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.
This review contains spoilers.
As I hoped, Renée Ahdieh dazzles with gorgeous writing and breath taking imagery. There's still plenty of Shahrzad and Khalid romance for readers to sink their teeth into, but The Rose & the Dagger takes the plot up a notch. As a reader who prefers action over love stories, I thoroughly enjoyed the shift in focus from a straight romance, to a focus on Khalid's struggle to break his curse, and the brewing war between kingdoms.
I have to bring up one point: I felt that Khalid's temper was a lot to take this time around, and the other characters let him off way too easily. Khalid was especially brutal toward Tariq. After Tariq accidentally wounds Shahrzad, Khalid very nearly kills both him and Rahim:
It would not be enough for the caliph to disarm Rahim. Not in his current state. The monster of Rey would kill Rahim to get to Tariq.
To destroy Tariq for what he had done to Shahrzad.
I know that many readers hate Tariq, as does Khalid himself. I understand this, but that hardly justifies Khalid's desire to murder Tariq, whom Sharhzad loves. I would argue that Tariq's reasons are justified. He thinks that Khalid is an insane murderer, and that Shahrzad's love for him is delusional, almost like Stockholm syndrome. It's not until the next chapter that Khalid even reveals to Tariq that he bears a curse.
Khalid seems to go from temperamental, but unfailingly chivalrous to aggressive and, well, frightening here:
"You will not disrespect her in such a manner again. Nor will you disrespect me."
This, by the way, is said after Tariq touches Shahrzad's forefinger. Guys, her forefinger. Are. You. Kidding.
Maybe blame it on the pressure Kahlid's under, or the curse eating away at him. Obviously, the fact that Tariq wants to kill Khalid and is still openly in love with his wife isn't exactly the formula for a perfect bromance. It's not as though I don't understand Khalid's reasoning, but there's something to be said for the fact that the only thing that stops Khalid from murdering someone that Shahrzad loves is sweet, timid Irsa.
I would like to focus on the positives here, because I do still love the romance between Sharhzad and Khalid, and I truly enjoyed this book. The Rose & the Dagger is filled with twists and turns, as well as exciting character development. This is especially true for the snarky Despina, and too pretty-for-her-own-good Yasmine. Shahrzad is as sharp as ever, with her usual quips and short temper.
This is such a wonderful duology, with a setting not often seen in YA literature, and characters rich in diversity. I honestly can't decide which book I enjoyed more!
Part 1: Playlist!
Here's what I came up with.
1. Rule the World by Walk Off the Earth
2. People Live Here by Rise Against
3. The Kill by 30 Seconds to Mars
4. Eyes on Fire by Blue Foundation
5. Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton
I don't think this list would be complete without an old(er) sweet, slow love song for Shahrzad and Khalid! The lyrics are actually a bit modern for them, but the mood is there.
6. Out of the Woods by Taylor Swift
7. Poison by Rita Ora
A more upbeat, fun song. I think this one is great for Despina/Jalal.
8. Bang Bang by Jessie J. featuring Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj
Why yes, I am smirking to myself as I list this! But Despina and Jalal demand a fun, sexy song about their...let's call them shenanigans. I think this song could be good for Yasmine, Shahrzad, and Irsa too. There's just so much "girl power" in both this song and the females in this duology!
9. Friendly Fire by Nothing More
A new favorite song of mine. The lyrics perfectly capture Shazi's rage toward Despina when she thinks her handmaiden has betrayed her.
10. Here's to the Heartache by Nothing More
- Moriah's Answer: Anna from Anna and the French Kiss is correct! | CLUES
- My Answer: Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games was incorrect. The answer was Cinna! | CLUES
So round 1 goes to...Moriah!
- I am a raging drunk.
- My beloved daughter, Anna, is dead.
- You can find my (fake) book on Goodreads. Don't get excited: It isn't "complete" in your world either.
- I'm a sidekick, meant for comic relief. The hero of the story is my best friend.
- If only I can find my leader, but he's been missing for hundreds of years.
- Nature is my thing.