Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

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“Fawkes” by Nadine Brandes

Publishing House: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: July 10th, 2018

Quality of Writing: 5 out of 5 stars.

How Much I Enjoyed It: 4 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.”

*Thanks to Nadine Brandes for sending a copy of “Fawkes” to a friend of mine, and to said friend who was generous enough to let me borrow their ARC of “Fawkes” so that I could write this review.* ;-D

“Fawkes” was a total surprise to me when I started reading it. I had heard a little bit about it from Ashley Townsend, who had already read it, but I was pretty much in the dark concerning the plot of “Fawkes.” In all honesty, I think that helped with the reading experience for me, because I went into this book without any expectations for the story line or its characters, other than knowing that Nadine is a talented writer and the sweetest and squishiest person you will ever meet. Seriously, Nadine’s like the human equivalent of a stuffed animal. Knowing so little about this book’s plot, but trusting its author, made for a very enjoyable reading experience, and I was also so excited to have the opportunity to get my hands on an ARC of this novel well before its release date. Okay, now for the actual review!

Thomas was one of those main characters who was not instantly loveable. He was a little petulant in the beginning of “Fawkes,” albeit justified. Thomas might as well have been an orphan, since his mother’s death caused his Father’s subsequent departure to wars and lands far away. In the alternate England that Nadine wrote, children are raised in the anticipation of receiving their color masks from their parents when they come of age. These masks are humankind’s only hope and protection against contracting the plague, enabling them to bond with and control a particular color. For Thomas, the mask he was meant to receive from his father was not only his birthright, but it was also his last and only hope; he was already plagued and it was only a matter of time before he succumbed to the stone sickness unless he bonded with a color and a mask of his own. Yeah, I would say that could jack up most kids growing up, so Thomas’s desperation to have his way made perfect sense while reading this book. And then when his father failed to show up to his masking ceremony ( no back-up masks allowed), I totally got why he was pissed and freaked out. Yeah, massive #ParentingFail on Guy Fawkes’ part.

That all being said, Thomas was one of those characters who you really have to be patient with while they grow into themselves and transform into someone who is resilient and competent. Thomas was massively flawed and needed to grow a lot, but Nadine got him there by the end of her novel. In the end, I was happy with the personal progress Thomas made in “Fawkes,” but the character that I really loved in this book was Emma.

Emma was a total female badass. She had a depth of character that made me really root for her, and her backstory aided in making her actions much more believable than Thomas’s at times. I feel like Nadine delivered a heroine that YA readers have been craving for in historical/fantasy novels, so I was quite happy about that. Honestly, I just wish that there would have been more of this book centered on Emma’s character! As much as I want to go on and on about Emma, I can’t really talk about her too much because her story line has some explosive surprises for readers. Just take my word for it, she’s pretty awesome!

Besides great characters, I did find Nadine’s fantasy twist on historical fact to be very creative. In Thomas’s version of England, there are Keepers and Igniters. Keepers are the traditionalists when it comes to their color powers, each person only “morally” being allowed to wield one color. Igniters, on the other hand, play with fire: they train to wield every color. Both factions are at war with one another, Keepers being persecuted by their Igniter rivals. Both sides are trying to eliminate one another. I thought that Nadine did a great job of paralleling the religious strife between Protestants and Catholics during the last leg of the Renaissance, representing both parties with the various attributes and faults of her Keepers and Igniters. Both sides did some pretty shady stuff to one another, but I will let you read “Fawkes” for yourself to see how Nadine resolved the issues of her fictitious England. 😉

Overall, I really enjoyed reading “Fawkes.” I was truly surprised to find out that this is a standalone novel. Despite that, I thought that Nadine wrapped everyone’s stories up quite well and closed the door to her world soundly; I like when an author properly ties up loose ends. It was refreshing to read a story that was intended to just be one book, and I was happy by how complete and finished the ending of “Fawkes” felt. If you enjoy the historical fiction or fantasy genres, definitely give this book a try!

Now I am just going to sit her until Nadine’s next novel, “Romanov” comes out. *Sees release date is in 2019…*

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The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

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“The Light Between Oceans” by M.L. Stedman

4 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

“Elegantly rendered…heart-wrenching…beautifully drawn” (USA TODAY), The Light Between Oceans is a gorgeous debut novel, not soon to be forgotten.'”

So, I know it’s the cardinal sin of an avid reading to decide to read a book because its movie trailer looks really good, but that is what happened in my case. I had seen a commercial for the film adaption of this novel, and when I saw that Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender were going to play the main characters, I was very curious to pick up M.L. Stedman’s novel. Normally adult novels are not on my radar, especially since I dwell in the YA community, but now and then a unique and quality book will pop up within the adult genre for me to read, and “The Light Between Oceans” was one of those exceptions to the generally formulaic genre.

“The Light Between Oceans” was a wonderful book. It took me a very short amount of time to become invested in the story and its characters despite the slightly choppy narration by M.L. Stedman. Normally I would not enjoy her particular type of writing style, but for this novel it completely worked. Besides being extremely invested in the characters, especially Tom, I really appreciated M.L. Stedman’s boldness in which she portrayed the consequences of peoples’ actions, even when they are done with good intentions. Stedman did not shy away from displaying how one action made by an individual in their in sorrow and desperation could destroy the lives of people that they had never even met, and in consequence, they could also destroy their own family. The decision in this book was not made in malice nor had anyone intended to ruin the life of someone else, but it was a choice that had massive consequences, which began to wreak havoc on everyone.

The proof of how influential one choice can be in a person’s life was displayed in full effect in “The Light Between Oceans,” and even though I instinctively knew what was going to happen to Tom and Isabel and little Lucy, I was still anxiously reading this novel. M.L. Stedman did a wonderful job of making a historical romance novel feel more like a suspense novel at times. Not only was a crying towards the end, but my heart was also racing in dread at what I knew would come next. Maybe that only happened for me, but I was kind of a wreck once I got to the halfway point in “The Light Between Oceans.”

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The situation that was the driving force of this book’s plot was intensely emotional; the concept of love, family, and the choices we make influencing both of those things made for an emotional reading experience, especially with the kinds of characters that M.L. Stedman wrote.

Tom Sherbourne was a seriously compelling character, his past with his family and his experiences in WWI making him an extremely dynamic character to read about. He was a strong, quiet, and thoughtful individual, and he was completely dedicated to his job as the light keeper, as well as being a husband. “The Light between Oceans” was a small book, but I felt that M.L. Stedman made every scene and word count concerning this character, and everything that happened to Tom in this book struck my heart. The choices that he willingly and unwillingly made during this novel were decisions that I think anyone can understand the reasoning behind, and his strong moral compass made him stand out as a character, not only in this book, but it also set him apart from other male characters in the literary world. I can’t say much else about Tom other than that without spoiling this story, but he was a truly amazing and moving character, and I completely understood the convictions and fears that drove him to make certain choices, especially the ones concerning his wife.

Isabel started out as being a feisty, vivacious young woman in the first third of this novel, and then her personality changed quite a bit. Her and Tom’s relationship was really sweet and charming to see develop, and I was happy to get a little bit of happiness and joy from their relationship before the young couple was thrown into the heart of this heavier story. The young, happy Isabel slipped away quickly after she lost two of her children, and some of the choices that she made, though I strongly disagree with them, were understandable considering everything that she and Tom had been through. What I didn’t like, though, was how she treated Tom; no matter how broken you feel or are from your experiences, you should never treat someone you love that way. (I know we all do it at times to our lovedones, but I still did not like it!) I understood the choices that Isabel made, I understand her motivation, but I think that she made some very selfish choices from the beginning of this book, and then kept making the wrong choices afterward. She mentally justified what she had done, but there was a right way to go about things, whether she wanted to see it or not. Because of the decisions that she made and how she treated Tom, I pittied her and her circumstances, but I was not a fan of her as a character.

“The Light Between Oceans” was full of many characters who all made choices that affected others, as well as themselves, but I don’t really want to talk about them because this novel was really about Tom. The heart of this story was about Tom Sherbourne and the sacrifices he made, the love he had for his family, and his view of right and wrong. “The Light Between Oceans” was an extremely moving story, and I definitely found myself struggling to read through my tears a few times, especially toward the end.

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Overall, I really enjoyed reading “The Light Between Oceans.” It was a surprisingly emotional story for me, and I loved all of the historical and geographically touches that M.L. Stedman used to make her book come to life. I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good historical fiction novel or an emotionally gripping read, and I think that fans of “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers would really enjoy “The Light Between Oceans.” Now I just have to wait until the film adaption comes out so that I can watch it…

P.S. If my review did not convince you to give this book a try, here are all of the reasons why you should read “The Light Between Oceans” in bullit points:

  • Amazing historical setting,
  • Vivid detailing of Australia,
  • Gripping plot,
  • It’s a wonderfully introspective novel,
  • Makes you think about your own views of personal and societal morality.

And the most important reason of all: Tom Sherbourne who was:

  • Quiet,
  • Thoughtful,
  • Had an intensely strong conscience,
  • Made me cry multiple time,
  • Il était magnifique dans ce livre!
  • Part of the rare species of male characters with a strong moral compass and undying love for his wife and daughter,
  • All of the above equaled a super hot male character with an insanely moving story.

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Do yourself a favor, and give this book a try.

Les Petits Bonheurs #29…

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These Latin quotes always remind me of Cassandra Clare’s “Infernal Devices” trilogy, and it’s about that time when I do my annual rereads. ;-D

Fangirl Friday #19…I’m in Love, and I Don’t Care Who Knows It

So, I know that this is technically old news, but I am extremely excited about Renée Ahdieh’s upcoming book, which is slated for May of 2017. I love Renée’s style of writing and storytelling, and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for her next series, especially since it is supposed to be a retelling of one of my favorite stories and Disney movies of all time. Oh, did I not mention yet that Renée is writing a YA retelling of “Mulan”?

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I heard the news from my sister and I was overjoyed that not only was Mulan going to get the time of day that she has always deserved, but also because Renée Ahdieh is the best author to retell her amazing story. This whole situation is LEGIT, and I already pre-ordered Renée Ahdieh’s amazing sounding book. Alright, time for the title and summary!

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Amazon summary:

“From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Tamora Pierce.
 
The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.”

After reading this summary, I feel like all that I am missing in my life book-wise now is a “Pocahontas” retelling from one of my favorite authors…*sighs* I’m not sure what to do with my life until “Flame in the Mist” comes out. *sits and waits 8 months for book’s release.*

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My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

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“My Lady Jane” by Cynthia Hand,

Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

5 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

I have been a Lady Janie since Cynthia Hand and her co-authors first announced that they were writing a historical retelling of Lady Jane Grey’s life together, and that they were going to put a “The Princess Bride” twist on historical fact (i.e. minimal historical accuracy. ;-D). I have been on board with Cynthia, Brodi, and Jodi’s idea since the beginning, completely geeking out whenever a new announcement for their work-in-progress popped up on twitter or in my email (yep, it’s a fangirl life for me!), and I am here today (a month later than I intended) to tell you all that “My Lady Jane” was a success!

“My Lady Jane” was utterly ridiculous in the best possible way, and I am so happy that the authors of this novel were able to (fantastically, I might add) pull off writing such a charming and humorous story. Books like “My Lady Jane’ can be terribly difficult to write because of the ridiculousness and improbability of their storylines; the point is for them to be that way, obviously, but if the authors can’t get the humor across to their readers, then the whole story falls flat. “My Lady Jane,” however, was a success because of how adorable and charming the characters were, and the humor and situational comedy came across quite perfectly for the kind of story that these authors were telling. I also adored the fact that it did indeed remind me of “The Princess Bride,” which was one of my favorite movies growing up (wait for me, my dear Wesley!), and there were definitely moments where I saw the book by William Goldman influencing this novel’s style of writing as well (lots of parenthesis framing hilarious inner monologues or comedic observations of the authors). The odes to one of my favorite movies and its comical book were fantastic, and I definitely found myself laughing at the randomness of certain moments and the amusing situations that the characters were placed in. But what truly made me love “My Lady Jane,” besides this novel’s wonderful cover and alluring deckled-edged pages, was how charming and endearing Cynthia, Brodi, and Jodi’s characters were.

Lady Jane Grey was a fantastic heroine to read about, whether she be the girl from the history books or the one that this book portrayed. Jane was clever, adorable, and her dedication to being honest and kind to those around her made her a very likeable main character, and I really enjoyed her perspective in “My Lady Jane.” I thought that Jodi Meadows did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of the real young woman whose life was cut short by the blood/political feud between the Catholic Mary and the Protestants in charge of England, and even though I knew the historical facts of Jane’s life that these lovely authors were about to wreak havoc on, I felt the anxiety of Jane’s dire situation. Jane was a pawn in the hands of a bunch of lecherous dirt bags who cared more about power than what the country actually needed, and I think that made Jane kind of heroine who is easy to root for. The truth behind the real girl’s life is heartbreaking, so I was happy that this book took, um, some liberties with the historical details recorded about Lady Jane Grey’s life, while still keeping the heart of the girl the same. Jane was smart and caring, and I appreciated the mix of seriousness with comedy that the authors of “My Lady Jane” put into her situation. Added to the pleasure of reading Jane’s perspective was that I got to see her relationship with Gifford develop, albeit comically, over the course of this novel, and I ended up really enjoying Gifford as a character as well.

Gifford (A.K.A. G) was beyond entertaining to read about. There was a fabulous comedy behind this character’s personality as well as his situation, and I definitely laughed out loud a few times with the things he did, or the kinds of trouble he got into by becoming Jane’s husband. But beyond just being funny, I liked Gifford because he had a good heart and he respected Jane despite their differences in opinion at times. Gifford experienced a fair amount of character growth over the course of this book, and I liked the fact that he had a couple of moments where he had to choose to let Jane go to do what she needed to, even though all he wanted to do was protect her. I also liked the fact that Brodi Ashton wrote him some very real reactions in the moments where he was faced with only difficult choices that were in opposition to his desire to protect Jane. Those situations caused him to do something that wasn’t necessarily okay, but was an understandable response to seeing someone he loved in danger. The give and take of Jane and Gifford’s relationship made me extremely happy, and I thought that how this book’s authors dealt with that specific moment between Gifford and Jane and its repercussions was really well done.

I liked the whole progression of this book and where Gifford’s character went. I loved the fact that this book and its characters made me laugh and even tear up just a little at times, and I really appreciated the little touch of history and fiction that Cynthia, Brodi, and Jodi added with Gifford etching Jane’s name into the wall of his cell in the Tower of London. That made me cry just a little bit when it happened in “My Lady Jane,” and I cried some more when I figured out that it was true.

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Jane and Gifford’s relationship was pretty hilarious to begin with, but I liked the fact that I shipped them together from the beginning of “My Lady Jane” despite the lack of romance at times, and I only grew more fond of them as individuals and a couple as this book progressed. I liked that they discovered a little bit of the give and take of a partnership, and even though “My Lady Jane” did not take course over much time at all, I never felt like anything was rushed or forced with the romance. It was mildly torturous, but I also liked the “Ladyhawke” moments that played a part in how much time Gifford and Jane spent together; it built the tension a little bit, which kept me reading in order to get to those brief but heartwarming moments of them together! Jane and Gifford’s relationship was sweet and endearing, and I thought that this novel’s authors did a fantastic job of balancing the comedic themes in it with things like Jane and Gifford’s relationship, which added depth to this story so that it was not only fun ridiculousness.

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Edward was a good character, but he wasn’t my favorite one in “My Lady Jane.” His perspective was pretty entertaining and engaging most of the time, but it took some time for him to grow on me, unlike Gifford and Jane whom I instantly connected with as a reader. Edward experienced some good character growth over the course of this book, and I think that I will like him more as a character when I read “My Lady Jane” again. Being impatient for another character’s perspective definitely puts a slight damper on the growing relationship between another character and their reader, and that was kind of what happened with Edward for me; I wanted more of Jane and Gifford, so I did not enjoy Edward’s perspective as much as I would have if I had not been constantly looking forward to the other characters’ point of views. Despite him not being my favorite character, Edward did have an entertaining perspective to read from, and I think that my next time reading “My Lady Jane” I will like him more as a character.

“My Lady Jane” was truly a joy to read, with its fantastic characters, great comedic timing, and happy twist on a sad story that has been collecting dust in the history books for quite some time. I loved Jane as a character, and this book made me want to discover more about who the real Lady Jane Grey was, which made me quite happy; any book that fascinates me enough to cause me to seek out historical fact is a winner in my opinion. Gifford exceed my expectations for a hilarious, sweet, and endearing character, and I adored him and Jane as a couple. “My Lady Jane’ was the perfect balance of funny, awkward, and sweet for me, and I can’t wait to see what this trio of authors will write together next time.

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Les Petits Bonheurs #19…

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*sighs* I love “Blackhearts” by Nicole Castroman SO much. I purchased it back in February, and I have already read it three times. Call me obsessed, but I adore everything about Nicole’s writing style, from her historical accuracy to her amazingly vivid characters, and I love the fact that I have reread this book multiple times and it still had the same emotional impact on me as it did the first time. “Blackhearts” is one of those books that tears you up inside, but it also makes you buoyant with happiness while you are reading it. This is my favorite “pirate” book that I have had the pleasure of reading, and if you have yet to pick up this delightfully torturous book, you have to get yourself a copy of “Blackhearts” to read this summer, especially if you are a “Poldark” fan!

The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh (The Wrath and the Dawn #2)

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“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!

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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!

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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.

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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.”

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