The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Title: The Wrath & the Dawn
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath & the Dawn, #1

The people of Khorasan live in fear of their caliph, Khalid, a young ruler who marries a new girl every day. And every morning the new bride is found dead. Shahrzad is determined to put an end to the caliph’s reign of terror by ending his life in retribution for the lives he’s taken, including her best friend’s. As Khalid’s newest bride, Sharhzad knows her life will be forfeit by morning, but she is willing to do anything to survive the night and slay the monster. What Sharhzad did not expect was to find a troubled young man behind the caliph’s stone façade, one who is hiding a dark secret that may change everything.

“Love is a force unto itself, sayyidi. For love, people consider the unthinkable…and often achieve the impossible. I would not sneer at its power.”

Renée Ahdieh’s The Wrath & the Dawn is an enchanting and rich retelling of A Thousand and One Nights. Beautifully written and poignantly told, this debut novel is sure to win the hearts of its readers. Sharhzad is outspoken and strong-willed; her untamed opinions and dismissive attitude toward the caliph borders on recklessness, yet it is these qualities that make her a force to be reckoned with. I was immediately drawn to her and her quest to take down the murderous king. Khalid was a bit harder to feel invested in as he remains a mystery not only to Sharhzad but also to the readers. But like the protagonist, once I finally caught a glimpse of the real Khalid, I was intrigued and had to know more. Their relationship is a mixture of ups and downs, which left me simultaneously exhausted and wanting more.

Every character is a bit of a mystery in this novel, which will intrigue some readers and frustrate others. That being said, they are also complex, flawed, and worthy of further explorations. Despina, Sharhzad’s handmaiden, is a character you immediately want to be an ally for the protagonist, but you aren’t sure where her loyalties truly lie and whether trusting her is worth the risk. I’m hoping to learn more about Tariq, Sharhzad’s childhood sweetheart, who immediate takes action the moment he hears that Khalid has taken her as a wife. At times his actions grated on my nerves, but I believe he has a chance to grow as a character and I’m interested to see what choices he ends up making in the future.

Even though it took me a while to really get into The Wrath & the Dawn, once I reached the end I felt emotional drained and desperate for more. I had a few issues with the way the novel reveals its mysteries, but there’s no denying its emotional impact.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

Winterspell by Claire Legrand

Winterspell by Claire Legrand

Title: Winterspell
Author: Claire Legrand
Series: N/A

Clara Stole is haunted by her mother’s murder. Stifled by the corruption surrounding her father and his inability to get passed his wife’s death, Clara’s only solace is her Godfather’s lessons in stealth and sparing. Clara soon discovers there’s more to her mother’s murder than meets the eye and the one person she thought she could trust has lied to her. When otherwordly creatures attack her family’s Christmas party and the statue that sat in her Godfather’s shop for years suddenly transforms into a real life man, Clara discovers the terrible stories of another world her Godfather once told her as child are real. In order to save her family, Clara must travel to the world of Cane where a faery queen rules ruthlessly over humankind.

“Gathering her strength, crying out in pain as her bruised back twisted, she thrust her sword toward the lok’s midsection and prayed that her blade would find a gap in the strange, corded harness wrapped around its middle.”

Claire Legrand’s Winterspell is unusual in many respects. It is the first retelling of The Nutcracker I’ve come across and its protagonist is not who you would usually think of as a heroic figure. It is 1899 and Clara has grown up in an era and a society where looking the other way is the norm. She’s insecure, struggles to see her own merit and is constantly reminded of her own powerlessness. While I think it’s important to showcase protagonists who may not be physically or mentally strong, I felt that the story put Clara in uncomfortable and confining situations over and over again in an effort to illustrate her lack of control. The problem with this is it eventually felt superfluous when it was made clear early on that she is fearful, sometimes making her easy to manipulate.

The setting for Winterspell is really interesting. There is both magic and machinery, where faeries are capable of manipulating human inventions for their own gain. There is also a history of an ongoing war between faeries and humans that is sort of explained, but I wanted a little more backstory describing how both sides came to regard the other with such contempt. At times Winterspell is beautiful and whimsical, but I found the only character I actually liked, at least for the most part, was Clara. It seemed that everyone was lying or deceiving her in some way and I found myself frustrated with everyone. I did appreciate that Clara eventually learned to take her life into her own hands, but she was far more forgiving than I would ever be.

Rating: 2/5

★★

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Title: Of Metal and Wishes
Author: Sarah Fine
Series: Of Metal and Wishes, #1
**I received a copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway**

A slaughterhouse is the last place Wen ever imagined she would end up, but the death of her mother has brought about a lot of changes to her life. Her fancy dresses are worthless in a place like Gochan One, where she now assists her father, the factory’s medical doctor. When management brings in Noor laborers in an effort to improve efficiency, the Itayai workers are not happy having to share a workspace with the barbaric men. As tension grows between the two peoples, Wen discovers the secret behind the Ghost of Gochan One, a phantom rumored to grant favors, both kind and merciless.

“So I take a few steps into the dark hallway, until the light around me turns from gray yellow to brown black, stopping before I sink into inky obsidian darkness. I’ve never been afraid of the dark, though now I wonder if I should be.”

Sarah Fine’s Of Metal and Wishes is a retelling of the famous work Phantom of the Opera. I haven’t read the original novel, but I’m a big fan of the musical and this is the first retelling of the story I’ve come across. The novel’s backdrop is one of hardship, in which factory employees are forced to work under harsh conditions for meager pay. The history between the Noor and Itanyai people has always been violent and the fact these brutes are now taking hours from their own people, makes the Itanyai resentful. Through her relationship with the Noor Melik, Wen learns that these men, known for their barbarianism, are more complicated than what she previous thought and their concern for one another is something to be admired.

I struggled to really buy into the relationship between Wen and the Ghost. In Phantom of the Opera, the protagonist develops a special bond with the ghost through music, he mentors her and it is through this shared passion that she becomes drawn to him before they meet. Unfortunately, this is not the case for Of Metal and Wishes. There is nothing to substantiate the bond Wen feels for the Ghost when they first meet and it becomes harder to buy into it when she realizes he has caused substantial injury to other people. While Wen found his behavior intriguing, I just found it creepy and things go way too far before Wen actually starts listening to the warning bells going off in her head.

Rating: 2/5

★★

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Title: Tiger Lily
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Series: N/A

On Neverland, where mermaids and pirates pose a threat to all, nothing is more dangerous than the boy Peter Pan and the lost boys. At fifteen Tiger Lily is a bold and fierce creature. To her tribe, the Sky Eaters, she is wild and reckless. When an Englander is shipwrecked on the island, the tribe, afraid of the aging disease he carries, refuses to help him, but Tiger Lily has other ideas. Tiger Lily’s decision will alter her tribe forever and bring her face to face with the enigmatic Peter Pan.

“Still, the longer I was around her, the more I could see the colors of her mind and the recesses of her heart. There was a beast in there. But there was also a girl who was afraid of being a beast, and who wondered if other people had beasts in their hearts too.”

Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Tiger Lily is simply bewitching. The beauty, sadness, and depth of the characters is poignantly written and at times I stopped reading because I was stunned by Anderson’s writing. A retelling of Peter Pan, told through the tiny eyes of Tinker Bell, this book tells the story of the fearless Tiger Lily. Caught between wanting to be strong and knowing her independence isolates her, Tiger Lily struggles to be who she is while trying to appease those around her. Peter Pan, unperturbed and whimsical, represents the kind of freedom Tiger Lily will never have. She is as much drawn to him as he is to her. For Peter, Tiger Lily’s strength is something to behold. Childlike in many ways, Peter has fleeting moments when you see the careless facade give way to something deeper.

Dangerous creatures inhabit Neverland, no more so than the pirates bent on riding the island of Peter Pan. As violent and hot as Hook’s temper burns, it is Smee’s odd fascination with Tiger Lily that is the most unnerving. A murderous and twisted man, Smee has other ideas than simply helping Hook kill Peter Pan. An unconventional foe, the Englander, Phillip, posses a different kind of threat to the Sky Eaters, one that Tiger Lily feels powerless to stop.

Never has Neverland been so enchanting and wistful, charming and sad. Tiger Lily beautifully captures the romantic notion of never growing up, forever caught in the bliss of childhood, but at the same time addresses the tragedy of such a fate. Narrated by Tinker Bell, blessed with knowing a person’s thoughts but too tiny to do anything to stop the evil that threatens those she cares about, Tiger Lily is a delicately written tale of fear and heartache, but also of love and acceptance.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★