The Rose And The Dagger: Review
"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. So, this review is more of a critical discussion of a story I loved.
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. That said, there was quite a lot going on in this book already, and I’ve heard rumor there will be some companion novellas, so I have my fingers crossed at least one of them is 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 its loveliness is aching.
"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. Despina, too, surprised me, but more details of that will come in the fully unedited review. *grins*
While concluding nicely, wrapping up the main plots begun in Wrath, the last few chapters could have been fleshed out more. Of course, this could just be me pining for more of the story I loved to be engulfed in, which is not a bad thing at all.
Yea, it’s just me wanting more of those two.
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.
In the end, 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.
I’ve edited this review to completely remove specific spoilers and will update with the entire review upon publication. I just can’t be an enabler with any of you who would spoil it for yourselves! :) 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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