see it playing out in your head like a movie? I didn’t understand how hard it was for writers of those kinds of books to accomplish that until I became a writer myself. It is no easy feat, but Renee Adhieh, author of The Wrath and The Dawn, did so in spades. This is book set in a rich world, with characters you almost feel like you could reach out and touch. It was a joy to read.
Indeed, Ms. Adhieh’s writing is captivating from page one, which begins:
“It would not be a welcome dawn. Already the sky told this story, with its sad halo of silver beckoning from beyond the horizon. A young man stood alongside his father on the rooftop terrace of the marble palace. They watched the pale light of the early morning sun push bash the darkness with slow, careful deliberation.”
Every page is filled with words that like these, that describe the fictitious Middle Eastern kingdom in which the book is set and its inhabitants with an economy that belies their strength. The Wrath and the Dawn is less than 400 pages but encompasses the lives of a multitude of characters. Those words do that by focusing on the actions of the two main characters–Shahrzad and Kalid–and how their actions (or inactions) affect the lives of so many others.
Khalid is the 18-year-old king of that kingdom, a boy who some think is mad because he takes a new bride every night, and has each one killed the next morning. Shahrzad (featured on the cover above), as one of those brides, is determined not only to stay alive but to avenge the death of her best friend, who preceded her. His crimes are unthinkable, and thus you would think that Shahrzad’s course is immutably set, to the extent that you wonder how on earth could she think to deviate from it. But she does, in a most captivating way. She is a tough woman, but also very introspective.
The plot, because it follows naturally out of her introspection, advances gracefully, although with surprising pirouettes that occasionally take the reader off their feet. It is not a this-happened-and-then-this-happened kind of book; it is a this-character-felt this-way-so-they-did-this-and-that-other-character-felt-this-way-and-thus-they-did-that plot, all headed toward a climax where the consequences of all of those characters’ actions come together and ricochet through each other’s lives. You would think, then, that the pacing of the book would be cumbersome, given its rich setting, degree of introspection and scope, but it’s not.
You would also think that, by the way I’ve described it, I would give it a full 10-stars on my 10-star scale star scale? But I don’t. I give it a full 9.5, perhaps even a 9. Why? Because the ending is very much a cliff-hanger. I very much hate endings where things don’t really end or wrap up, and this book’s ending is that kind of ending. Granted, it worked (assuming that it was a device of the publisher to make me want to buy the second book in the series) because I couldn’t wait to buy the second book, not even until my next trip to Costco (which is where I bought the first book. Generally, I prefer to buy all the books in a series either all in hard-copy or all on Kindle.) I bought it on my Kindle, and am already halfway through it.
So, read it, and let me know what you think!