Review: The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

The Rose and the Dagger Renee Ahdieh The Wrath and the Dawn
The Rose and the Dagger Renee Ahdieh cover The Wrath and the Dawn

Title: The Rose and the Dagger 
Author: Renee Ahdieh 
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #2 
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling, YA 
Publication date: April 26, 2016 
Rating: ★★★★ 

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.

Your future is not set in stone, my dearest star. 
A coin turns on itself a number of times before it lands.

There is no denying that I loved this book. And yet – I can’t help but also say that in some ways I was disappointed. Not completely, but still a little. I loved the same things I loved in the first book and the things that bothered me then, now troubled me again.

After the disastrous ending of the first book, Shazi and Khalid are separated. While Khalid is trying to rebuild his city, Shazi is forced to live with the very group of people that want Khalid dead. More still, she has to pretend she’s happy to have been saved from him. This is obviously asking for trouble.

It was because they were two parts of a whole. He did not belong to her. And she did not belong to him. It was never about belonging to someone. It was about belonging together.

What I liked best about this book is that a lot of characters go through a kind of huge character development. Shazi has to re-find her place within a group of people she used to be around all the time. There is the awkward situation with Tariq she needs to handle, the bond with her sister Irsa she needs to rebuild and most of all she needs to get to know just what kind of person her creepy, terrible father has become.

Cut the strings, Shazi. Fly.

I still loved Shazi. The way she handled things and somehow found a way to make it all work was admirable. Being separated from Khalid was not easy, but she still knew what her priorities were and she remained devoted to the higher cause of saving the people from Khorasan from Khalid’s curse.

Khalid… is a broken man, I suppose. He is trying to atone for everything that he put his people through and finds himself more alone than ever. Shazi is gone, he is fighting with Jalal and it seems as if there is no more light in the world. But he too needs to finds his place in a new world and that is never easy. He needs to let go of the Caliph for a while and learn who Khalid really is before he can ever manage to get his kingdom back together.

A boy who'd thrived in the shadows.Now he had to live in the light.To live . . . fiercely.To fight for every breath.

But I also really, really loved Irsa. She was probably the surprise of the book. Shazi’s younger sister evolves into a wonderful and strong young woman who helps Shahrzad a great deal. She is no longer the small, invisible girl that needs her big sister to guide her. No, she’s finding her own place and that was something lovely to watch. She kept her mind open and didn’t judge.

Some things do not have to be said. You didn’t have to tell me you were in love with Khalid Ibn al-Rashid. And I didn’t have to tell you I cried myself to sleep for weeks after you left. Love speaks for itself.

I also had a soft spot for Tariq in The Wrath and the Dawn and that remained. I can’t justify all his actions, but I could still understand what drove him. What led him to do what he did. As much as I love Shazi, I think she hasn’t been fair to him. In The Rose and the Dagger he learns who he is without Shazi and how to let go off the anger and hurt controlling him. I think he is probably one of the more honest characters in this series – and yet most readers seem to hate him. I don’t get it.

Rahim, JalalDespina. My feelings stay the same. Tons of love for the first two and a whole barrel of distrust for the last one. Despina is a very odd character and I just don’t like her. Something felt still off about her and that feeling grew even stronger in this book. And I know she probably doesn’t deserve it, but I honestly can’t help how I feel.

Character wise this book was a jewel. It’s the action and events that bothered me a little. While I definitely liked the setting (the desert camp where Shazi stays and the ruined city of Khorasan) I still felt like a whole lot of things were incredibly rushed. And it ruined a great deal of the story for me. The war, intrigues… It was all way too superficial and I think that’s a real pity. Especially the last couple of chapters suffered from that. This could have been the most amazing five-star-book and instead it’s merely a small four-star-book.

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