Genre: YA – Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Publisher/Date Published: G.P Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers/2016
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.
I’m not really one to finish trilogies. Very rarely do I look at sequels. This goes for almost any book I read – whether I love it or have lukewarm feelings for it. When I finish one book, I prefer to hop to a book with a new and completely different world. Even if I really like the book, I’m worried I’ll get let down by the sequel. Either way, I usually end up with incomplete series and too many trilogies and duologies that I don’t know the ending to. But the Wrath and the Dawn was easily one of my favorite reads of 2017. It gripped me within the first few pages and left me feeling breathless in the best way. I bought The Rose and the Dagger before I was even finished with the first book, and gave it the special place of being my first read of 2018.
I’m sad to say that it reinforced my reasoning for not wanting to read sequels.. In no way does the The Rose and the Dagger stack up against The Wrath in the Dawn. The Rose and the Dagger was, in short, a disappointing follow-up that felt somehow removed from its predecessor due to the lack of real challenges presented to the characters, underdeveloped new characters, an unfocused, meandering plot and a heavy-handed focus on the romance.
It’s going to be hard to write this review without comparing almost every bit of this story to book one. In the first book, the characters grappled with challenges that were difficult and didn’t disappear immediately — Shazi’s conflict between her feelings for Khalid and her desire to avenge her best friend; Khalid’s desire to rid himself of the curse and not fall prey to its violent repercussions anymore.
However, in the sequel, many of the conflicts were resolved either too early, too easily or both. For example, the problem of Khalid’s curse that dominated the whole of The Wrath and the Dawn gets resolved in such an unsatisfying way that I kept wondering if there was something I’d missed or if it only appeared that it was resolved and there would be some twist later on in the book. It was neither. The main conflict of book one was resolved so quickly and easily it almost felt as if the previous book which revolved around this conflict was a mere waste of time. I felt similarly toward the final conflict with Shazi’s father in the end, which felt forced and pointless as it was resolved literally pages after it occurred.
In The Rose and the Dagger, we’re introduced to some new characters, a couple of which play an important role in helping solve the aforementioned conflicts. Yet this is the only reason they’re in the story, despite their compelling backstories. Artan and his aunt, Isuke, are grossly underdeveloped, which is sad because they could have added a lot more to this story. I believe it would have been more interesting if they, and the magic Shazi learns, played a bigger role in the overall plot.
The plot as it was felt unfocused. The story was crammed with different plot points and very few were adequately explored and by the end, many still felt unresolved (the part with Spider, the scene with Artan and Isuke, Shahrzad and her powers, etc.) Several of these plot points probably could have been cut, and if that was absolutely out of the question, they could have even been planted in this book and saved for a possibly third book. I don’t believe all books need to be made into trilogies, but with everything that was crammed into this one, I feel it may have benefited from that.
The last thing that I could have done without was the heavy-handedness of the romance in this. Don’t get me wrong, I love romances in my books, but a lot of the interactions between attached characters felt forced and over dramatic. And the writing of the romances felt rather… juvenile. All the declarations, the cliched lines, and that epilogue, which I firmly believe we all could have done without. In The Wrath and the Dawn, I totally believe in Shazi and Khalid’s relationship, but they bored me in this one. I skimmed more passages than I savored with those two, and found myself rolling my eyes at their interactions up until the end.
Despite my love for the first book, I really can’t recommend this one. I suppose if you must read it then go on ahead. There are some good bits. Most of the descriptions are beautiful. The main conflicts of the previous book do get resolved and we get more time with the characters from Shahrzad’s childhood. But honestly, if you’re able to resist when it comes to finishing a series, then I say do just that. I still believe Renee Ahdieh is a good writer, but this was a real flop. However, she has other books. Go give those a try instead.