A plot summary: Shahrzad, our protagonist, was seething with rage and vengeance at the beginning of the novel, because the Caliph of Khorasan had killed her best friend Shiva. The Caliph marries a maiden every night, and the next dawn he would have them hung with a silk cord, without explanation, without fail. Shahrzad volunteered to become his bride to avenge Shiva’s death.
With her clever trick—leaving the Caliph in the suspense of a story—she managed to live through a dawn. She tried to live through another with a different story, and not surprisingly, the Caliph spared her, and officially crowned her as his queen, the Calipha of Khorasan. From then on, Shahrzad kept devising ways to kill Khalid, who happened to be the second-best sword wielder in the country. But during her stay in the palace, she had never once seen the monstrous side she thought he had. The death of best friend kept her going and made sure the fire of rage did not burn off in her. But a kiss changed everything. She no longer had the will to kill the Caliph, instead vowing to find out the truth behind his daily killings.
Turns out that wasn’t an easy quest at all. Everyone in the palace, including the ever-cheery Jalal, Khalid’s cousin, was reserved about the truth of the murders. And whenever Shahrzad tried to ask Khalid about it, he would get upset. Despite being denied over and over again, Shahrzad persisted on knowing the truth, and eventually, Khalid told her that it was a curse—a curse casted by an angry father who blamed the suicide of his daughter on Khalid.
This book = massive plot twists, ginormous heart-clenches, badass protagonist = purrrrfection.
Before I read ACOTAR, TWATD was my favorite book. Renée wrote this book with prose and phrases and dialogues so elegant that I can't help but be swooned. I honestly can't believe how a human can spin such striking words. You know those books/comics/movies where you get a throbbing feeling in your hand? The throbbing that somehow feels strangely satisfying. It's not a tingle. The only word I can describe that sensation as is throbbing, because I wouldn't consider it pain. Apparently a lot of people experience this as well when reading/watching heartbreaking scenes, though I still don't know its scientific name. Let me know if you know what it's called. Anyway, I had several throbbing-right-hand (let's call it that for the time being) moments when reading this book, especially at heart-tightening scenes. *Squeals*
TWATD has a strong Arabian vibe, which I presume is what Renée was going for. It's a good thing, because then we get to feast on Khalid's beautiful amber eyes and glossy black hair. I liked Khalid immediately because he is a quiet guy and feels somehow like a child despite his grown up physique, especially when he listened eagerly to Shahrzad's bedtime stories. I find that dangerously cute. He is the complete gentleman with awesome poetry skills! Every sentence this guy speaks is phrased so beautifully that it hurts. When Khalid found out about Shahrzad's purpose in volunteering as his wife (despite the crazy stories about him), I was so so so scared that he will ignore her, and hate her. But what happened instead burned my heart to the ground.
“Get up, Shahrzad al-Khayzuran. You kneel before no one. Least of all me.” -Khalid
He is willing to give her his heart (literally) because he believed it was what he deserved for killing her best friend. Instead of going all mad about Shahrzad deceiving him, he was furious at himself for doing such a terrible thing to the girl he loves, to the girl he believes to be as essential to his life as air. My heart. *clutches heart* My dear, dear heart.
“What are you doing to me, you plague of a girl?” he whispered.
#$#T%JFIJAIDFGJ)$%$#%@#FSDF!!!!!!!! MY HEART!
As for Shahrzad, she has become one of my favorite protagonists of all, for countless reasons. 1. She knows what she wants (and lets go of the past instead of being blinded by hatred); 2. She doesn't submit to men just because she is a woman; 3. She obviously wears the pants in the relationship, or at least 3/4 of it; 4. She doesn't "belong" to anyone; 5. She is not afraid to pursue what she believes in ... etc. She's just awesome! Remember I talked about the right-hand-throbbing thing? The first time she called Khalid with an endearment (-jan), my right hand throbbed. That scene was just so memorable! Khalid being the cute guy he is, tensed up immediately. Aw!
“It was because they were two parts of a whole. He did not belong to her. And she did not belong to him. It was never about belonging to someone. It was about belonging together.”
I was glad we got to know about why Khalid kills his wives every morning instead of it being dragged into the sequel (The Rose and the Dagger). It was absolutely heartbreaking to see how it pained him to submit to the curse for the betterment of his citizens and his city. He sacrificed himself for Shahrzad's life, all because of that sleazehole daddy who damned our kind Khalid with a (*sniffs*) gracefully written curse.
“You were saying?” He was so close, his words were more breath than sound.
See? You and your sweetness, Khalid!
I adored the relationship between Shazi (Shahrzad) and her handmaiden Despina. Despina did admit that she was a spy assigned to keep and eye on Shazi, but somehow her actions doesn't make her really ... spy-ish. She was more like a friend Shazi could share her thoughts and secrets to. Yes, they were pretty awkward and cautious of each other in the beginning, but turns out they get along too fine. I hope she ends up with Jalal. *crosses fingers*
“For nothing, not the sun, not the rain, not even the brightest star in the darkest sky, could begin to compare to the wonder of you.”
Another guy Khalid assigned to tend to Shazi was the Rajput, who happened to be the best swordsman in Rey. Whut? That said, I still love Shazi's relationship with the Rajput. The Rajput came across as an emotionless, giant man, but that wasn't the case at all, because as the story progressed, the Rajput gradually warmed up to Shazi's presence and accepted her as his Calipha. BTW, Is it just me, or the Rajput feels an awful lot like that Uti guy from Pocahontas II?
As for Tariq, I really did like him, until he forced himself upon Shazi. He was so convinced without a doubt that Shazi was somehow bewitched by Khalid, and that she wasn't thinking straight. I mean ... I get where this guy is coming from because how can Shahrzad fall in love with their archnemesis the monster boy-king? He's good-looking himself, taller than Khalid, rear a falcon as a freaking pet (badass!), and would go distances for the girl he loves. The one and only reason I don't ship Tariq and Shazi is because the guy at the other corner of the triangle was Khalid. But well, Tariq did play a massive role in spicing up the Shalid (or whatever ship name you call them) love line.
“I know this isn’t you. I know something must have happened. But we can fix it. I can fix it. Come home with me. Every day we are apart is a day closer to death. A day wasted on what might have been. I can’t stomach it any longer. Come home.” [Tariq said]
YASSSS!!! My heart fluttered at that part!
Towards the end, Jahandar, Shazi's father, unleashed his destructive powers upon Rey, and burned the city down. Again, I get that Jahandar and Tariq and their peeps are just worried for Shahrzad and are merely trying to rescue their loved one, but still, I can't stop the feeling of immense fury at Jahandar and his stupidity. I don't know if this is part of the curse, or it was just coincidence that made it look like the curse works for real. And for some reason, I just don't like Reza bin-Latief (Tariq's uncle). I just don't. I feel like that guy is up to something stupid. Or was it just because I know a friend called Reza who is extremely annoying? *shrugs*
Lastly, there's Yasmin and Salim. So far they were portrayed as (potential) villains, but their true threat will be revealed in the sequel. It was so heartwarming to see Shazi getting all flustered and jealous at Yasmin and Khalid.
I give this a 4.8/10! A stunning piece of novel. Shalid ftw! I still can't believe how beautifully written this novel is. Its writing style is somewhat like The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson—splendidly written and phrased with the purpose to touch souls.
What was your favorite quote from TWATD? I have endless answers to that. The connection between Shazi and Khalid is one that I rarely feel in YA novels. Their love feels ... real. After all, “Love is—a shade of what I [Khalid] feel(s).”
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