winged reviews
Review, Young Adult / July 12, 2016
The Rose and the Dagger by Renee AhdiehThe Rose & the Dagger
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath & the Dawn #2
Publisher: Penguin
Date: April 2016
416 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy
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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.

This review will have spoilers for the first book in the series, The Wrath & the Dawn, so if you haven’t read it yet then stop here!

The Wrath and the Dawn was one of my favorite books of 2015 and so I had been eagerly awaiting its conclusion for a year. Things started out really good, characterizations were consistent and the language and descriptions as beautiful as ever. I enjoyed both Shahrzad’s story at the camp as well as Khalid’s experiences at the palace, especially his relationship with Jalal. Unfortunately once the story started moving the plot felt glossed over and resolutions came too conveniently.

Shahrzad finally seeks out the Fire Temple and Musa Zaragoza, a story line I was really looking forward to and where Shazi teams up with a new character, Artan. I loved their interactions!! They were funny and had great chemistry. However, while he remains present for the rest of the book we don’t see much of him. It’s just made clear that he is around and helping. I would have enjoyed seeing a lot more of them working and training together, their dynamic had more energy and excitement than some of the others that got featured more heavily.What we do get is a lot of time spent on Shazi’s sister Irsa and Rahim, which ultimately felt like a waste of page time with so many other interesting characters (Jalal, Despina, Artan) being sidelined. When it came to the actual steps needed to break the curse it all felt too easy. This was a curse whose casting had cost a mans life and originally demanded the lives of a hundred girls to break, I expected more difficulty and sacrifice to come with this, but in the end the solution felt like a non-event.

The antagonists again are Khalid’s uncle the Sultan of Parthia, as well as Tariq’s uncle and Shahrzads’ father Jahander. None are especially scary and Jahander is flat out annoying, flip flopping from one emotional extreme to another. Between villains I couldn’t take seriously and the diminished threat of the curse, there was a lack of tension. I wasn’t really nervous or convinced the protagonists were in over their heads. I think the book would have been amazing if it had another hundred pages or so. This series is full of characters that are easy to invest in and a plot that could have been really complex, but instead of taking time to get deep into it all, most of the events are explained away too quickly.

On the plus side I appreciated the way Tariq’s story line progressed and felt it was deserved after a lot of irrational hate towards the character. In addition there continued to be great examples of sisterhood via the dynamics between Shazi, Yasmine, Despina, and Irsa. 

While it wasn’t by any means a bad book, I 100% expected to love this and feel sad that I didn’t.  Shahrzad and Khalid have some great swoon going on though, and as I said at the start, the characterizations and descriptions are wonderful but the conflict resolution felt too tidy and easily won to be compelling.

3.5 Stars

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