The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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Hmm... This book was a bit of a letdown. I know, I know - if I rate something 3.5 stars, I should not be calling it a letdown. But after the brilliant and magical story that was 'The Wrath and the Dawn', this book felt, well, average.
In the first novel, Shazi and Khalid's romance was centre stage. I adored their connection - it was beautiful, well-developed and superbly written. In 'The Rose and the Dagger', the romance is not mentioned all that much. Normally, this would not bother me - I rarely need romance to drive a story - but the massive shift in tone felt a little awkward to me. The few parts that did focus on Shazi and Khalid's relationship were also extremely flowery, which did not help. However, I loved Ahdieh's focus on how they were "...two parts of a whole. He did not belong to her. And she did not belong to him." Their relationship was equal, despite the initial power imbalance.
Having said that, the positives did outweigh the negatives for me. I enjoyed Jahander's story line immensely:
Rescue his beloved daughter. And perhaps find his true calling -
As a man of power. A man to be respected. A man to be feared.
Jahander was an intriguing character, because he's not really the big villain of this story, but his thoughts show that he thinks he is. His thirst for power after a life of mediocrity was a pathetic, albeit relateable, attitude. I sympathised with him and disliked him at the same time - a hard feat to achieve.
The curse and the magical components of this story in general were enjoyable. I do not think they were particularly innovative, but they were interesting enough to keep me reading. I enjoyed seeing beloved characters from 'The Wrath and the Dawn' communicate properly for the first time, like Rahim and Irsa; Khalid and Tariq. It was beautiful to watch the growing respect between various ex-enemies and acquaintances. "Until you learn to let go of your hatred, you will always love yourself more." In addition, the new characters, such as Artan, integrated organically into the story line and never felt forced or unnecessary.
The ending of this novel was gorgeous, and everything I could have hoped for. From the resolution of the political conflicts, to the heart-wrenching emotions, I feel that Ahdieh ended the story on a satisfying note.
Overall, this was a nice ending to a gorgeous series. Although I preferred 'The Wrath and the Dawn', this novel included a lot more interesting political and magical aspects. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first novel in this series.
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