Review: The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh

Review: The Rose and the Dagger by Renée AhdiehThe Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #2
Published by Putnam Juvenile on April 26, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 416
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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three-half-stars

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.

Finally, I’ve found time to read The Rose and the Dagger. The Wrath and the Dawn was one of my favorite reads of 2015. Rereading it now, though, I noticed writing quirks that I don’t love. That said, though I have more quibbles now, I love Ahdieh’s world and characters. The Rose and the Dagger left me with some mixed feelings, but I delight in this bantery cast.

The main thing with the The Rose and the Dagger is that it feels a bit busy. Like, there are a bunch of plots and more character POVs and it’s just sort of all over the place. It’s not confusing, but it feels like too much is going on and much of it happens too swiftly and easily. Basically, I suspect this series would have been better with three books, because then this book would have consisted of Shahrzad learning to use her magic and the battle with the book, and the third book would have contained the war between Khalid and his uncle. As it is, they’re both squashed into this one book in a fast-paced but messy plot.

Shahrzad studies her magic, but there’s little point to it. Her magic is important in precisely two contexts, and the explanation for it made very little sense. She’s not able to really learn how to use her magic, but she’s able to do it in the two instances where it super matters: flying the carpet and unlocking a chain. This is a good example of how elements of the plot felt like they unfolded way too simply.

By another token, though, the quick pace did make some elements of the plotting impossible for me to predict. Things don’t always unfold like I expected because the abbreviated pace means things that would normally be really difficult to accomplish are unexpectedly easy, leaving the conflict to other aspects. Like much of the book, it’s simultaneously effective and disappointing. View Spoiler »

The Wrath and the Dawn consisted of four POVs: Shahrzad, Khalid, Tariq, and Jahandar. The Rose and the Dagger adds a bunch of additional POVs, a couple of which only occur once or twice. Omar has, I believe, two chapters from his third person POV, and the information therein could easily have been conveyed another way. Reza has a single chapter right at the end that was completely unnecessary; View Spoiler » These additional voices added to the messiness of the book; though more complex than The Wrath and the Dawn, The Rose and the Dagger is scattered and lacks focus.

I still absolutely love the romance between Khalid and Shahrzad, and the sideship of Irsa and Rahim is totes adorbs. Tariq sort of gets a character arc, which is nice, but he still suffers from Penis Feels Syndrome. The burgeoning friendships between Khalid and Irsa, as well as Khalid and Tariq, are fabulous though. Ahdieh shines in dialog and romances.

At the same time, though, some characterization definitely suffers from the quick pace and sloppy construction of the novel. Jalal and Khalid get into a fight which could have been convincing but ends up feeling like a plot point to separate Khalid from him because it’s based on a basic miscommunication there’s no reason for. View Spoiler » Artan’s a great new character, but he also ends up serving as a plot point, aside from getting a couple of great scenes of banter with Shahrzad and Khalid.

The writing of the series as a whole works mostly in spite of itself. Ahdieh’s prose veers from simplistic to ornate to purple. There’s a bit less of the straight up purple prose in The Rose and the Dagger; for example, Khalid’s eyes are now described solely as amber and not as tiger eyes. There’s enough of a blend of the style elements, that the writing really does work for me somehow, despite not being my typical style. The one thing that doesn’t, though, is that Ahdieh overuses the technique of stoccato fragments, each as a new paragraph, in an attempt to build the drama and intensity. This can be effective used sparingly, but sometimes it’s used in entirely mundane, non-dramatic scenes, and it makes me want to throw things.

I realize this review came off as a rant, because tbh this book is super flawed, but I want to emphasize that I did still enjoy it and I stand by the rating. My ratings are personal and, though some things I really didn’t like on a technical level, I also love this book/series, which makes rating it complicated. It’s a hot mess, but I kind of love this series anyway, and I’ll totally keep and reread them. *shrugs*

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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2 responses to “Review: The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh”

  1. Erin in Iowa says:

    I totally get having complicated feelings about these books. I read them in quick succession last summer, loved them so much I bought them … and then as I reread, I simultaneously loved them and cringed at some of the technical issues. I agree that too much happened in the second book and that it would have benefitted from a little more room for the events to breathe. And yet I can’t stop thinking about how much I loved some of the characters.

  2. I felt the same about this strangely busy installment — all over the place but ultimately still enjoyable. This definitely would have worked better as a trilogy so things got explained a little bit better. Would have made reading this far easier.
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday – Spring TBR PlansMy Profile

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