The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #2 (2/2)
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers on April 26, 2015
Genres: [Young Adult] Fantasy, Retelling
Buddy Read With: Lois at My Midnight Musings
3.5 Stars, Completed July 7, 2016
– read the bold text to avoid minor SPOILERS –
It took me long enough (four months, omg), but I’m finally ready to sit down and put my thoughts into text about this captivating sequel.
The Rose and the Dagger begins where nearly book one ends. Shahrzad is reunited with her family and taking refuge in the desert. While his queen is away, Khalid, in disguise, is wandering around the broken kingdom of Rey trying to aid his people as much as he can and working on diplomatic negotiations that can stave off any bloodshed. With the help of others, Shazi decides she must learn to hone the magical abilities within herself to rid Khalid and Rey of the dark curse and end the impending war once and for all.
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.
I read this last summer, yet I’m still marveling how lovely Khalid and Shazi are together. As I emphasized quite repetitively in my review of The Wrath and the Dawn months ago, Khalid and Shazi are so ideal for each other. I admire the respect and healthy elements that make up their relationship. And, as expected, they continued to shine so brilliantly in this installment as well. The couple does spend most of their time apart, but, despite the distance, I really enjoyed seeing Khalid and Shazi’s individual growth. During the separation, the two certainly missed each other but the pining and angst were, thank goodness, kept at a minimum. (Because you guys may know how I don’t enjoy reading about characters that exhibit excessive angst.) Instead, both characters drew strength from their love and actually achieved making a difference on their own.
As always. As ever. As a rose to the sun.
And when Khalid and Shazi did meet, it was perfect. It truly felt like I was falling in love with the romance all over again with this sequel.
Beyond the complex characterization and character development with the main roles, readers also get a greater glimpse on the relationships between the supporting characters. Irsa, Shazi’s sister, finally makes her presence with this one. Because she rarely appeared in The Wrath and the Dawn I did have trouble identifying what type of relationship she and Shazi had. Shazi claimed to be close to her, but readers didn’t get enough background on the sisterly bond to really feel such emotions. In this installment, readers are given insight on this front. And Irsa even develops great character growth in the little time we get to know her.
In addition, can we please talk about how sweet Rahim is with Irsa? I still feel a twinge of sadness about how short-lived that ship was. However, I also believe that was an understandable play on Ahdieh’s part. Irsa is going to hurt, no doubt, but she’s still young and has a lot to look forward to in life.
In truth, Tariq had known even then that he could not win. That this was not a battle to be won.
Only a fool would have continued to think otherwise.
Yet Tariq had chosen to be a fool.
It’s probably no secret that I (like many others) wasn’t that fond of Tariq, but it was satisfying to see the transformation he undergoes. His moment of acceptance and epiphany was actually one of the best and most gratifying scenes in the book for me. He does pull off yet another incredibly stupid decision before that happens, but by the conclusion much is forgiven and redeemed about his character in my book.
While we’re on the subject of the ending, onto the shortcomings I couldn’t ignore:
All the events near the end were fast paced and intense with all the betrayals and plot twists, but it also felt somewhat rushed. The entire Despina scheme happened in all but a couple of chapters, and (to my shock) the scene with Shazi’s father and Khalid was unexpectedly short despite it being part of the climax. Also, after all the lead up for an approaching war how it was easily avoided by a few exchanges and clever manipulation was completely anticlimactic. Like, really? A good chunk of the narratives were about the camp and preparing for this imminent war! What happened?
As Lois pointed out in her review the page distribution for each character was really strange. Readers would get lengthy chapters about Shazi, Khalid, and Irsa but then only get a few snippets from Jalal, Musa, and the troops in the desert. To my dismay, new characters like Artan barely had much spotlight aside from their initial introduction. And, once again, like book one magic rarely made an appearance-and when it did it seemed only when it was convenient or benefited with helping Shazi’s character growth. So I wouldn’t have minded if this finale was a hundred pages longer if that meant readers would get more magic, Artan, and better page distribution between characters. It also wouldn’t hurt if the pacing was more balanced and the events in the last 100 pages slowed down a bit.
Although, in spite of all this criticism, it’s probably evident that The Rose and the Dagger still managed to amuse and enthrall me greatly. I really loved how this duology wrapped up albeit the issues I had with it. The epilogue was too cute with little Haroun, and I was pretty much sighing in relief that Khalid was okay and my OTP could finally be shipped as a permanent canon.
The fact that this was chosen to be a duology gave me extreme relief and gratification. As much as I already feel as if I miss the characters and world, setting this series as two books was the right move. The Rose and the Dagger, though is a continuation of the happenings in book one and still deals with the curse, it kind of lost the 1001 Nights retelling aspect of it. I wouldn’t consider this as a totally bad thing, but it is something to take note of.
It does not take courage to kill. It takes courage to live.
Anyway, what an epic love story. I think this duology will be one I’ll turn to for rereads for years to come because of the immense entertainment it brought me. You guys have no idea how much I flailed and cheered for our main couple. (Lois does though. Thanks for tolerating and reciprocating the fangirl feels!) Overall, this was a really enchanting series that I highly recommend to romantics. Aside from the romance there is plenty to look forward to such as the culturally lush world, engaging storytelling, and quotable lines. Also, it has to tell you something since it did give me a wicked book hangover for months. As for the sequel alone, The Rose and the Dagger will be satisfying for those enraptured by its predecessor’s romance, however, beyond this the sequel was lacking in terms of storytelling and pacing, unfortunately.