Review: Grave Mercy

Ah. This book. This is my official favorite book of all time. I dare anyone to prove me wrong.

It’s a borderline obsession. Maybe not so borderline, actually. I have reread this book so many times that I have lost track well into the thirties. And that was over a year ago.

obsessed

That’s right. I’m dedicated. That’s the lie I tell myself everyday.

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage to the respite of the convent of St. Mortain. Here she learns that the god of Death has blessed her with dangerous gifts and a violent destiny. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. But how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who has stolen her heart?

Plot:

Alright then, I’m just going to say right now that this book is historical fiction about fifteenth century France. So, if historical fiction and French history repels you, you may not think this book is the greatest. That being said, I do not think you have to be knowledgeable about the topic to enjoy this book. I did not even know that the setting, Brittany, was a thing until I read this book. It is heavily political without being boring.

Characters:

Ismae: She is one of my favorite characters of all time. What I specifically enjoyed was her growth through the book. Some characters, while they may be good characters and enjoyable to read about, are fairly static throughout the book. Ismae, on the other hand, is very dynamic, starting off as a naive girl who blindly follows and develops into a free thinker, able to formulate her own ideas and sticking to them even when everything she has been told goes against this. I believe this to be an admirable trait, and she serves as a role model for her readers.

Duval: I don’t think I am giving anything away when I mention that he is the main love interest in the book. One could comprehend that just by reading inside the book cover (which is different from the above listed description). I absolutely adored Duval. He has a point other than his relationship with the main protagonist (freaking finally, am I right fellow YA readers?) and he is very smart, doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and has a dry sense of humor that I very much appreciate. You know what, just read the damn book, then you’ll understand. Duval is one of those characters one must experience first-hand through the story.

Anne: As the heir to the Breton Duchy, Anne is under tremendous pressure for someone so young (she is twelve or thirteen during the events in the book). She is trying to manuver against France and keep power with the duchy, while aso trying to marry a husband with enough power to secure Brittany. Needless to say, Anne is very mature for her age, poised throughout the book, even in circumstances where people twice her age would crack. Sometimes, especially around her little sister Isabeau, she is more like other children and has a sense of humor similar to her half-brother Duval. The relationship between Duval and Anne was also very well done. I think she may be a little too mature for her age, but given the time period her actions are a bit more realistic.

Beast and de Lornay: These characters were introduced as Duval’s friends near the beginning. I really loved Beast, with is kind and likable demeanor, but I did not really like de Lornay. That is, until the end. I will not give anything away, but everything wraps up very nicely.

Chancellor Crunard: A shadowed character if there ever was one, from the beginning not much is known about Crunard, at least from Ismae’s perspective. As more facts are brought to light, Crunard becomes more and more integral to the plot. I will stop here, to avoid giving anything away. Just go read the book, damn it.

Count d’Albret: d’Albret is the main antagonist of the book, and he is pretty f*cking slimey. Sometimes I would read his descriptions and just cringe. I mean, read this line

He is tall and fat, and a brisly black beard covers his face. Amid all that blackness, his lips stand out like wet pink slugs.

The slug thing creeps me out. While not particularly subtle or complicated, d’Albret is a very real threat in this novel and his schemes thicken the plot significantly.

Sybella and Annith: While not mentioned much in the book, Annith and Sybella influence Ismae and help shape her into the person she is. Without the help of Annith and Sybella, I doubt that many of the things that played out in the book would have occured. The next two books in the trilogy, Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart, follow their storylines, so check those books out for more information on Sybella and Annith.

The Abbess: The Abbess is one of those people you hate becuase of how bitchy they are, but you can’t help but admire just how bitchy they are. Even though you know she is on the ‘good’ side and she is the abbess of the convent Ismae follows, she is a hardcore bitch but is so damn good at it. She twists people words and corners them so adeptly that it is really awesome and irritating at the same time, especially for Duval.

Writing Style

You’re either going to love or hate this writing style. It’s first person, present tense (not that uncommon), but the language is more antiquated, even when discussing Ismae’s thoughts. The perspective of the book is limited to Ismae, so we don’t get any other POVs or outside information. I liked this aspect because the entire point of the book is Ismae’s journey through emotion and the era; knowing all the plot twists and throwing in anachronisms in general would just be distracting. Sometimes the writing can be a bit choppy and the timing of events questionable, but nothing glaring enough to detract from the novel as a whole.

Cover

I really liked the cover, but even I have to admit that it is a bit generic. Not too much, mind you, but it’s nothing very new. That being said, it does accurately portray what the book will be about (the crossbow even specifically pops up in a few seens) without gilding the lily.

grave mercy

Final Thoughts

I know that this book isn’t perfect. I know that it has flaws and that some people may not like it. Even still, it is definitely my favorite book because it is unique. I feel like so many books these days, especially in YA, are so bland and overdone. Too many carbon-copies are being shipped out via assembly line to be bought up by fifteen-year-old lonely school girls.

It is set in the 1400s in Brittany, France (who honestly knows where that is in middle school if you don’t live there?), the main character challenges the established mind set and religion not because she thinks that everything needs to be revolutionized, but because she cannot personally dedicate herself fully to the task, and the main love interest is not some asshole, generic guy with no other purpose than be hot (Ismae even notes that he isn’t super handsome) and hold the protagonist down. Everyone in the book, with a few exceptions, just felt real. Christ, this book made me research the history and politics of Brittany. If it could do that, it’s some pretty powerful shit.

Score:

9.1

READ IT

 

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Fictionpress

Dear people, 

Thank you for giving my blog views. I have neglected this page for a long time, but somehow still got views, so thank you.

Speaking of views, I have been publishing on Fictionpress.com under the name Ismae Rienne. My ongoing story is called Sonorous, and it is focused on music (surprising, right?).

I think it’s pretty good, so check it out if you are so inclined. I will put a link in here somewhere. 

https://m.fictionpress.com/u/1091593/Ismae-Rienne
Ah, there it is. 

On another note, I am working on a lavender handbag, which is pissing me off. But what else is new, am I right? 

Review: The Watchers

When I first read The Watchers by Lynnie Purcell, I really, really liked it. I liked the story, the characters, and the writing style. Upon rereading it a year or two ago, I still liked it, but less so. And after rereading it again (I went through a little bit of a rereading phase), I found it to be remarkably decent. Yep, just decent, barely above par. I actually think it is a bit of a rip off of Twilight, which already drops it off of the ‘nice’ list. Its only saving grace is that it does the whole idea a bit better, with a bit of a twist that kept me from vomiting.

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Clare has spent her life traveling from town to town, never knowing a home, content to live from city to city. So, when her mom decides to drag Clare back to her hometown, Clare is skeptical. But, it is there, she learns the power of home, the meaning of the secret she has kept since birth, and the future of her role in a world far from normal.

Okay, girl moving to a small, backwater town? Check. Secret society kept from the world? Check. Hot guy that doesn’t like her at first, that has a secret? Check. Main character falls in love with the one person whose mind they cannot read? Check. Girl feels that she doesn’t fit in, thinks that the world is just unfair? Check. Young adult book is a go, everyone, young adult book is a go.

Plot: This is the part I have the most grievances with. Holy shit, I thought we had seen the last of Twilight. Is it even relevant anymore? I don’t know, but that is exactly what this book is. The main character, Clare, can hear thoughts. She can hear every person’s thoughts, her mother’s included. However, when she moves back to her mother’s old hometown, she encounter’s Daniel, who somehow can make her not hear all the thoughts around her. Clare is a half-angel, as her father was an angel who ran off when she was little. There is an ongoing war between two sides, and both sides attempt to conscript half-angels to their side.

I don’t want to give away more details for fear of spoilers, but I can safely say that it is almost a fan fiction of Twilight. I did like how Clare at least had some personality to add to the mix and some of the side characters were memorable. Besides that, there is little to recommend here.

Characters: One of the stronger points of the book, the character cast was actually pretty good.

Clare: Clare was pretty cool. I like that she had tattoos and piercings and other neat stuff to distinguish herself. I also like how she was almost a deep thinker, as she contemplated abstract concepts. This really added to the internal dialogue Clare had with the reader. While not the best main character I have seen, she most certainly is not the worst.

Daniel: I have mixed feelings about Daniel. On one hand, I appreciate that he is deeper and smarter than other love interests, and definitely more human. But, I think my main problem with Daniel is that some of his actions I find annoying. For example, Clare says she has a tattoo, and explains that the only way someone would see it would be by accident. So, after falling in a pool, Clare goes home to change with him. So, while she is changing, he walks in just to see if he can find her tattoo. Now,  I understand why this was put in, but WTF Daniel? You don’t just walk into your sort-of-girlfriend-not-quite-yet’s room while you know she is changing. How about a little respect? I thought he was alright, but not exactly what I was looking for.

Alex: She was a pretty good character in the book, but still somehow generic. I like how she was almost a school counselor, but as a student. It set her apart from other ‘best friend’ characters. Alas, there is little else different. That being said, she did her job as the outsider for people to explain things to as exposition and as a friend for Clare, who lacked any at the beginning of the book.

Writing Style: The best way to describe the writing is: good. Yep. Just good. There is nothing bad that I did not like about the writing style, but nothing really stood out, either. As such, the writing accomplished its task without major problems or major amazingness.

Cover: I do, actually, like the cover. It is colorful and mysterious; it really sells the book. The only problem I have with the cover is that it is kind of misleading. This book does contain special powers, but I would not go so far as to say it has magic in it. The cover heavily implies that it will have magic in it, which it does not. This aside, I did like the cover.

the watchers

Final thoughts: This book review is rather short, isn’t it? Yeah, I would say so, mostly because this book has little to talk about. It was average, enjoyable to read, but little by way of sustenance.

Score:

5.5

 

Review: Rebel of the Sands

I finished this book approximately ten minutes ago, and holy shit, the Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton is amazing! I cannot even begin to describe the ride this book took me on while reading it. You know what sucks though? I probably won’t see a sequel until next year. I am already dying on the inside. The rest of this year is going to be horrible just because I have to wait. And while the end was not a complete cliff hanger or anything, I still want- no, I need- to hear the rest of the tale. Other wise I’ll go cry myself to sleep every night listening to C’est La Vie by ELP be very disappointed.

I suggest not even waiting to read the rest of this review. I cannot recommend this book enough and even though it is still right next to me from where I put it down after finishing it, I have to force myself right now to stop reading and write about it. But, if convincing is required, convincing I shall provide. The summary is as follows:

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic.  For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female. 

Amani Al’Hiza is all three.  She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.

Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.

Rebel of the Sands reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally, at long last, embracing her power.

Hell yeah. Nothing like a gunslinger to get the blood pumping. I usually don’t like westerns, but the book has an Arabian Nights edge that I personally love in any book (see The Wrath and the Dawn Review). Can you tell by now that I love this book?

Plot: 

The world Amani (the main protangonist) lives in is unforgiving. As a girl, she has nothing. As a boy, however, she has the power of terrific aim and guts to keep her alive. The village of Dustwalk is some back-country shithole where the women hang if they are raped and guns are more prevalent than water. Amani grows up here before embarking on her journey that makes up the plot of this book. And, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t entertained for every freaking word on every freaking page. After all, lying is a sin (lol inside jokes). The world of Miraji is expertly created, full of djinn and ghouls and Skinwalkers, and is fully capable of producing an individual as wild as Amani is. So, the plot is realistic in is surrealism, if that makes any sense. I love it, I love it, I love it.

Characters:

Amani: Alright, here we go. Amani. Is. Awesome. She has an unbelievable sense of self-preservation and will do whatever it takes to get her goals accomplished. She has a knack for guns and can hold her own against any man in a gun match. She can think on her feet and has instincts that keep her alive. There is nothing more to say. I would say that she is the best part of this book, but there is just so much good in it, I don’t even know if I can.

Jin: Amani meets Jin early on in the book in a pistol pit and from the very beginning you know there is something up his sleeve. I actually reread this book since I began writing this review and I liked Jin even more the second time around. He possesses most of the characteristics that allow Amani to survive in the desert, but has a certain distaste for it. So the question remains: if he doesn’t like the desert, why is he currently traveling in the desert? And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the crux of the matter. I loved Jin as well, especially upon a second reading.

Tamid: As a character, Tamid was not present for a lot of the book. The only reason I mention him here is because he is brought up in the rest of the book numerous times, almost as a motif.

Ahmed: To many spoilers!!!! Gahhhh!!! I want to talk about these characters, but then I would give away twists. Short story is that Ahmed is an interesting man. I am not sure how I feel about him personally, but a well written enigma nonetheless.

Naguib: Talk about a spoiled whiner. This character is one of the may sons of the Sultan and is constantly clawing for what power he can get. While he is distasteful, he is convincing, so I do have to say that he is a good character.

Noorsham: When he was first introduced, I did not even realize he would be a supporting character. He is kind of glossed over, than introduced again, then dropped again, then picked back up again. Hopefully we will see more from this blind follower the next sequel, but I can safely say that this character is as important a reflection of real people as he is a reflection of the main protangists of the series.

Writing Style:

Holy shit, this is Hamilton’s first novel? No. Freakin’. Way. She way she told this story was brilliant. If the prose had been to sophisticated, it would have stuck out from the rugged nature of the world and protangonist. If it was too rough, on the other hand, it would have distracted the reader a bit too much. The writing, I am happy to declare, masterfully blends the two, at times being metaphoric and beautiful, and other times the tough language of a girl who’s lived a hard life. Simpy brilliant.

“Tell me that and we’ll walk away. Right now. Go and save ourselves and leave them to die. All you’ve got to do is say the word. Tell me that that’s how you want your story to go and we’ll write it straight across the sand to the sea. Just say it.”

My story.

I’d spent my life dreaming of my own story that could start when I finally reached Izman. A story written in far-off places I didn’t know how to dream about yet. And on my way there, I’d slough off the desert until there was nothing left of it to mark the pages.

Only Jin was right. I was a desert girl. Even in Izman I would still be the same Blue-Eyed Bandit with a hanged mother, who left her friend dying.

Bonus points for first person, present tense 🙂

Cover: The cover is pretty cool, too. It is accurate, pretty, and intriguing to boot.

rebel

Final Thoughts: 

This is, quite honestly, one of the best books I have read in a long time, possibly ever. There is no way I can see some one not liking this book; it is just so versatile. On one end it is a western, on one end it is an Arabian journey, on one end it is a rebellion story, and on another it is a redemption story. There simply is something for everyone.

Score:

9.2

This book is now in my top ten, if not top five. Read it! Like, right now! Just go and read this; you’ll thank me later.

*I may have to have a separate post about one part of this book in particular that I thought was amazing. However, it occurs near the end, and I would have to go into spoilers, and there is no f***ing way that I want to spoil this book for any one. I would not wish that on my worst enemies. So, I will clearly label the post as spoilerific and discuss this later. Toodles!

Review: Danica

When you go on Amazon.com and look at potential books, did you know that you can find books that are completely free? If you filter the search for prices lowest to greatest, books appear that are priced $0.00. As you can imagine, I have hit this up some many times. About 80% of the books on my Kindle were free!

I read Danica a while back and completely forgot about it! When I ‘purchased’ it a couple years ago, it was free. Damn. There is nothing I love more than getting a bargain. And that is exactly what this book is. Without further ado, here is the summary:

Gretsche’s world gets turned around at the discovery of werewolves. While trying to fight them to get her friends back, she makes an even more shocking discovery about herself and her own supernatural abilities.

Yeah. That’s the actual summary. Full of f***ing detail, I know. Gosh darn it Amazon! You can do better! I wrote up my own damn summary because I am so completely pissed with this summary. I know that point is to not give away the plot, but I want more.

Here is my summary:

Nineteen year old Gretsche lives a normal life as a want-to-be party girl, alongside her friends Brent and Haley. After a night of partying goes horribly wrong, Gretsche is dragged into a world of werewolves and vampires where she must learn to decipher friend from foe. In order to save her friends, Gretsche has to learn to master herself before she can overcome her enemies.

The funny thing is that NO ONE is talking about this book. Good Lord, when I looked up the title and author, I got stats about Danica Patrick the race car driver! Needless to say, I went into this book with little expectations and little information. What I found was a lot better than I thought it was going to be.

Plot: Vampires and werewolves. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last ten years, you know of all the books that have come out about vampires and werewolves, with Twilight being the front runner of the supernatural storm. However, the author does take a new twist on this aging rhetoric which refreshes the concept a bit. Underneath it all, however, it is still the same old, same old. There are some twists and turns that I liked, but the plot was ultimately predictable. Notice I did not say bad. This book was super enjoyable and I ate it up, despite the less than outstanding content.

Characters: This is the strongest part of the book. There are some very interesting characters in this book.

Gretsche: She is the best thing about this book. She is funny, brave, smart, badass, and a really good friend. A main character must always two the line between individuality and generality, seeing as though the reader must be able to relate to the character. Gretsche is a perfect balance of the two, and I completely backed her from beginning to end.

Brent (Bear): As a character, Brent is slightly above average. I liked how funny he was during his interactions with Gretsche and his relationship with her. Other than that, nothing else stands out.

Jason: This is one conflicted character alright. Shrouded in mystery until the end of the book, Gretsche (and ultimately the reader) has no idea if he is a friend or an enemy. I was not sure how I felt about him until I mulled him over after finishing the book. And so, I can safely say that I thought he was well developed and intriguing and I wish to see more of him in a later book ( which hopefully is writen soon).

Dimitri: I can’t go into much detail about Dimitri here, since I would hit upon some serious spoiler territory. However, I can say that Dimitri is the second reason (after Gretsche, of course) to read this book. He is witty, moody, and just engaging in general.

Haley: Haley was pretty cool. Haley was Gretsche’s friend. And yeah. That’s about it.

Preston (Gretsche’s dad): He is an awesome Dad. He supports Gretsche through everything and is one of the nicest father figures I have read in literature. However, sometimes I question the realism of this. There is no way, after hearing about attacks throughout the city, and the attack of a friend, a father would willingly let his child go around to bars willy nilly where other victims had been attacked. It would be one thing if he was some aloof, asshole dad, but from the book he clearly wants the best for his daughter. Besides this nitpick, I liked Gretsche’s dad.

Writing Style: This is probably the weakest link with this book. While not terrible, the writing was kind of ‘jumpy’, meaning some scenes were incredibly detailed and some scenes were completely glossed over. This is only natural, in any book, but it did not work out so well here. This book would have seriously benefitted from an increased length; another fifty pages would have allowed some of the scenes to be fleshed out. However, the writing did improve over the course of the book, so I am looking forward to the next book (whenever it comes out). Besides that, there is nothing really to note. Overall, the writing was passable.

Cover: For some reason, there are two covers; one is pretty cool and one is decent.

danica 1

This cover is pretty good, I guess, but I like the other cover a lot better. Here is the other cover:

danica

Now that’s kinda badass. It has swirly shit on it, red for blood, and really interesting graphics. I love it 🙂

Final Thoughts: 

While not a masterpiece, Danica certainly deserves more notice from readers and critics alike. Christ, if Twilight made it big, why don’t more people know of this book? I don’t know. I’m just some cynical teenager.

Score:

7.4

If possible, I recommend that you pick up this book somewhere. Hey, I managed to get it for free! This book is definitely worth your time, if not your money.

Review: Crown Duel

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith is an interesting case in reference to publication. Originally published as two separate books, a 2002 re-release combined Crown Duel and Court Duel into one continuous, two-part book entitled Crown Duel. So, for this review, I will be basing my thoughts on this re-release. Here is the summary:

Over their father’s deathbed, young Meliara Astiar and her brother Branaric promise to lead their people against the evil King. The impoverished count and countess discover that even when the cause is right, leading a war is much tougher than it appears. When Meliara falls into the hands of the elegant Marquis of Shevraeth, the enemy commander, she knows she has to either escape or die. After a desperate chase across country, she discovers that she and Bran are not alone—but the alliance is offered by the person she hates the most.

Once the king is gone, she faces a new type of battlefield: not muddy fields and sharpened steel, but marble palaces. The weapons now are fashion, manners, and the subtle and secret language of fans. Finally, there is the toughest challenge of all, courtship. For how do you defend yourself when the one who draws your eye, and your heart, is your worst enemy?

Plot:

As suggested by the description, the first part chronicles the uprising in the kingdom of Remalna and the second part deals with the aftermath. I really thought this was a nice change; in too many instances, the conflict ends and then everything everything is peaches and cream. Not here. In the wake of the uprising, the succession of an heir and the disbanding of the army is discussed in detail, with no correct answer being thrust in your face as the reader. All in all, the story line was detailed, fairly original, and completely engaging.

Characters: 

Meliara: I love her! At first I was very worried that she was going to be some Mary Sue character, but she is awesome! She is realistic (well, as realistic as a fantasy character can be) and resourceful. She doesn’t complain the whole time and is aware of her flaws as much as she is aware of her strengths. Nothing much left to say here, so lets move on.

Marquis of Shevraeth (Vidanric): Ahhhh, Shevraeth. Can I marry you? Nah. You already are my husband 🙂 Talk about cool under pressure. This character, for most of the book, is a mystery. Meliara has no idea what he is thinking half of the time, so, as the reader, you want to find out as much as she does. He is extremely competent, intelligent, thoughtful, and loyal, among other things. A superb character overall. (the bonus content at the end of this book from his perspective is pure gold!)

King Galdran: This is where the character cast falls a little short. It isn’t that King Galdran is a bad character per se, but he is simply the asshole character everyone knows. He does bad stuff and serves his purpose as a villan I suppose, but he just does it cause he is super evil. Everyone is scared of him cause he is evil. And there is nothing much else to him. Since he is only a supporting character, and in only the first half, I guess it isn’t as bad as I make it out to be.

Flauvic: Going into this character is dangerously close to spoiler territory, so I’ll try to tread carefully here. Flauvic is a suave, gorgeous man Mel (and the reader) meets in the second half of the book. He is very, very intelligent and clearly works for himself. He was a great edition to the story, and I thoroughly enjoyed the plot twist associated with him, even if I could see it coming.

Nee (Nimiar): I was very worried when this character was first introduced. I thought that she would be the bitchy court lady who shuns Mel or some other bullshit. I am happy to report that Nee was, in fact, a very sweet, genuine person and I thought she was a very nice edition to the book.

Writing style: One of the strong points of this book, I do have to say, is the language. The prose is not necessarily lyrical, but it is sophisticated and adapted well to the content of the book. The descriptions are detailed enough so that the reader can visualize the setting without being bored to tears over the lush detail of the hors d’oeuvours served at every gosh darn meal. It is told in first person (my favorite POV) and is very reflective in nature. It is my experience that Sherwood Smith can do no wrong, and this book is surely a pinnacle of her sharp writing style.

Cover: This is the cover of the copy of the book I have as a hard copy:

crown

I think that this cover is a very apt indicator of the book. It is simple and to the point without a bunch of other distracting nonsense to clutter it up. I really like the original covers as well.

crown 1

This is the original cover of the first book. Here is the cover of the original second volume:

court

I especially like this cover, but not for any objective reasons. I just think it is pretty is all 🙂

Final Thoughts:

I am reluctant to assign this book a score. The book is so damn enjoyable that a score might not fully encompass the depth of amazing-ness that is this book. Don’t believe me? Check it as soon as possible and see for yourself!

Score :

8.8

I highly recommend Crown Duel for any reader, old or young, especially those like me who love fantasy novels. Crown Duel is one of the most enjoyable books I have read 🙂

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh was a literal déjà vu for me. I have always had grand ideas of writing a novel or a short story or something, but I have never really gotten past the first few chapters. And I have no idea why. I love writing. I really do. It is just that whenever I try to write a cohesive story more than five or so pages long, the threads fall apart and I am left unsatisfied. There is always something, a thing that I cannot quite place, missing.

I feel this way with The Wrath and the Dawn too. The book, by all accounts, should be amazing. And it was. There was some small thing missing in the plot and character writing that I only realized after careful inspection, so I am here to share my thoughts.

Without further ado, here is the Amazon.com synopsis:

“Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.”

http://www.amazon.com/The-Wrath-Dawn-Ren%C3%A9e-Ahdieh/dp/0399171614

As you can see, the book is a retelling of the fairy tale One Thousand and One Nights, or Arabian Nights. While fairy tale retellings are a dime a dozen nowadays, with popular series like the Lunar Chronicles lining the shelves, I had never read a retelling of Arabian Nights prior to The Wrath and the Dawn. Now, I have seen two more adaptations spring up and I am sure more are on the way.

Plot:

There is nothing really special about the plot, seeing as though it is adapted from another source. However, I do think that the book is its own entity: I say this because there are many differences between the original and this book, such as the fact that there is, in fact, a reason behind Khalid killing his wives. The mystery drives the plot, not really the stories Shazi tells. And so, I liked the plot, since I loved the mystery.

The world described in this book I absolutely adored! It is set in an era of magic and secrecy, with magic carpets and mystic men and is based on lore from Persia. I ate it up! The kingdom of Khorasan is a character in its own right.

Characters:

I will start by saying this: there are multiple POVs in this book. I am more of a fan of single POV books, but I thought the changing POVs were a good edition and added to the mystery. With that being said, Shahrzad, or Shazi, is the main character of the book.

Main Characters:

Shazi: Shazi is introduced on her wedding day and we immediately get a glimpse of her personality. She is strong willed, arrogant/extremely confident, and fairly oblivious. She wishes to believe that she is all-knowing, but she misses a lot, as she later finds out in the story. I like that she has flaws yet still is a certifiable badass. Too many times nowadays heroines are advertised as a “strong female protagonist” simply because they can use a knife or some other bullshit thing. Meanwhile, they are downright useless, stupid, or impractical. Shazi is not any of these, and I love it.

Khalid: Khalid, the boy-king or Caliph of Khorasan, is Shazi’s recent husband and wife-murderer. He is a deeply guarded character and we rarely get a glimpse at his personality. For all intents and purposes, he is a stony-faced mystery. Yet, I am reluctant to say he has NO personality. He does, he really does. And it comes out in his body language. If you are a dialogue reader and skip the descriptions, it sucks to be you. Khalid comes to life in the way his actions, movements, and facial expressions are detailed in The Wrath and the Dawn.

Supporting Characters:

Despina: A handmaiden who serves Shazi while she lives at the palace, Despina becomes Shazi’s “friend”, though I am reluctant to call their relationship this. Despina is much wiser than Shazi in certain areas, but in some ways Shazi is more wise than her, and there is this whole dynamic between them that is friendly without them being “friends” per se. As a character, Despina holds up on her own, but there was nothing really shown of her without Shazi around. I think this is a little disappointing; I really wanted to learn more about her. *sigh* Alas, I shall have to wait for the sequel!

Jalal: Serving as a captain of the guard, Jalal is Khalid’s cousin and often his conscience. Jalal is arrogant and smug, but in a way that is more charming than repulsive. I liked him, but wish that I could have seen more from him, perhaps even from his POV.

Tariq: He is Shazi’s friend/love. He adores Shazi and would die for her, if that is what it would take to make sure she is happy. However, he is quite naïve in some of his pursuits and is out-witted about half of the time before he even realizes what is going on. On the whole, I liked him as a person, but I felt that he was kind of an unnecessary character and a deus ex machina in the end. The story’s progression was fairly obvious in regards to Tariq and he was a bit of an outside subject.

Jahandar: Jahandar is Shazi’s father. He loves his family very much, but is a little unstable now that his wife died and his daughter is marrying a murderer who kills all of his wives at dawn. Understandable. In the story he dabbles in magic, revealing his instability more and more. Call it personal taste or whatever, but I was never invested in his story like I was in the others. I am not going to say that he was a bad character, but he was okay and only okay.

The Rajput: A silent bodyguard/expert swordsman, the Rajput is a silent presence the entire time. Much like Khalid, some of his personality came through in his body language, but not nearly as much as Khalid. Overall, he was okay.

Writing Style:

This is where I am very divided. On one hand, the writing is downright beautiful. There are some phrases and sentences that just have me swooning on the spot. Who could resist the allure of some of these?

Khalid froze in time. Then Shahrzad watched his face shatter. The eyes of molten amber faded to dull memory. Faded to ruin. His raw anguish seared her soul and robbed her of breath. The bloodstained shamshir fell to his side.

 

It tore at what professes to be my soul. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. A thousand, thousand times. At your knees, and it will never be enough.

And quite possibly my favorite:

One hundred lives for the one you took. One life to one dawn. Should you fail but a single morn, I shall take from you your dreams. I shall take from you your city. And I shall take from you these lives, a thousandfold.

That is some serious writing there. Being a musical person, I thoroughly appreciate the lyricism of the diction and syntax of this book. It is truly a marvel.

However.

The impact of this prose is twofold. Sometimes it weaves itself in with the moment, resulting in some truly wondrous scenes. Sometimes, it fails to do this and creates a dichotomy within the book. I would note how great the writing was kind of like when you are in the movie theater and say “wow, that was some really great cinematography”. And that is exactly what is wrong with this book. Sometimes it feels like a film and you are the viewer; you have a firm grasp of what is going on and you really like it, but you are not in the story. You are not immersed in what is happening. The film keeps rolling by and you are the passive receiver rather than the active reader. In some spots where the writing really needed to pull it off, it split from the events and was beautiful to read but difficult to dive into.

All in all, though, the writing was really good. As this is the author’s debut novel, I am really expecting great things from one Renée Ahdieh.

Cover/general appearance:

You and I know the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” is complete bullshit. Sure, it may be good in a symbolic sense, but in a literal sense it is stupid. OF COURSE people want to read books with interesting covers and cool artwork. Look at this and try to tell me that you are not intrigued:

wrath

Now this is a cover. Hell YEAH! It gives you a glimpse at the genre, the main character, and the central focus of the book in one image. A+ on design, Renée Ahdieh.

Last thoughts:

Let’s say that you are at the mall with some of your friends. You see someone and you’re like, “Holy shit, he/she is totally hot!” But there is always that one friend that points out the coffee stain or the crooked tooth or the awful pattern of the shorts. So now you are shit out of luck. You want to go back to that blissful state of enthrallment, but the slight imperfection is a neon sign in you head.

When I realized what about the writing bothered me, this is what happened. This book is one glorious package of intrigue, passion, and history, but I managed to find the bug in the rice. And it is all subjective.

After calculating the scores for the categories, The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh get a score of:

8.2

I recommend that you buy this book at your earliest convenience and give it a go. I am sure you will not be disappointed 🙂