After finishing The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh, I could hardly wait to pick up The Rose and the Dagger. I had been blown away by the simplistic, yet simultaneously complex nature of the plot, which revolved around Shahrzad (Shazi) and Khalid’s love, and the curse which had brought them together. The Rose and the Dagger is much of the same, yet now, as Shazi and Khalid struggle to find a way to be together and break the curse, the aspect of political intrigue has heightened.
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. (Chapters.Indigo.ca)
I loved this book. It was everything I knew I wanted from a sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn, and everything I didn’t know I wanted. It was packed with intrigue and romance right from the very first page. Every character had a role to play, and every role was integral to the progression of the plot. Ahdieh hit the target once again, crafting something truly wonderful here.
As with The Wrath and the Dawn, Ahdieh put a stunning amount of effort into the detailing and development of both new and existing character. Shazi, Khalid and Tariq, while already well developed, were built upon, through their interactions with one another and through their personal motivators. In addition, new characters, such as Shazi’s family (her sister Irsa and her father Jahander), her childhood friend Rahim, and the mysterious Artan Temujin, among others. In particular, I loved the development of Irsa and Rahim in this book.
- Irsa is Shazi’s little sister, and while she was mentioned in The Wrath and the Dawn, she truly comes into her own in The Rose and the Dagger. While she is more quiet, and perhaps even more timid, than Shazi, Irsa has a kind of strength and power about her. As she becomes increasingly embroiled in her sister’s plight, and in her own romance, this strength becomes evident. Irsa’s story in The Rose and the Dagger is a coming of age story, and it was remarkably well done.
- Rahim started the story at Tariq’s side, but as Tariq becomes more and more of a wild card, Rahim begins to drift away from his radical ideals, unsure if war and destruction is the path they ought to take. Rahim is truly honourable – in battle, in argument, and in love, much like Khalid, though Rahim is perhaps less aggressive in his maneouvers than the Caliph. Rahim’s story is one of enlightenment, and of romance, as his and Irsa’s stories become increasingly intertwined.
- Tariq is bull-headed and as unmovable as a rock. Throughout the tale, he maintains his “rightful” claim over Shazi, despite the fact that her heart clearly belongs to another. He treats Shazi more like a piece of property than as his equal, and it is no wonder that Shazi is eager to escape his grasps. And then, when Tariq’s misguided notions and ideals finally lead him to a near-fatal mistake, he still refuses to fully abandon his beliefs, despite the glaring evidence before him. Tariq’s story could have been one of englightenment and growth as well, but instead was one of sorrow.
- Shazi, as in The Wrath and the Dawn, is a warrior. She refuses to bow to anyone, whether is be her husband or a greedy sultan, and she fights fiercely for those she loves, risking her own life and happiness for the well-being of those things which mean most to her. She feels and she loves with her entire heart, and the romance between her and Khalid is the primary reason this story holds the power it does. Shazi, in her actions, proves that love may be the greatest motivator of all.
And that is perhaps the most poignant theme in this duology – that love is a great motivator. Tariq was willing to start a war for love. Shazi was willing to endanger her own life for love. Khalid risked everything for love. Jahander, blinded by love for his daughters and lust for power, was willing to risk everything. Each cahracter, in their own was, was motivated by love for something, and that love drove them to make impossible decisions.
The Rose and the Dagger flawlessly builds upon the (small) world Ahdieh introduced in its predecessor. Previously, the reader did not really have any first0hand experience with the world outside of the Caliph’s castle, barring brief snippets from Tariq’s persepctive and stories. This is remedied as Shazi ventures into the desert, the Temple of Fire, and beyond in her quest to break Khalid’s curse and stop the war that is brewing all around her. Yet Ahdieh doesn’t put much effort into world-building beyond brief descriptions. The focus remains rather small, never venturing far beyond the character’s comprehension of the situation at hand. And while this was a bit disappointing, the small world Ahdieh built, with its rudimentary (at best) magic system and sweeping desert, fit with the tale she was telling, which was a tale of individuals, not an epic adventure.
Building upon this, the plot itself was also very much focused on individuals, rather than the possibility of the coming war and the implications for the society as a collective. Ahdieh very much utilized individual character drive and intrinsic motivations to move the plot forward, rather than externalizing factors. As I stated above, the characters are motivated (primarily) by love and hate, and as such, the plot revolves around them. The plot itself was relatively straightforward, with no major, unseen twists. No, the beauty of this story remained in its ability to describe and understand human emotion, rather than in its surprises.
Overall, The Rose and the Dagger was a satisfying sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn. It outdid itself in regards to romance and humanity, but fell a bit short when it came to the story on a grandeur scale. Despite this, The Rose and the Dagger was, at its core, a story of personal romance and individuals, not a story of war and epic proportions, so readers looking for romance and human connection will not be disappointed (4/5).