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.
The Rose and the Dagger is the conclusion to Renée Ahdieh’s spellbinding narrative that is based on the classic tale of One Hundred and One Nights. The foundation of this book is more loosely connected to the original tale, as the characters and the plot strikes out to become an entity all its own. Ahdieh creates a new story that is nearly absent of its previous ties to the classic storyline. The storytelling moments that were so captivating in her first novel are further reduced to one or two instances throughout the entire novel in which the stories are not to entertain or deter (as they were originally intended), but to be used as sources of advice and wisdom. And though I would have liked to have read more of these short stories, I was satisfied with the ones that were chosen.
Many of the characters that were introduced in the first novel, namely Irsa and Rahim, are given considerable amount of page time to further develop their characters, for better of for worse. Irsa, Shazi’s younger sister, is a very unlikable character in my opinion, and though her actions in the end were kind of redeeming, I could have done without her point of view altogether.Tariq remains unlikable for a grand majority of the story as well, which is a shame because there were many opportunities for him to be improved upon as a character. My favorite side characters, Rahim, Jalal and Despina, seem to have taken a backseat in this one. Rahim is simply a love interest with not much humour left, Jalal is practically non-existent, and Despina (the most interesting character besides Shazi) is largely absent until the last third of the book.
Shazi remains a bold and strong-willed young woman determined to do good by those whom she loves. She risks her life to enhance her magical abilities and to expand her network so that she may aid her husband from afar and to protect her family and friends. Even though she has an affinity for magic and she trains for quite a time, her abilities are never fully utilized and I was very disappointed to see all her training culminate to a broken pair of manacles and a flying rug. The author had a chance for Shazi to become a force to be reckoned with, in both word and action. But Ahdieh limits her best character to an endearing but brazen personality that is all smoke and no fire.
Thankfully, Khalid experiences the best characterization out of all the characters, in that his icy facade is finally melted and the core of his personality is exposed. We see past the mask and see the good in him, the good that is not solely tied to Shazi, but to his people as he tirelessly works to rebuild his kingdom with his own two hands, brick by sandy brick. It is hard to picture him as anything but a good man, especially after how he carried himself in this story.
Ahdieh’s lyrical writing remains strong and continues to appeal to the senses. She capitalizes on readers’ sense of smell and perception of color to bring her Middle Eastern environments and culture to life. The settings are just as lush and abundant with detail in this sequel as they were in the first novel. And even though I had a hard time reading the word “monster” over and over again, it can’t be denied that Ahdieh has crafted an enchanting tale saturated with romance, magic, danger, and best of all, betrayal. Everyone loves a good scandal or two, and I can honestly say that some underlying themes running throughout this book are both unhealthy pride and stinging deception. Both of these story elements made this novel that much more entertaining of a read.
Though I’m not convinced the second installment is an improvement upon the first, it’s still a very well-written novel with a vibrant personality, cohesive plot, toned down romance, and some twists and turns that will keep you on your toes. Four out of five stars.
- Series: The Wrath and the Dawn
- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (April 26, 2016)
- My Rating: ★★★★☆