“The Rose and the Dagger” by Renée Ahdieh
4 1/2 out of 5 stars.
A bride to every dawn was the curse on Khalid. A bride to every dawn, or else his country, his people, would suffer a thousand times over. It was a steep price to pay, selling his soul, but Khalid was willing to lose himself in order to save his people. But that was all before he met Shahrzad, before the dawn became full of promise and hope, instead of parading as the harbinger of death.
Separated by Khalid’s curse and an army ready to claim Khorasan, Khalid and Shazi are fighting against time and distance to uncover the sinister plot to overthrow the city of Rey and Khalid with it, while also battling to be together once more. Across the desert sea is Shahrzad’s heart, and she has every intention of being reunited with Khalid, never to be apart from him again.
Surrounded on all sides by a sea of foes and plagued by the uncertainty of who she should trust with the lives of those she loves, Shahrzad must face her fears and learn to use her newfound gifts. But war is never without its own heartbreaks, and as determined as Shahrzad is, there is no predicting what the dawn may hold for her, Khalid, and all of Khoarasan. Can Shazi figure out how to break Khalid’s curse before it is too late, or will the impending war repay the thousands of lives that the curse demands?
“The Rose and the Dagger” wreaked havoc on my heart and lead to one massive book hangover. Renée Ahdieh’s writing was once again luxurious and decadent, but as much as I wanted to savor every page because of its beauty, I was spurred to read as fast I could by the fast pacing and the precarious circumstances that my favorite characters were placed in. The stakes were high for everyone in this book, danger and betrayal around each bend in Khalid and Shazi’s story, but I so was happy that Renée Ahdieh took the time to add a few beautiful and glorious moments between our hero and heroine, despite this book’s fast paced plot.
Oh, Khalid, I love you so much!
It was le coup de foudre, as the French say, for me with this character! I do not personally believe in love at first sight, but with Khalid, I might just buy into the idea of it because I fell in love with him in “The Wrath and the Dawn” right away, and that truth did not change with my reading “The Rose and the Dagger.” Khalid was still Khalid in this book, just a slightly altered version of himself because of everything that he had experience and his separation from Shahrzad. I liked that Khalid had grown a lot since Renée Ahdieh’s series began and had begun to subtly change; it was gradual and slow, but I liked how I got to see it begin in “The Wrath and the Dawn,” and then see Khalid put his character growth to the test in “The Rose and the Dagger.” And let me tell you, he passed with flying colors.
There had been an undeniable strength underneath the brokenness inside of Khalid that I got to see in the first book, and it was amazing to see Renée take his journey a step further by putting Khalid in situations where he had to overcome his demons, not just for Shazi, but also for himself. Khalid has always been my favorite character in “The Wrath and the Dawn” series, but I enjoyed seeing a new dynamic to this character take shape in this book, and my only regret was that I wanted more Khalid. I wished that Renée Ahdieh had made “The Rose and the Dagger” slightly longer so that Khalid’s curse could have been dealt with more thoroughly, because it felt like that particular plot from the first book and Khalid were put onto the back burner at times, even though they was the basis for the entire storyline of this series. I wanted Kahlid’s story to be focused on more in “The Rose and the Daggers,” rather than the impending war or Jahandar. Even though I got less time than I wanted with him, I adored Khalid in this book, and I thought the depth of character growth that he showed by choosing to live and act differently made me love him all the more as a male character, and every moment I got with him and Shazi together was precious to me.
Shahrzad’s character grew on me over time. I have reread “The Wrath and the Dawn” four or five times since it came out last year, and every time I read it, the more I fall in love with the story of Khalid and Shazi. Through all of those rereadings, I have also grown to care for Shahrzad more over time, despite my initial lackluster feelings toward her when I started this series. I think that I understand her better now and feel more connected to her than the first time I read “The Wrath and the Dawn,” and I was quite excited to start reading “The Rose and the Dagger” with my new perception of Shazi as a heroine.
I think that, personally, I might have liked Shahrzad better in the first book, except for when she was with Khalid in this book, because I feel that Khalid and her bring out the best in each other. Shazi felt a little cold and single minded in her mission to get back to Rey at times, leaving her sister behind to pick up the pieces with their father. Everything that Shazi did was understandable (because Khalid was in Rey!), but I think that it may take me a reread or two to appreciate her determination and not be frustrated by her ditching her sister. I have come to care for the Shazi from “The Wrath and the Dawn,” but I did not feel as deeply invested in her character in “The Rose and the Dagger” as I had in the first book. The romance of Shazi and Khalid, however, was something that I was extremely invested in!
The world just seems right when Shazi and Khalid are together. In “The Wrath and the Dawn,” everything within me was in love with them as a couple, and that fact did not change for me while reading “The Rose and the Dagger.” I felt slightly deprived at times by just how few scenes were of Khalid and Shazi together, but when they had a moment together, it was so good! I absolutely adore how this couple brings out the best in each other, and although I really wanted more time with them, I appreciated the fact that Renée showed moments of them working as a unit and also as separate entities; the real story behind “The Rose and the Dagger” was that when you truly love someone, you do not belong to them but with them. I thought that was quite beautiful, and Shazi and Khalid truly belonged together, because they brought out the best in each other and fought for one another, to whatever end. I ship this couple to the moon and back, but they were not the only characters that I found myself caring for in “The Rose and the Dagger.”
I had liked Rahim in “The Wrath and the Dawn” despite him only being in it a tiny bit. I had thought that he was a great character whom I wanted to get to know better, and I was so pleased that Renée Ahdieh ended up making him one of the main characters in “The Rose and the Dagger.” Rehim was endearing and sweet, and I loved that he was such a good, faithful friend to Tariq and Shazi, caring for both of them, despite their past and present actions. Khalid has my heart, but Rahim was such a great character, and I enjoyed all of the scenes in this book where he was present. Besides being an amazing friend, I also liked Rahim because of how adorable and kind he was toward Irsa, Sharhzad’s younger sister.
I was slightly surprised by the fact that Renée wrote a secondary romance in “The Rose and the Dagger,” but I thought that it was quite sweet, and I liked the friendship/romantic relationship that grew between Rahim and Irsa. I was not particularly inclined toward Irsa as a female character, but it was really sweet to see how Rahim’s steady confidence in her helped her to become a braver individual; he was a good friend and a rock to her while Shazi was off trying to break Khalid’s curse, inadvertently leaving her sister behind to fend for herself. As unexpected as it was, I ended up liking Rahim and Irsa’s relationship a lot.
It seemed like there were quite a few surprises in “The Rose and the Dagger,” from how Renée Ahdieh introduced a new romance to how the story unfolded, and also by how new, unfamiliar characters took up prominence while those I knew were barely in this book. Don’t get me wrong, I loved “The Rose and the Dagger,” but I was truly surprised by how Jalal, Despina, and Vikram all but disappeared; even Shazi and Khalid were it less than I wanted, but that is mostly because I can’t get enough of them. ;-D This book definitely had a completely different tone of storytelling and pacing, although it was no less impacting and luscious than that which was in “The Wrath and the Dawn.” I was just surprised by how absent the main secondary characters, like Jalal and Despina, were in “The Rose and the Dagger.” The upside to that shift in primary characters, however, was that I greatly enjoyed the fact that I got to know Rahim better. Do I wish that there had been more Khalid, and at least a little Jalal? Absolutely, but that did not draw (too much) away from the joy of reading this book.
With the exception of feeling the lack of Khalid, I ended up loving “The Rose and the Dagger.” Renée Ahdieh succeeded in creating a flawlessly elegant and addictive book, and although “The Wrath and the Dawn” will always hold a special place in my heart, I still found myself reveling in the decadence of her writing style. I felt utterly transported by “The Wrath and the Dawn,” and its sequel was no different. I adored every up that this book took me on, and I felt deeply ever low it brought me to; the emotion that Renée Ahdieh’s words were able to evoke during those highs and lows was impressive, and let me tell you, my heart was twisted and there were many tears after a particularly painful turn of events. Thus, the massive book hangover. I knew that something terrible was about to happen, and I tried to deny it all the way up until it came to pass, but my avoidance still led to the inevitable, and Renée ripped my heart out with her words. I get it, but no level of understanding could ever ease the heart-wrenching emotion which that event caused.
In essence, “The Rose and the Dagger” tore me apart, but I forgave Renée quickly because of how stunning and impacting her words were, and now my only unfulfilled wish was for a longer epilogue!
“The Rose and the Dagger” was a beautiful and gripping finale to an amazing two book series. I will always love “The Wrath and the Dawn” the most because it was where Shazi and Khalid’s story began, but I fell in love with this book, too. My only real problems with this book are that Khalid’s curse felt like it was too easily resolved for how central it was to the entire storyline of this series, and I wish that there had been less Jahandar and plotting for war in comparison to the original characters of Renée’s series. Despite my issues with a few of those plot points, I found the sequel to “The Wrath and the Dawn” to be beautiful and heartbreaking, and I loved every breathtaking word that made up “The Rose and the Dagger.”