The Rose And The Dagger | Thoughts
"I may be partial to roses, but I am not a fragile flower."
The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh is everything I wanted in a sequel as far as the story goes. But before I dive into everything I have to say, I have one quick personal story to share about how I came to hold a much-coveted ARC.
Not really an earth-changing event, but in a nerd’s world who cherishes all things books and fantasy, quite exciting. Especially when, in her mind, she hasn’t yet built up the blogging credibility to go about asking for high-in-demand advanced copies of upcoming bestsellers. Enter husband, decidedly not a book lover, or nerd in any general sense at all. But after hearing me mention this book, oh, ten times, and about how I failed to win it in a giveaway, he decided that a surprise gift on Valentine’s Day was in order. So he proceeded to contact anyone and everyone he thought could help, including Renée Ahdieh and several connected authors, who eventually led him to their common agent. Shout out to romantic Barbara Poelle! Thus, a book I’ve been pining over came to be sitting in my lap four months before publication.
Yea, he’s pretty great :) and if you’re a romantic you can read the full story here.
Anyway, review time! To clarify my intentions, I’ll state right now that I loved this book, and considering the pressure to live up to expectations – especially with the delivery it had – The Rose And The Dagger did magnificently. It is not without flaws, and I can be harshest on talented writers simply because I respect them.
Ahdieh is a beautiful writer, her natural ability evident throughout the whole of The Wrath and the Dawn. The beginning of Rose felt forced, as if she took the natural eloquence of her writing and tried to turn it up a notch, when it was perfect left alone. Much of the beginning chapters had the descriptive imagery I expected, but with such uncommon words it jarred me from the scenes. I’m all for a fresh, well-placed adjective, but not when it’s as if the thesaurus was sitting too nearby in the writing process.
This faded about a third of the way in, and although Rose took a few chapters to find its stride, once it did I again found myself awake until the early hours, unable to stop until I devoured every page.
I adored the new characters introduced, most of all Artan. I was a little disappointed to realize several interesting new developments would not be explored further, but were rather inserted as a means to an end for the particular purposes Rose needed. Magic did indeed take a bigger part, but - especially with regards to Shahrzad’s ability - felt swept over. Here was a potential for some great building, and aside from needing that element to aid her with the use of the magic carpet, really did not come into play much at all. It would have been less misleading to readers expecting her magic to blossom into more than just a passing necessity if she’d had none at all, and the carpet could have been made to work for anyone.
Don’t get me wrong; I loved that she had magic – it was just an element to her story I was looking forward to discovering alongside her and I thought would be…more. That said, there was quite a lot going on in this book already, and I have my fingers crossed we get at least one novella devoted to Artan and his family.
This is a romance, yes, but at the forefront is the impending war and Khalid’s curse. New relationships rise with new character perspectives, but neither feels thrown together or overpowering to the plot. Even so, the beating heart of this romance remains between Shahrzad and Khalid, and it is achingly lovely.
"And do you know you make my life a thousand times worth living?"
Sexual description stays safe and tame, focused more on the deepness of the emotional connection during their shared scenes. Instant gratification is typical of YA Romance, where characters meet, an obvious attraction swirls between them spurring sexual tension until the climax is finally reached when they fall into each other’s arms. With Shazi and Khalid, the love is expressed as more than what they physically feel, moving beyond to truly understand the spiritual connection they share. An excellent depiction of what a healthy relationship should encompass on an emotional level, superbly delivered. I felt every bit of what it means to have someone mean more than the world to you.
The strength of female characters is a theme continued from Wrath, evident with not just Shahrzad but also her sister, Irsa and handmaiden, Despina. We see Irsa grow from the younger sister treated always as child, meek and unsure to a more confident young woman finding her path in the midst of so many powerful others. The moment she commanded Khalid and he listened sounds such a simple one, but gave it all the more impact.
It was older than the desert, this feeling. And it forever put an end to the mouse's reign. Once and for all.
Despina, too, surprised me. I knew we’d be seeing her and Vikram again, though I could not have guessed the twist her character revealed.
While concluding nicely, wrapping up the main plots begun in Wrath, the last few chapters could have been fleshed out more.
Serious spoilers ahead...fair warning.
Jahandar I felt deserved more, as his end was bittersweet and a crucial moment. With Khalid’s death we saw Jahandar realize the enormity of the decisions he has made and how much his daughter truly loves her husband. Not once in all of his life has he seen his daughter break, through all that she has endured, and nothing has ever destroyed her like this moment. Not just for Jahandar, but for readers as well, this scene could have used some of that beautiful prose with which Ahdieh is so gifted. I think some might claim his ability to bring Khalid back from the dead is “breaking the rules” of the magic system Ahdieh created, but I don’t think so. With Artan’s ability to take on Shazi’s burns earlier we saw his family’s magic was capable of such feats. Reza’s end was similarly rushed, though not one I minded as much. It was all that I personally needed, but it was definitely a little too tidy and skipped over in the attempt to wrap things up. I especially longed to see more of Shazi and Khalid in the end, after the war. I adored the epilogue, though expected to see some concluding chapters beforehand, in which they were possibly working to repair their city, to change the kingdom’s opinion of the Caliph.
It is bittersweet that this is a duology, and even if it left some new interesting areas unexplored, I’m hoping that’s a promise of some companion novellas to quench my thirst for more of this enchanting world.
This book made me feel everything I adored in Wrath - anticipation, anxiety, humor, love, anger, sadness, joy...So. Many. Emotions. And that's what I would call one satisfying story.
Suffice to say that I whole-heartedly recommend, and I cannot wait to get my hands on everything Ahdieh writes, as I need to be a part this world and any others she creates.
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