This is the second book in The Wrath and the Dawn duology, and the events pick up where the first book left off.
I liked this book however I don’t feel like the two books in this duology really went together or maybe just the pacing of the events through the two books was off. Looking back at my review for The Wrath and the Dawn I think that a lot of my feelings about that book are the same feelings I have about this one. I enjoy Ahdieh writing and the setting, but where the first book had hints of magic this book had it in droves but I didn’t feel like it was fleshed out well. I also don’t think that the characters that were introduced regarding this world’s magic were flushed out well. I really enjoyed Shazi and Kahlid’s love story but I felt like the other couplings weren’t deep enough to make a significant impact. I thought the climax of this book was rushed. I also didn’t feel like the deaths made a significant impact. I realize I’ve said a lot of negative things about this book but I did enjoy it, it felt really Disney at times and it didn’t make me walk away and think deeply, but it was enjoyable.
I wasn’t crazy about how much Tariq was in this book, and this whole war thing. I felt like so much of that was set up in this book that I just didn’t really care. I was here for Shazi and Kahlid but Tariq’s temper tantrums were so obnoxious. I liked Irsa and Rahim but when he died I didn’t really care, I didn’t feel like it was developed enough to really give the emotional punch it was clearly trying to land. As for the Despina thing, sigh, it really felt like filler but really like the I-was-a-spy-but-not-really thing was exhausting. I enjoyed the sister relationships that we didn’t see in Wrath and the Dawn
***Note: this review assumes that you've read the book.***
One-sentence summary: this is a cheesy, purple-prose-ridden, slightly annoying, but inexplicably enjoyable finish to a two-novel series.
Despite myself. The writing in this series has driven me batty from day one. The anachronisms, the flowery-formal language mixed with contemporary clichés, the Disney-movie version of medieval Arab culture--all of it made me want to cringe. But Ms. Ahdieh won me over, perhaps by giving herself wholeheartedly to the world she had built, and by not allowing the book to be anything higher-and-mightier than it is.
On the other hand, I wrote in my review of The Wrath and the Dawn that I hoped Ms. Ahdieh would address the "disturbing ethical issues she brought up in this installment," and she clearly hasn't done that. I said, "To be a series of any literary merit, the second novel in this planned duology has its work cut out for it--it will be a disappointment if it doesn't dissect the moral quagmire that the first novel dropped us in." I suppose that means I must pronounce The Rose and the Dagger not to have serious literary merit, even though there's a slightly better balance of politics and romance in it. But still, it's quite enjoyable in the genre of "potato-chip, romance fantasy novel," like the first book, and at least we suffer through fewer descriptions of the caliph's tiger eyes.
The plot. Ms. Ahdieh long ago lost track of the premise of this story--that Khalid's curse required him to marry and kill one maiden a night to stave off the misfortune of his entire kingdom. In the first book, not killing a maiden led instantly to drought in Khorazan. Yet when he fell in love with Shahrzad and failed to kill her, there were apparently no repercussions. Instead, the destruction of Khalid's city happened at the hands of Shazi's power-obsessed father.
In this second installment, there's a wandering plot, trying to find its way to the end without distressing too many of the main characters. Shazi has been whisked away to the desert by Tariq, with Jalal's odd approval. (She'll be safer with the man going to war against Khalid than with Khalid himself?) There she reunites with her sister Irsa--a good addition to the cast, a kinder, gentler version of Shazi--and their father, who is recovering from blowing up an entire city using only his bare hands and poor Irsa's horse. We wander in the desert a bit: Shazi practices magic every night and returns to her tent to sleep away the day; Tariq doesn't notice Shazi's disappearances--even though he's obsessed by her--because, well, because it's not convenient to the plot, I guess; we meet a magical character with a pet dragon, and his aunt, Isuke, who's apparently a mighty genie, but we have no proof of that; we see Khalid spending time rebuilding libraries and giving snacks to smart little orphans while we worry he should be fortifying the city walls and rebuilding his army; Shazi learns that the only way to break a curse is to fulfill it; wait, no, Shazi and Khalid learn that if she and Khalid destroy her father's book, Artan's auntie will break the curse for them as a favor; and on and on. There doesn't seem to be a real arc to this, but we're happy to go along for the meandering ride, and it does come to a satisfying conclusion for most of the characters. (Poor Irsa, though, her lover was a redshirt.)
The dragon. Can I just say this is the biggest waste of a dragon I've ever seen in fiction? And while we're at it, Artan and his aunt Isuke can wield fire, and Vikram (the Rajput) can breathe enough heat to melt metal, and there's a book with untold (literally--Ms. Ahdieh doesn't tell us what they are) powers; and even Shazi has some powers and can ride a carpet like a surfing pro...but the magic really is not developed or used at all. Why include it, then?
Shazi's dad, Jahandar. Well, now, it turns out he's the main antagonist, doesn't it? He's at least one of the bad guys in both the first book, where he destroys Rey, and in the second, where he colludes with Khalid's uncle to rule over all of Khorazan, and then he actually stabs Khalid to death. Why don't we know more about this guy? Why don't we have a good understanding of his relationship with Shazi? It makes his immediate about-face of giving his own life in Khalid's place slightly incomprehensible to us. We get the feeling that the author wanted to ratchet up our worry by killing Khalid before giving us the happy ending, at the expense of fleshing out Jahandar's character.
Love never waivers. I have to say one very refreshing thing about this series is there is never a competing love interest, and the devotion of our characters to each other doesn't waiver. No one questions the other's love, "book-reasons" style (i.e. due to poor communication). Which makes it all the more peculiar that Ms. Ahdieh begins to introduce strife in two places, only to drop the thread: the burned letter at the beginning, in which Khalid professes his love but then destroys it, and the pretend relationship between Tariq and Shazi to appease the soldiers in the camp. We think these two events will lead to wounded lovers thinking the other has betrayed them, but they don't. (I suppose there's an argument that Khalid destroys the note because he has promised himself never to use the words "I love you," but only to show his love through deeds.)
The epilogue. Pretty cute. I like it when YA novels aren't afraid of showing marriage and children.
The writing. Ah, so...the writing.
1. Ms. Ahdieh's philosophy seems to be: why say something clearly, with simple words, when you can load it up with flowery-formal complexity instead? I don't object when the dialogue is ripe and stilted, if the author wants to build a distinctive tone for her characters: "Are you finally starting to breathe in a normal fashion?" or "Is it a matter of import?" But the narration in this book is generally so purple, it needs to take a big oxygenating breath.
--Kicking water at the ocean's edge becomes, "The boy continued to exert his irritation on the hapless sea."
--The word "hidden," as in "keeps her reasons hidden," becomes "shrouded in mystery."
--The word "emanate" is a favorite: "The soft shuffle of slippered footsteps on polished granite emanated nearby." "Soon, the sound of swords being torn from their sheaths emanated on all sides." The word "regarded" is often used instead of "looked" or "watched."
2. Excessive, unnecessary, and sometimes unhelpful explicating: "And now Shahrzad had been successfully taken unawares, to a place she was certain would bring about a predictable turn of events. Especially since Shahrzad had a sinking feeling she knew where she had been taken."
3. Clichés, many of which feel anachronistic:
--The army is at his "beck and call"
--Beg, borrow, or steal
--Without missing a beat
--Full of vim and vigor
--Turncoat (from 1557)
--Mouth (or lips) in a moue--the use of this word is only about 150 years old
--"Despina is the only reason you have a palace-rat's chance of escaping" (the expression "a rat's chance in hell" may be old--I honestly don't know--but the shortened slang version of "a rat's chance" feels very contemporary)
--Begging, bartering, and stealing my way there
4. Small mistake, but where was the copyeditor?-- When Artan is lying "prostrate" (i.e. face down), he can't also be "regarding the night sky above." Supine is the word Ms. Ahdieh needs here.
The audiobook narrator. Ariana Delawari has a sweet, frank voice, and she speaks clearly and slowly, but she has very little acting ability and no sense of lyricism or melody. There is no distinction between voices, she actually mispronounces words she could look up in the dictionary, and her performance is flat. For the first couple of hours I found myself comparing her reading to Natalie Portman's bland portrayal of Padmé Amidala.
Besides the fact that I am glad that The Wrath and the Dawn is a consistent story that actually needed a sequel, I’m also glad that Renée Ahdieh jumped straight into this novel, going straight for buildup and magic! Really appreciated that!
I remember my only problem with The Wrath and the Dawn was that Shazi fell in love with Khalid a bit too quickly in my opinion, but I think the author did a good job of making him an anti villain.
The Rose and the Dagger was pretty much exactly what it should be: a sequel that didn’t drag anything out and answered my questions from the first book. I was pretty satisfied.
I really enjoyed the addition of characters in here, for another thing. Shazi’s sister, Irsa was a character that I loved to read about—despite her presence being brief in this novel—and the
romance between her and Rahim broke my heart when he died at the end!?
I’m pretty glad that this book explored the magic that it had from before, but to be honest, I didn’t think justice was done to Jalal’s character! Especially with him not listening to Khalid! That didn’t seem true!
Overall, The Rose and the Dagger was an extremely enjoyable book that I’m glad I read! Give this quick duology a chance if you’re interested, but I’d like to point out that this is more focused on the romance than 1001 Arabian Nights.
While I didn't enjoy this AS much as book one I still liked it a lot. My favorite characters are apart for quite some time in this book, which is why I think I liked the first one more. I'm super glad this one is only a duology because it closed really really well.
Shazard is back and this time her feelings for Khalid are threatening to come out in the open. With her friends still wanting revenge, Shazard has to be careful about who she trusts. For if she trusts the wrong person, things could get deadly.
I love the romance in this. Its not the whole story but it really is what makes it so wonderful. The relationship between Shazard and Khalid and then Tariq works really really well. Not to mention the writing is exquisite.
These classic fairy tales being made into YA twists is a thing I am really enjoying and I'm hoping we get more of them.