The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #2
Publication: April 26th 2016 by Penguin
Format: Paperback Pages: 420
The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.
In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.
Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart.
Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.
The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again. – Goodreads.
The Rose and the Dagger gets 4-stars because of how much of a wreck I was at the end of reading it (seriously, ALL THE FEELS).
Brat Calipha Shazi continued to make me happy in TRATD, and my only *major* complaint from The Wrath and the Dawn was solved in this book. In my review of the first book, I said that nothing happened in the story. TWATD was mostly focused on Shazi and Khalid, their introduction to each other, their initial impressions and the slow build up of romance between them shrouded in conflict and baffling all bystanders. TWATD saw Shazi struggle between throttling Khalid at sight because he killed her best friend, and remaining composed enough to satisfy her increasing curiosity of why Khalid acted the way he did. Only after squeezing her way into his domain did she start to think hold on, maybe there’s more behind this monster than I thought. TWATD set the scene, basically, and gave us characters to love/hate and get attached to. The real action was all reserved for TRATD.
‘The boy-king spurred his black al-Khamsa forward, its hooves kicking up a storm of dust and debris. He was here to burn something to the ground.’
After being whisked away by Tariq and reunited with her father and sister, Shazi finds herself surrounded by people more than happy to slit Khalid’s throat. They’re (rightly) suspicious about where her allegiance lies because it seems like she’s completely forgotten that the guy she’s married to killed her best friend, and the whole reason she married him was so she could get revenge. I like how Shazi’s character isn’t perfect. She makes mistakes, sometimes her sharp tongue rolls a bit too much and she ends up in messy situations. But she’s smart and her character just seems very human to me. I always found it funny when secondary characters thought Shazi had been coerced/manipulated, hah, do you even know her? There are parts in the series where Shazi stops and studies things, I can’t stress how much I love these scenes. I can just imagine her with all these graphs in her head, making note of all the details and storing them in her memory for later on
TWATD made strong hints at Shazi having a bit of magical talent, that’s explored a little further in TRATD, and we get to read more about magic carpet rides (woo). But I was disappointed in how little of Shazi’s magic we saw. Thinking back, I’m sure all of Shazi’s magic scenes (minus magic carpet) could have been cut out without it affecting the story, so I don’t understand why they were in there in the first place. I believe this is the last book in the series (based on the ending), so yeah, the magic was definitely an anti-climax.
A third book would have definitely improved this for me, I think the ending was too fast paced and everything jumped from one thing to another too quickly. I wanted to read more about Khorasan’s rebuilding after Shazi’s father near enough destroyed it in TWATD , and I wanted to read about whether Khalid’s image was ever restored amongst his people. A third book would have also been perfect to explore the magical elements of the world a bit further.
‘“I do love you, Tariq.” With great care, Shahrzad settled a palm against his cheek. “But . . . he’s where I live.”’
Tariq’s character was an infinite source of annoyance. He was just, urgh. His actions didn’t make sense to me, he was angry over Shiva’s death but everything he did, he did for Shazi. A girl who did not love him and made that clear. Like, dude why are you so hell bent on starting a war over someone who doesn’t want you? Why? WHY? He KNEW she didn’t want him, he knew she didn’t love him that way and that she would never go back to him, so I don’t understand why he continued to insist on being an idiot. Shazi’s father was another character I wanted to throw things at, he was so exhausting and stupid, a poor excuse for a father who cared more for power than his daughters. Pathetic, but I guess his character was supposed to evoke disgust, so it’s actually a plus that Ahdieh wrote him so well. (I didn’t feel any pity towards him.)
I liked the way Khalid treated Shazi in TRATD, he was always aware of her being her own entity, she was her own person over whom he had no rights. He didn’t control her or tell her what to do, he was also very conscious of ensuring no-one got away with thinking of his wife as an object, which made me like him. I loved it when they bickered:
‘“But if you force me to do it, Khalid Ibn al-Rashid, I will. And I cry beautifully.” She crossed her arms and pursed her lips.
A corner of his mouth twitched. “You do not cry beautifully.”
“I’m not lying.” He held her gaze. “I rarely lie.”’
Artan was a new character in TRATD, just as likeable as the rest. I enjoyed reading his exchanges with Shazi, their personalities meshed well together. Sometimes the way he talked reminded me of Aang from Avatar, the random bits of wisdom laced in childish jokes coupled with the fact that he was bald and shot fireballs. His story was sad and, though I found him a little arrogant at first, he really grew on me and I liked how loyal he proved to be. There was a lot more of Shazi’s little sister Irsa and Tariq’s friend Rahim in TRATD, their exchanges were nice to read between all the surrounding chaos:
‘“What are you doing?” Rahim finally blinked, his eyelashes as thick as brushstrokes across a canvas.
“Trying not to look like a street urchin.”
“What?” Tiny vertical lines formed along the bridge of his nose. “Why?”
“Because—I—girls should be beautiful!” Irsa shot back, dabbing her forehead with her sleeve. “Not sweaty, stinking disasters.”
“Is that a rule?”’
Ahdieh’s writing is detailed, you get all the sensory information about the world the characters are in and she builds on that by describing things like food and clothes too. I was so caught up in feelings when I finished TRATD, the way the writing built up emotional scenes was clearly effective! The writing and world-building continued to impress me in TRATD, and they are the main reasons why Ahdieh is now an instant buy author for me.