highly engaging retelling of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’

Katie Ward Beim-Esche in The Christian Science Monitor:

Sheerazade-a-thousand-and-one-nights_jpg!Blog“You are cordially invited to the marriage of Khalid, Caliph of Khorasan & Shahrzad al-Khayzuran…. Funeral to follow at dawn.” With an invitation like that, there was no way I could say no to The Wrath & The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh, a sumptuous retelling of the classic “One Thousand and One Nights.” Fade in on a drought-ravaged Arabian kingdom, ruled by a young caliph who takes a new bride every night and executes her at dawn.

…“Murderer of my best friend, and a soulless monster who must die by my own hand,” cries Shahrzad al-Khayzuran, our gutsy protagonist. When we meet her, Shahrzad has volunteered to be the caliph’s next bride, horrifying her family and enraging her childhood sweetheart. She plans to assassinate the caliph to avenge her best friend. Whether or not she succeeds, she has signed her own death warrant. Lucky for us, Shazi is no one’s damsel in distress or princess in an ivory tower. Instead, girlfriend has plans to kick butt and exact revenge till the camels come home. Our gal’s plan is to tell the caliph a tale so engrossing that when dawn arrives and she has not finished the story, he will stay her execution by a day to hear the conclusion. Lather, rinse, repeat. It works – but fate has other plans. The more Shahrzad grows to know Khalid, the less she can maintain her vengeful fury. She begins to care for the man she calls a monster. In turn, Khalid’s fascination for his enchanting and smart-mouthed queen evolves into a deep respect, and then love. But Shazi’s gamble sets off a deadly chain of events for the men in her life, all of whom race to rescue her by any means. Her father, Jahandar, strengthens the book's mild magical touch into something stronger, darker, deadlier. Her childhood love, Tariq, enlists his friends to foment a revolution and overthrow the caliph. It will all coalesce in one explosive confrontation … in the sequel. Despite a rough start, there’s much to love in this book. The first 20 pages are a whirlwind of names and grievances, but once Shahrzad enters the palace and launches into her first story, Ahdieh hits her stride. Much like Shazi and Khalid’s relationship, “Wrath” and I had a rocky beginning that deepened in a lovely way. I also grew fond of Ahdieh’s unorthodox style. The flowery strings of similes, barrage of one-sentence paragraphs, and narrative caesuras for luscious descriptive interludes would bother me elsewhere, but they felt so appropriate for an Arabian legend.

More here.