My favorite series that I have read so far this year is Renee Ahdieh's The Wrath and The Dawn. First the premise; retellings are cool, often very cool, but Ahdieh takes 1001 Arabian Nights and makes it come alive with a creative twist that is brilliant. The setting for this suspenseful fantasy is rich and beautiful. Shahrzad, or Shazi, volunteers to be one of the wives of the Caliph knowing she will die in the morning to exact revenge for the death of her best friend. She survives the first night, and each night after, by telling him a story with a cliffhanger ending, but as she gets to know him she realizes there is something more going on in the palace. Shazi is a strong, intelligent, determined woman, skilled with weapons, but, also, skilled with words. She is feisty and rash, willing to put herself in danger for those she loves. The Caliph, Khalid, is a multidimensional character who comes across as extremely cold and uncaring. As his sad past is exposed, his tenderness and kindness comes out. He is charming and sexy and his character develops throughout the book. Tariq was Shazi’s best friend, he knows about her hatred of the Caliph and wants to protect her, but I have to admit that I really didn't like him as much. I usually have a tendency to root for the best friend romance in a story, but I was not feeling this one. The diverse characters are strong and engaging, I found that even the secondary characters had unique subplots that drew me in.

The sequel, The Rose and The Dagger, took this series and made it perfect. Shazi’s father has started dabbling in dark magic and she is working to break a curse to save a kingdom. Her actions lead to adventure and magic, with an intriguing plot that moves quickly. The pacing alone, makes this book better than the first, but Ahdieh focused on relationships in this book and it was brilliantly done. Shazi continues with her often reckless and brash behavior, but it makes her more interesting as a character. Khalid and Shazi's relationship blossoms into true love with real depth. Khalid grows so much during this book, he has been dealt a hard hand, but he doesn’t give up and he does whatever it takes to protect those he loves. Tariq takes responsibility for his actions, which really shows his growth, because his world has been turned upside down. Irsa, Shazi’s sister, goes from a girl completely unsure of herself to one willing to make hard decisions. Magic plays a role, but doesn't drive the plot. There are numerous plot twists, especially near the end. The writing is mesmerizing and the setting is lush and fascinating. I loved this series and have already read it more than once.

Published by Sarah BooksBeforeBandaids