Six Literary Heroines That Inspired Renee Ahdieh

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Renee Ahdieh, this month’s featured author for teens, has a penchant for strong female characters. Her novel The Wrath and the Dawn is a fantasy re-telling of Arabian Nights. It is the story of Khalid, the boy-king of Khorasan, who takes a new bride each night only to execute her in the morning, and of Shazi, who volunteers to be the next sacrificial wife so that she can exact revenge for the murder of her dearest friend. Shazi discovers that Khalid is not as a cruel as he seems and, to her surprise and horror, finds herself falling in love with him. 

The Wrath and the Dawn hinges on several women, each tough in their own way--from stubborn Shazi, who must use her cunning and will to survive until the next dawn, to brash Yasmin and wily Despina, to Shazi's more timid sister Irsa. “We can’t all be Katniss [Everdeen, from The Hunger Games], but that doesn’t mean that we can’t all be strong,” Ahdieh said in an interview with hypable.com. Drawn from comments during her interviews and public appearances, we have compiled this list of literary heroines that inspired Renee Ahdieh.

Elizabeth Bennet - Pride and Prejudice

Set in a time in which women were at the mercy of arranged marriages, this is the story of the romantic courtship of Darcy and Elizabeth. But alongside the romance and suspense, and just as integral to the story, is the relationship between the Bennet sisters. It's this strong sisterly love that makes Pride and Prejudice unique among other 19th century romaces--just like the sister relationship between Shazi and Irsa makes The Wrath and the Dawn stand out amongst other young adult fantasy novels.

 

Ahdieh's portrayal of the love between siblings in her novel was inspired by her own close relationship with her sister. “My sister is one of my first readers, and she’s a scientist, so the notes she gives me are very different than the ones I get from my writer friends,” said Ahdieh. She went on to talk about how she was stuck trying to figure out a way for Shazi to find out the truth about Khalid, the caliph of Khorasan, when her sister finally told her, “Just do what Jane Austen does—writing letters fixes everything.”

Katsa - Graceling

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight--she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug. When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. 

Like Shazi, Katsa must face a terrifying destiny. And at the heart of both stories are unexpected friendships--and a dark secret, which might destroy everything our heroines hold dear. How Katsa and Shazi react in the face of such adversity drives the plot of both of these thrilling adventure fantasies.

Scarlet O’Hara - Gone with the Wind

Set against the background of the Civil War and beyond, Gone with the Wind tells the story of the tempestuous romance between Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler.

Ahdieh has spoken about her love of the anti-hero, and Scarlet O’Hara definitely falls into that category. She is unusual among romantic heroines; although intelligent and beautiful, she is also narcissistic, petulant and vindictive. When she wrote The Wrath and the Dawn, Ahdieh “made a very conscious decision to operate in a space of grey,” she said in a panel on Modern Fairytales at San Diego Comic Con 2015. She continued, “There are no heroes or villains. There are just different people who want different things.”

Laia - An Ember in the Ashes

Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire's greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

 

An Ember in the Ashes is set in a fantasy version of Rome (The Martial Empire), just as The Wrath and the Dawn is set in fantasy Persia (Khorasan). Each of these heroines faces a brutal society. Both Laia and Shazi must navigate their way through a web of intrigue, social heirarchies and class politics, in order to save both theirselves and their families.

 

Claire Randall - Outlander

Hurtled back through time more than two hundred years to 1743 Scotland, Claire Randall finds herself caught in the midst of an unfamiliar world torn apart by violence, pestilence, and revolution and haunted by her growing feelings for a young soldier, James Fraser.

Ahdieh has said that one of the themes of The Wrath and the Dawn is “that all choices have consequences. And that it is how we choose to deal with those consequences that often define our lives.” In Outlander, Claire is faced with a staggering choice--to return to the life she knows or to pursue the unknown? The man she has married or the possibility of enduring passion?

You can find more The Wrath and the Dawn readalikes here.

 

-Carrie T., Central Library

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