Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: The Rose & the Dagger
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Release Date: 26 April 2016
Previous Book in Series: The Wrath & the Dawn
In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid’s empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.
While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn’t yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.
What I Liked:
I absolutely loved the first book in this duology, and this was a good followup, even though it definitely went in directions that I did not expect. In book one, I really couldn’t bring myself to care about Shahrzad’s sister, Irsa, or former lover, Tariq. Irsa just didn’t have much to do, and Tariq was so frustrating. I actually liked both of them in this book. They have more, both in terms of things to do and in character development/arc. I would actually read a book just about Irsa or Tariq after the events of this book. I want to know more!
I still love Shahrzad and Khalid. They are so great together, though it is a bit annoying that they spend most of the novel apart. This book/duology has a surprising amount of implied sex. I’m not even sure if implied is the right word. It’s on page, but not described. Like, you know what’s happening, but it doesn’t go beyond what you might see in a PG-13 movie. I actually like this, because it’s realistic (they’re married after all), but it’s not racy or inappropriate. (I would just like to say that I would NEVER censor anyone’s reading material or presume to tell them what is okay for them to read. I use the words “appropriate” and “inappropriate” as I feel an “angry-helicopter-we-must-ban-all-the-books parent” might.)
What I Didn’t:
This book starts off pretty slow. Part of this is because there is quite a bit of time devoted to Tariq and the other rebel leaders, and I just didn’t care for the most part. I eventually grew to like Tariq, but he was still insufferable for the first half. Shahrzad and Khalid also spend the first half of the book apart, so things really started to drag for me.
There’s also the matter of Shahrzad’s magic. It’s brought up in the first book, and I thought that it was going to be expanded in the sequel. And it is…kind of. There’s a whole new character introduced to be Shahrzad’s teacher (Artan) and a whole training montage thing. And Artan does eventually come into play, and so does Shahrazad’s magic…a little bit. It just felt like a lot of time was devoted to this subplot and it didn’t have a huge payoff.
I enjoyed this book a lot, but I feel like it was missing something. The pace was a bit slow for the first half and there were a few plot threads that felt like they didn’t really lead anywhere. I continued to love both Shahrzad and Khalid, and I actually liked Irsa and Tariq by the end of the book, as well! I liked this duology quite a bit, and would love to see the author write more in this universe. It feels like there is still a lot left to explore in this world that she has so beautifully created.
My Rating: 4/5