Title: The Crown & The Arrow
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Novella
What’s it About: Khalid philosophizes about what his mother used to say about shadows–to not fear what the setting sun may bring, because where there is one setting sun, there’s also a rising sun. Khalid has been forcing himself to look into the mirror for the last seventy-two days, hating his eyes for reminding him why these terrible things were happening. Someone calls to him, and Khalid exits his room to encounter the Shahrban of Rey, who tells him that it will be over soon. Khalid tells him that it will never be over, and the Shahrban asks for forgiveness, before stepping aside to let Khalid pass through. The two men head towards the throne room surrounded by Khalid’s Rajput–his royal bodyguards. Khalid finally asks his uncle, the Shahrban, what the woman’s name is.
Khalid commits the name to memory–another life lost, another family shattered, the seventy-second one in fact. He notices that his uncle wavers, and asks what is up, to which the uncle says that Shahrzad volunteered to be married off to him, knowing that she would die. That piques Khalid’s curiosity, though he tries to force his curiosity down, coming to the conclusion that she must not be in her right mind. As they walk towards the Throne room, he notices that Despina is studying the double doors with interest, clearly curious about the new Calipha, and makes note that Despina would be a good spy to discover why Shahrzad volunteered for this.
He strides into the Throne room to see Jalal giving a smile, though that quickly sours when Jalal, who is his cousin, sees Khalid’s face. He takes a moment to remember that he’s made it through seventy-two days, and that this ordeal would be soon over; his people safe. He opens his eyes as the doors groan open, and watches as the girl walks through them without any hesitation. He realizes that while she was small, she was not delicate, not someone to be dismissed. The girl stops before the dais, looking up fearlessly, stepping onto the platform unmoved. He’s not able to control his emotion, but tries to appear unaffected by her presence and bravery.
She takes his hand, remembering to bow in the last instant, and then when she looks up at him, Khalid recognizes her hatred. She wasn’t afraid, and his curiosity got the better of him. They exchange two words, and Khalid wonders why she hated him so profoundly, no other girl in her family had perished–he had made sure to make that directive that no two girls from the same family could be lost. It couldn’t be from the rumors around him and had to be more than whatever he had done. So where did her animosity stem from?
He decides that he would learn the truth and flout his own rules, meeting the girl alone tonight.
My Verdict: This is the second of the two prequels leading up to the Wrath and the Dawn, and this time we see it from the perspective of the king, his curiosity being piqued by this woman who is unafraid and so full of hate. I’m more curious to find out what the heck is going on with him and his 72 wives, because I suspect The Wrath and the Dawn is a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights with a twist. I’ve never read One Thousand and One Nights in its entirety, but I do know the beginning premises of it, and how it works. It seems like this will be following that based on how it is going so far. But I can’t shake the feeling off that there is a curse placed on the Caliph after the death of his first wife–the one in the other prequel, The Moth & The Flame. And in a way, I am hesitant to start the next book, though it’s interesting so far. Already I don’t know what to make of Khalid and his actions, so we will see what happens in the first book of the series.