Review: The Rose & The Dagger / Renée Ahdieh

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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.

Just a few hours ago I finished the Rose and the Dagger and, still, I feel like I might tumble into an abyss. I’m reeling all the same and my mind just won’t do me the favor of coming to rest from all that has happened. This was the first book I finished in months due to an ever-lasting and all-consuming reading slump, not to forget, hard school days. But here I am, raising from the ground and standing tall. This was a tad bit over the top but hopefully you are well acquainted with this burden and thus know just how I felt. And even though I was in a reading slump and fell victim to all its side effects I try to review this book in a healthy balance when it comes to subjective and objective aspects.

The Rose and the Dagger was, first and foremost, an enchanting tale and retelling of One Thousand and One Nights. Albeit, it was also the story of two lovers in the time of war with not only an upcoming battle to worry about but a curse that might shatter them all at the end. Besides that and most shocking of all, it had many plot twists to offer and was therefore an utmost surprising read. Renée followed the loose ends of the first book and managed to weave them into something quite different with a unique undertone to them. Magic, which we only got a glimpse of in the Wrath and the Dawn, shifted into focus with this next and final installment of the series. We not only got to see Shahrzad learning to control her special abilities but we were even gifted with a new set of characters who brought their own bits to the story and were, in my opinion, a rather pleasant addition. Aside from that, Renée expanded not only the cast but rather the whole world of Khorasan and its neighbor kingdom Parthia. We already knew of Salim’s jealousy and hatred toward Khalid but with this book we could see how these traits took shape and grew into something quite bigger and more crucial for the storyline.

After reading book one and two it felt like that – all the decisions that were made, all the directions the characters went – led up to this one moment and this very moment was dripping with intensity. Surprisingly, the Rose and the Dagger didn’t suffer the second-book-syndrome (aka middle-book-syndrome), needless to say I was rather pleased with that for many sequels lack that certain something that makes them keep up with the first book. For it is the first book that invites the reader into a new world with yet another cast of characters and it is rather hard for the second book to compete with this innocence. But, fortunately, that wasn’t the case here.

“For it was easy to be good and kind in times of plenty. The trying times were the moments that defined a man.”

Right up from the beginning Shahrzad striked me as a blunt and impulsive, but also just as determined and ambitious girl. She was a sly dog through and through and this fact hasn’t changed in the finale either; Shahrzad isn’t the type of girl you ever want to mess with under any circumstances for she seeks and gets her revenge no matter the cause. I deeply admire her for all that she has to offer for this side is only one of the many facets to the girl we used to know. And even though life was not always fair to her and she acted in an impulsively manner every so often she not only came to terms with her best friend’s death ; she also learned to forgive and let go of all that thrived her anger. Her strong feelings toward Khalid were proof of that. This very moral alone is what turned this book into a philosophical showpiece. But it was not only the act of forgiveness itself but her character development throughout this series for it was such a magnificent and bitter-sweet thing at that, to behold. Shahrzad may seem like an arrogant woman at first glance but there’s so much more to her than that. She is just as arrogant and hot-tempered as she is passionate and selfless. I loved the way how all characters had their own individual flaws for it was this fact alone that made them seem human and made me, as the reader, relate to them to this very extent.

As much as I’d like to keep on talking about Shahrzad I also want to address the other characters for these had just as many layers to them as she did. Khalid, the brooding and seemingly ever-cold boy-king of Khorasan…. The king of kings… So many names for this one man. I have to admit his distant nature took some getting used to but over the course of this series and especially in the second book he finally grew on me. Khalid opened up in so many ways and I loved how behind this “monster” was also a very vulnerable side that he tried to hide as best he could. Tariq and Rahim seemed to amaze me once again but in very different ways. It was Rahim I liked best of the two friends. I don’t want to go into detail as to why but even after all Tariq had to go through he became deeply absorbed in his anger and failed in what Shahrzad accomplished to do. Artan is introduced as a whimsical and pretty much sarcastic and loyal magician who easily crept his way into my heart. It was hard not to love him in an instant but I wish we would’ve seen so much more of his character for whenever he came up he lightened up the story with what felt like perfect ease. What is not to love about a sardonic, sassy but ultimately good-hearted sorcerer?! It is only understandable for me – and I think I can speak for all of us – to want more…

“Love was something that did much to change a person. It brought joy as it brought suffering, and in turn brought about those moments that defined one’s character. Love gave life to the lifeless. It was the greatest of all living powers.
But, as with all things, love had a dark side to it.”

It was not only the story itself, nor even the characters or the world but Renée’s writing that made the ultimate difference between a good and an excellent novel. The way she crafted word after word and how she literally treated the reader with smoothly generated sentences directed all attention on what she had to say. Her writing style left no place for worries, it was home; as weird as that might sound. The Wrath and the Dawn and the Rose and the Dagger might not look like much (when it comes to size – not the covers for I think we can all agree on how stunning they are) but her phrasing made it all the more fluent and mesmerising; and it was these sentences, these fluently crafted phrases, that took me to a place far away, to a place full of wonders and magic.

Fierceness, betrayal, passion,… Brace yourself for these and many more things will be inflicted upon you in this final installment. Renée Ahdieh opened up a spectrum of emotions that not only affected the reader in a mental way but rather took him or her on an empowering and sentimentally oozing voyage where dreams don’t seem all too far away. A vibrant atmosphere are your constant companion and there’s suspense at all times. Consider yourselves warned…

Again, as much as I wished to give this book all the five stars I just couldn’t make myself do it for my conscience wouldn’t let me. I don’t know in which ways my reading experience would differ if I hadn’t read this book in times of my slump but I have to see the things for what they are and nothing else.

Rating: 4.25/5

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