& Reviews: The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh. Young Adult Romance. Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers. April 2016.

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh. Young Adult Romance. Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers. April 2016.

The Book Itself: In the same style as the series’ first installment, this cover features a model meant to be Shahrzad, overlaid by a simple, graphic screen. I love the concept and I think it matches the mood and the setting of the series very well.

**Please do not continue if you have not read the series’ first installment, and intend to. Even reading the synopsis of this book will give you a spoiler for the contents of the first book. Thank you!

My Review: I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.

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.

Last week I reviewed a book I was actually rather reluctant to read – The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. I was reluctant because I’m pretty familiar with the plot of Arabian Nights/A Thousand and One Nights, and The Wrath and the Dawn sounded like an exact copy. While it did rely on that plot extensively, I thought both the plot and romance to be well-written, and worth reading the sequel.

The Rose and the Dagger picks up quickly after the events of the last story. Shehrzad and her luvah are separated, Shehrzad now with her sister, father, and childhood sweetheart (yay love triangles? Not really) out in the desert. We get a little bit more of the magic system with this book, as Shehrzad dabbles a little bit more in what she can do, and rides around on her magic carpet a little. She meets other magic users, and goes through a (very brief, rather skimmed over) training. The focus of this story is still the romance, with a little of that annoying love triangle thrown in. It also has one of the hastiest (most hasty?) and hurried endings I have ever read.

The writing is still so, so good. Ahdieh has a way of using description and scene that keeps you reading, but doesn’t make you feel like you’re missing anything. Shehrzad and Khalid’s love can feel a little overblown at times (they like their sweeping declarations), but I still like watching their relationship develop. And who doesn’t like a good reunion?! Seeing these two reconnect after time apart is just one of those warm-and-fuzzy reading moments that you flip the pages faster to read. You can’t wait until they get together again. Plus, it’s pretty hot when they do.

The magic definitely seems like a tacked-on theme. Not enough time or detail was paid to the magic system, or who can use magic in what way for it to seem fully developed. As it stands, it’s just a way for Shehrzad to seem a little less helpless in her world. It’s a shame that magic is treated so half-heartedly. It could have been a really cool aspect to the story, but I am left with a lot of questions about its place in this fictional world.

My biggest problem is the ending. Both books are very well-paced, with characters making decisions and moves that make sense for their personality. But the last thirty pages are so jam-packed with EVENTS, none of which truly get enough time for us to feel them as readers, or for them to truly impact the characters. It feels like Ahdieh was given a finite number of pages that she absolutely could not go over, and when she was writing, she suddenly realized that she needed to wrap it up, and SOON (I know in all likelihood, this is not how it happened, but that’s how rushed it feels). Too much happens in too little of space, that I feel cheated out of an actual, satisfying and well-crafted ending.

It feels quite like the series finale to the TV show Castle, which felt similarly shocking and rushed to me. Although in the Venn Diagram of “People Who Have Read the Conclusion to The Wrath and the Dawn“ and “People Who Watch Castle“ there is probably a very narrow spectrum of people in that middle space. Comment if you are one of those people, so I can justify this paragraph.

Overall, the duology is good, if very rushed at the end, and a bit underdeveloped in certain aspects. It is a romance first, with a sprinkling of magic for color.

My Grade: B-

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