The Rose & The Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
Book Two of The Wrath & The Dawn series
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Preordered copy
Summary (from Goodreads):
I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.
In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid's empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.
While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn't yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.
What I Liked:
I already know that I have no idea how to review this book. It was utterly beautiful, just as breathtaking as one would expect. I knew I would love it, and I did. It's getting four stars from me, but my true rating is 4.5 stars. I am so in love with this duology! The story is definitely a favorite of mine. So don't mind too much if this review is short or vague or a bunch of fangirling!
At the end of The Wrath & The Dawn, Shahrzad left Khorasan - and Khalid - and went to the desert, where her family had taken refuge. Her father was badly burned by a book of his (if you read book one, you know why). Irsa, Shahrzad's sister, has grown in Shahrzad's absence. And Tariq is distant, no longer the friend Shahrzad remembers. Shazi is determined to find a way to break Khalid's curse, and with the help of an ally, she may have found a way. Back at Khorasan. Khalid has been helping his city rebuild. He mourns the disappearance of his love, but a greater danger is looming. While Shazi is in the desert, learning her dormant powers and hunting for a way to help Khalid, Khalid is determined not to sacrifice any more girls, and to help his city recover.
One of the best things that Ahdieh did was reunite Shazi and Khalid *fairly* quickly. It was about 150 pages into the book, so you could look at that as quickly or not quickly. I thought it was pretty quick. A LOT happens in the first 150 pages though, mostly on Shazi's side.
Shazi is steadfast in her love for Khalid. Though she is in the desert and surrounded by her family that does not know the depth of her feelings for the "monster boy-king", she never wavers. She protects herself and defends herself and never stops trying to find a way back to Khalid. She isn't trapped in the desert (hello, flying carpet!), but she wants to return with good news for him.
We are introduced to some secondary characters that I adore. Irsa, Shazi's younger sister, is only fourteen (going on fifteen) but she is tough and strong and totally underestimated. Rahim is a soldier and Tariq's best friend. I like Rahim and Irsa's budding romance. I don't like Tariq and never will. Same with Shazi's father. We don't see too much of Jalal, or Despina, or the Rajput, but we learn more about them on personal levels, and they all play a huge role in the book. I didn't love Jalal like I did in book one, but he has good reason for being the jerk he was in this book.
Khalid. Khalid deserves his own paragraph. I love this man of few words, with few expressions and few weaknesses. He is misjudged though not underestimated, and he carries a heavy burden that most do not know of or understand. I love his fierce protectiveness over Shazi, and how he lets her be and doesn't try to control her. I love how he loves her. I love how she loves him.
I love the romance. Looking back, I don't even know how I was worried about a love triangle. Tariq had no chance with Khalid in existence. Even with Khalid not in existence... Shazi loved Tariq as a friend. I felt a little bad for Tariq, but also I didn't, because he is a huge idiot and deserves terrible things that never came his way. There were many unforgivable things he did, especially in this book. Anyway, I loved the romance between Khalid and Shazi. I love how it blossoms, how they lean on each other and trust each other. I love how their relationship never wavers, only strengthens.
The big-picture issue in the series goes beyond Khalid's curse - there are masses that want to destroy Khalid's empire. I like how the author intersects these two important points of the story - Khalid's curse, and the impending war.
So, characters were amazing. Khalid was my favorite, Shahrzad in close second. The character development was well-written. The writing was absolutely beautiful. The romance was wonderful. This conclusion novel was all kinds of stunning!
The ending is a rollercoaster! But so, so satisfying (except for one thing, which I will mention next). I am in love with this story! I adore how the author ends the series - it seemed pretty wonderful to me. And you know how much I love a good HEA!
What I Did Not Like:
Khalid and Jalal have a sort of, um, disagreement, in this book. And Jalal says some pretty harsh things and turns his back on Khalid. Given the epilogue, from what I can indirectly infer, this fight is very much in the past, by the end of the book. But I wish the author would have shown the reconciliation between the two cousins, explicitly. In fact, Jalal all but disappears from the story, after this argument. I wanted to see the men patch things up, do the bromance thing. This is my one complaint about this book - their relationship needed to be addressed, at the end of the book, when all was said and done.
Would I Recommend It:
I highly highly HIGHLY recommend this book. And the first book. Haven't read The Wrath & The Dawn? Fix that. There is no reason not to, now that the series is complete! Plus there are a few short stories on Amazon that are free (and one Jalal/Despina novella that is $1.99) to enjoy as well - not that you *need* to read any of those. This series, overall, is easily a favorite. I don't throw around the word "favorite" often!
4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars. While this book isn't one of my rarely dubbed favorites, this series in general definitely is. Thank you, Renee Ahdieh, for blessing the world with your beautifully written story of Khalid and Shahrzad.
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