The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
“It was never about belonging to someone. It was about belonging together.”
The second and final book that began with The Wrath and the Dawn was a underwhelming ending to an intriguing story.
In the sequel, Shahrzad and Khalid are separated after a devastating attack on the capital city. Shazi finds herself in the midst of the enemy’s army and Khalid wanders his city each day and night trying to clean up the devastation, unable to sleep. They must face many challenges before being reunited; must face unseen betrayals and, most importantly, they have a curse to break.
The story picks up only a few days after the conclusion of the first novel. Shazi is a queen held prisoner by her enemies, although they attempt to keep her as comfortable as possible. Shazi really shined in this book. In a world controlled by men, this young woman was able to navigate through and not allow them to dictate her life. The introduction of her sister, Irsa, was surprising and sweet. She was a sweetheart who really grew in this book – you literally watch her character develop before your very eyes, and that is most definitely the mark of a skilled writer.
Tariq’s rage in this book was one of a child who is no longer allowed to play with a favourite toy – that is how he comes across when he refuses to accept Shazi’s feelings that she no longer wants to be with him. I said in my The Wrath and the Dawn review that I felt sorry for Tariq, as he was so quickly forgotten about, but in this book, his actions towards Shazi were angering to read, especially as that lead to her being physically injured.
Again, the magic did not feel as developed. It was just … there. Not explained at all, made to be viewed as a common occurrence, except it wasn’t because magic was hidden and hardly anyone has access to it. The book would have been better if the magical quality had been further developed. I did, however, enjoying watching Shazi take control of her destiny and use the magic within her.
Tariq and Khalid’s friendship (can you even call it that?) was surprising and satisfying to read. I am glad they are no longer enemies, and that Tariq has finally given Shazi the respect to make her own choice.
There was a betrayal I did not see coming, and I usually see those coming from a mile away. Despina. I was right there with Shazi when Despina explains her heritage, birth and her plans, years in the making. It was very shocking and I think only a skilled writer can get away with doing a complete 180 on their character. I was grateful that we were mistaken about Despina, but the writer part of me can’t help but feel a little cheated that she wasn’t evil in the end. Oh well.
A major difference between this book and its predecessor was the writing style. Now, Ahdieh is a beautiful writer but I was so close to screaming in frustration each time I read. Bear with me here because I am not sure there is even a term in writing for what I am trying to describe. When an author wants to draw attention, or invoke surprise, to the reader, they break off the sentence and continue on the next line. For e.g.
I can’t continue in such a manner. Something must change.
Perhaps that something is me.
We see here the need for the sentence break, and moving onto the line beneath. It invokes that something important has happened. However, these breaks happened almost every single sentence and made the book look and feel like it was all over the place.
She was predictable. Pleasant. Agreeable.
Everything Shahrzad was not.
All the same, Tariq kept his bow at the ready.
For whatever might lurk ahead.
Better the soldiers did not see her.
Better these men on a hunt for a fight did not find their match in the young Calipha of Khorasan.
For it was unlikely Shahrzad would be gracious with them, either.
These sentences breaks were driving me insane. I don’t know how many other people picked this up, but for myself, I was going batshit crazy. It really ruined the entire reading experience for me. There is not one page in this entire book where these breaks do not occur. Adhieh’s writing style was very different from The Wrath and the Dawn. It was no longer poetic and fluid. It felt jarring and confusing, like a half-finished thought.
The story in itself was a little underwhelming. The Wrath and the Dawn was so exciting and intriguing. The Rose and the Dagger … not so much. Most of the story was setting up for this big clash of armies at the end of the novel, which just didn’t happen. The war, and even the romance, was placed in the background to make room for Tariq’s posturing, Irsa’s fear, Jahandar’s insanity, and Reza’s arrogance and war-making. This series originally hooked me through the romance and said romance was scarcely included. I was very excited to see this romance develop further in The Rose and the Dagger, but it just didn’t happen for me.
That being said, Ahdieh has a great gift for story-telling and I look forward to reading her works in the future.
Buy the book here.