The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retellings
Publishing Info: April 2017 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons (first published April 2016)
Star Rating: 3/5
Back Cover Summary:
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.
The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that this book didn’t blow me away, considering my fairly neutral reaction to the first book. But I felt invested enough to read the sequel.
It was very slow at first. A quarter of the way in very little had happened. I’m not talking about a lack of action. Action scenes aren’t required to move the story. The problem was that nothing happened to move the plot forward. About a third of the way through it started moving a bit but was still plodding. Perhaps some of the problem was Shazi and Khalid being apart, the spark their relationship created in the first book was missing as a result of them being apart for the first third of the novel.
After a slow start, it picked up half way as more magical elements were introduced to the story and Shazi and Khalid find out how they are going to break the curse on him. This gives them a more defined goal to drive their next actions which made me more engaged in the book.
While the first half was too slow, it picked up from the midpoint and I really enjoyed the second half. There were many twists which kept me glued to the pages. A character death made me shed a tear so I must have felt invested enough in the characters to care about their fates!
The first book explored one set of characters at the palace, then this second novel focused more on Shahzad’s friends and family, but that meant some of the characters from the first book felt left behind. They were there, but there wasn’t enough development of their characters, and since I had been invested in them in the first book, that was disappointing. A friendship between two of the characters that had been rocky during this book wasn’t really resolved which was also disappointing.
Overall, while I feared I wouldn’t enjoy it at first, the second half was much better, and if not for the slow first half and some things being left unresolved, I would have given it four stars. Too many threads were introduced and then left behind as the plot moved along. An important thread seemed to be introduced with Artan and his family but that subplot was abandoned in the second half and I was left with too many unanswered questions. Despite this, I’m glad I read the duology, and I would read more from Renee Ahdieh in future.
You can read my review of book one, The Wrath and the Dawn, here.