Book Review: The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh cover

The Rose and the Dagger
By Renee Ahdieh
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #2
Published: April 26th 2016
Rating: Baby, you’re a firework

“It was because they were two parts of a whole. He did not belong to her. And she did not belong to him. It was never about belonging to someone. It was about belonging together.” 

There is a lot going on in this book.

Like the shifting sands of the desert allegiances and loyalties change. I was never 100% convinced that any character would continue to stay on Shazi and Khalid’s side.  It was pretty much open season for betrayal.  There was also a strong theme of mending fences, mutual respect, and cooperation saving the day.

Shazi and Khalid are still well matched.  I appreciate that they see one another and act as equals.  I am still on this ship.  They need to be together.  Khalid’s POV is much more prominent in this book. You are really able to see how far he is coming.  He learns to forgive and to show his true self to others.  This increased vulnerability makes him a much more interesting character and worthy king.

This book was less swoony than the first book.  I was okay with that.  The first infatuation is over and now things are becoming more real. As in there is now a war on their hands. There is significantly more violence than in the first book. It was also in some ways much more straightforward.  There is no mystery of Khalid’s curse Renne Ahdieh also managed to avoid the cheap cliché of a love triangle even though Shazi and Khalid are physically separated. Tariq never has a chance with Shazi and he knows it.  Thank God.

Having said that I am not as much a hater of Tariq as other people.  He is struggling with change and coming to terms with what he knows and reality not being the same thing.  He is angry and scared and he focused all of that on Khalid.  He finally figures out how to grow up.

Artan Temujin. In my head he is totally Mongolian.  I actually have this theory that he is Chingis Khan (whose real name happens to be Temujin) We will see if this happens in this book.  I am usually not a fan of introducing new characters in second books.  They very often are just there for plot convenience but Artan really intrigued me. 

This book was weakest in the area of plot.  There were times that things felt rushed and other times when I struggled to keep everything straight.  While The Wrath and the Dawn was a slow burn up to the climax The Rose and the Dagger was a firework throwing off plot points and characters in all directions.  It is still impressive but a very different feeling and mood. I think that the reason that I felt it was so rushed was because I wanted to savor the story.  The writing remained rock solid. She balanced the slightly stylized phrasing that gives it a sense of time and the freshness of the text. 

I was a fan of the feminist themes and power of women woven throughout the story.  It was pretty cool to see women discovering different ways to be strong and to handle power come from the ashes of a story that to be honest is sexist beyond all reason. 

This was not the book that I imagined it would be.  I think that it was better.

My full review of The Wrath and the Dawn.

From Goodreads:
The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

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.

Book Review: The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh cover

The Wrath and the Dawn
By Renee Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Release date:
May 12th 2015
Rating: It's true love

“The more a person pushes others away, the clearer it becomes he is in need of love the most.” 

There are certain books that have been hyped up so much that I subconsciously avoid them. It is as if my brain is a hipster and could not possibly like things if other people like them. I did this for about five years with Harry Potter and I did it with The Wrath and the Dawn. I have been missing out. Other people were right about this book and my brain just needs to get over that. 

I really appreciated the quality of the writing. It was balanced between fresh and timeless which I don’t think is a note that is particularly easy to hit. I love how real the setting felt. Khorasan isn’t a real place. But it felt as if it was. 

Shahrzad is an amazing heroine. Strong with being abrasive. Stubborn without being rigid. I like that she was driven and flawed. I admired her clever way with words. She was snarky and her mouth got her into trouble sometimes. And by sometimes, I mean pretty much all the time. I liked that she was also vulnerable and looking for someone to trust. I like that she took control of her own destiny. 

From the very first description of him standing up and being all graceful, I loved Khalid. I was very much like Shazi in that I spent all of my time both loving him and wanting to scream Why. IS. HE. KILLING. PEOPLE. Because, although I am all for the damaged monsters, there are some things that you just can’t overlook, even in fictional characters. Murder being one of them. Or at least random unjustified murder. He must end up with Shazi. I will not accept anything less. 

Having said all that I am still struggling with the initial sparing of Shahrzad’s life. What was Khalid’s motivation? It couldn’t be because she was beautiful or brave because some of his other wives were also that. He also spent the evening with her which is not part of his pattern. It is a small quibble but I hope that it eventually gets cleared up. 

In some ways, Demonia is everything that Shahrzad is only more so. More beautiful, more devious, more subtle, smarter, and, I suspect, more bent on revenge (not sure what for just a feeling I have.) The friendship between them is great. They challenge one another but also support one another. More of this please.

Tariq kind of reminded me of a high school boyfriend who just cannot figure out why you need to break up when you move away to college and is even more baffled by your college boyfriend. I don’t think that he is evil. In fact I kind of feel for him. But he doesn’t change and Shazi does. It was never going to work.

The description of food in this book are particularly vivid and mouthwatering. I lived in Morocco for two years. I missed the food more than anything else. This book made me so hungry for it again that I had to cook the full couscous Friday meal. Which isn’t easy in China. 

This was one of my favorite reads of 2016 and I have already started The Rose and the Dagger. 

From Godreads:
One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One NightsThe Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.