The Wrath and the Dawn

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The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh is a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights. There was a lot of hype around this book. I heard about it everywhere and everyone seemed to love it. I liked it to be sure, but I definitely didn’t love it. For starters, the book is well written. I liked the writing and the descriptions were great. The characters were merely OK though and that’s where my problems with the book begins.

The majority of the plot was centered around the love story and to be honest I just didn’t buy it. Every night the Caliph of Khorasan, Khalid, took a new bride and every dawn she was executed. The main character, Shahrzad, volunteered to be one of his brides in order to kill him. Shahrzad’s best friend was one of the brides that were killed. This was what spurred her to volunteer- revenge. However, not long into the whole ordeal Shahrzad fell in love with him. For me, it happened entirely too fast to be believed. I wouldn’t care how beautiful a guy was or how amazing his “tiger eyes” were… he killed my best friend. I risked my life to go into the lion’s den for pure revenge and then I fell in love so quickly? It didn’t feel real. I would have liked to see her internal struggle with revenge and love more. I wanted to see why she out of all the girls before her was so special to him. Khalid and Shahrzad mostly annoyed me with the over dramatic romantic and jealous reactions too. Maybe I’m just cold hearted (to be fair I’m not much for romance), but I don’t think I’m wrong here. Maybe if I were a young teenager and not the cynical old crone I am I would have been whisked away by the romance, but sadly I am what I am!

At the moment there is at least one more book after this one. I am interested enough to read it. Near the end of the novel there were things that sparked my interest. There were hints of magic and some subplots that had promise.

The Darkest Part of the Forest

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Hazel and Ben grew up in small town surrounded by a faerie-filled forest. The forest and its inhabitants draw in tourists, but also danger. In one part of the forest there is a glass coffin with a sleeping horned boy inside. Hazel, Ben, and generations of townspeople have fantasized about what would happen when the boy wakes up, but that is only a fantasy, right?

When I read about Holly Black’s (co-writer of The Spiderwick Chronicles) The Darkest Part of the Forest it sounded like a creepy urban fairytale that would be perfect for Halloween. Well… it isn’t that creepy to begin with. In fact I almost wanted to put the book down after I was a quarter of the way through it. I found the main character, Hazel, to be very annoying. We’re constantly told that she is a flirt who kisses all the boys. Though she has a (rather flimsy) reason for doing so I got tired of hearing about how many hearts she’s broken. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I didn’t feel like I signed up for angsty high school drama when I picked up this book. Where’s my dark fantasy? The world building and plot also lacked depth. I had many questions about how all of it worked and they were left unanswered.

The first half of the book is almost entirely setup information, flashbacks, and a lot of telling-not-showing. No real action or creepiness happens until halfway into the novel. Despite all the backstory I didn’t feel like I knew the characters very well and they still fell a little flat. If you stick with the novel it does get more interesting, but all the action seems to happen all at once near the end. We suddenly get all the information we need and then things get resolved. After the lengthy and descriptive setup I was let down that the interesting parts of the story were so rushed. The novel had a nice message about lying and sibling love, but it wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped for in the fantasy aspect.

The Sleeper and the Spindle

The Sleeper and the Spindle written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell is a graphic novel about Snow White going off to rescue Sleeping Beauty. That’s a really basic description, but you get the idea. It is an interesting spin on the stories. There are no prince charmings or kings. Just some dwarves and a few ladies on an adventure. The book is gorgeous and very short (~70 pages).

There’s really not a whole lot to say about it. I like it a lot, but I wish there was more. It is short and not very deep, but it is written like a fairy tale. No one has names, the story is straightforward, and the language is simple. It is good, but too short! I recommend it to fans of the author/illustrator or if you really like the fairy tales because it might be pricey for what it is. It’s so gorgeous though! Did I mention it was gorgeous?!

The Night Circus

Imagine if Tim Burton made a movie that involved a mysterious circus, a love story, and an elaborate game of magical strategy. That will probably determine if The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern will interest you or not. I was reminded a lot of Tim Burton’s Big Fish while I was reading. To put it very simply the book is about two magicians who were raised and taught from an early age to compete in a competition. The competition takes place in a mystical circus which both magicians help build. However the competition is a lot more than it seems and soon many people are caught up in the intricate details. Though the last magician standing wins the game it might be better to lose.

The back of the book might imply it is some epic battle between the two magicians, but don’t be misled. This is not an action packed book. It is more of a slowly unfolding mystery. This may leave some people unsatisfied with the relatively simple (at least on the surface) plot. Often a different chapter will have a different character’s point of view which may be confusing until you get to know the characters. There also isn’t a character I dislike. They all feel different and alive. Some are better written than others, but the supporting cast are especially endearing. My favorite is Tsukiko. I either want to be her or just have more of her in the book! I was swept in by the characters and their stories mainly. The plot itself might be a little weak, but I was particularly interested in how it would all unfold.

The author uses such creative and gorgeous imagery. Her descriptions are a bit long which might be a turn off to some people, but a good word to describe the novel is atmospheric. The novel has a very certain style in the way it is written and the way everything is said to look which may not be to everyone’s taste. If you’re a Neil Gaiman fan you might find that this book feels a bit like something he might write. There are a few very short (1-2 pages) chapters that are written as if you are the one seeing the circus. She tells you what you’re seeing and what is happening around you. These caught me off guard, but for something so small it really roped me into the story.

Some readers may not like the dark fantasy-like style, description heavy passages, or the slow pacing. For me it is beautiful, page turning, and dreamlike story. Even though I was exhausted I powered through the last 200 or so pages because I couldn’t sleep without knowing how it ended. I couldn’t wait until morning to finish it. It is probably the best book I’ve read in a long time.