Setting up Surprises (Analyzing The Wrath and the Dawn)
I read The Wrath and the Dawn, a retelling of a thousand and one nights by Renee Ahdieh, and loved the lush, romantic story. I also admired how Ahdieh set up expectations several times and then surprised the reader by going the the opposite direction.
(Major spoilers to follow.)
Background: The Caliph of Khorasan takes a bride every night and kills her the next morning. The main character Shazi volunteers to be his bride, with the ulterior motive of exacting revenge on the Caliph for murdering her best friend. She stays alive by her wits, and the two start to fall in love. However, the Caliph's cousin Jalal eventually learns of Shazi's deception.
Setup: The cousin comes into the Caliph's room and hands him the incriminating evidence, begging the Caliph to give Shazi a chance to defend herself, since Jalal has also grown fond of her. However, the Caliph doesn't respond. He simply stares at the evidence and storms out of the room. He takes out a dagger and confronts Shazi.
The surprise: The Caliph kneels down at Shazi's feet, hands her the knife, and gives her permission to kill him for what he did to her friend.
I love this. The Caliph's actions would have been dramatic to begin with, but the setup scene with beforehand, with Jalal begging for mercy on Shazi's behalf, makes us expect a fight. This makes the Caliph's actions even more powerful.
Setup: Shazi's friend and first love Tariq finally attacks the Caliph's Palace in an attempt to rescue her. He doesn't know know that she's fallen in love with the Caliph and befriended his cousin Jalal. Shazi takes herfriend to the stables to help him escape, though she secretly plans to stay. As they're in the stables readying the horses, they're discovered by the Jalal. Tensions flare, and it looks like a fight will break out.
The surprise: Just as we expect Jalal to take Shazi back into the Palace, he instead asks Tariq to take Shazi away to safety.
Now your turn, readers. Read any books where the author set up some nice surprises?
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