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

Synopsis: 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.

Rating: 4.5/5

Genres: High Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Previous book in the series:

My thoughts:

“The rose’s rarest essence lives in the thorns.
The Rose and The Dagger is an exquisite, superb, satisfying and clever finale. It will render you speechless with its intensity. Crush your heart a bit every few pages. Transform you into an addict of its gorgeous prose. But its true beauty lies in the fact that, somehow, you welcome it all with open arms. 

If you don't get along with romance, shy away. Seriously, shoo. I'm just putting it like it is -- the romance and love story are what make these books great, the dominant ethos, the insanely good aspect. Sure, it has elements of magic, politics, self-discovery, but its core is represented by the power of love. And for a love-hungry sap like me, THAT'S AWESOMENESS INCARNATE. 

“It was because they were two parts of a whole. He did not belong to her. And she did not belong to him. It was never about belonging to someone. It was about belonging together.”

There were two equally amazing things I absolutely loved. First, there's the fact that, thanks to the multiple POVs, it's not just Khalid and Shazi's dreamy love that has readers all hot and bothered and ethereally happy. Nope. Surprisingly, it's also Rahim and Irsa. And, of course, Jalal and Despina. All three relationships wonderfully developed, made with the intention of pulling on your heartstrings. 

Secondly, there's a certain KICKASS aspect. Women. Empowering, badass, strong, young women. The truth is that, in this universe, the women are put on a gold pedestal (rightfully so). They are revered, respected and treated as queens. There were so many instances were women had a role in the novels, starting with Khalid's mother's death that changed him forever, then the cruel curse unraveled because of a woman, 100 women doomed to die and a freaking war started because of a woman (insert Shazi here), the plot evolved thanks to these glorious characters and so they became the axis of the world and girls continued to omen the legacy in TRaTD. Marvelous Shazi, with her awe-inspiring backbone and infinite determination. Sweet Irsa, with her fair perspective on life and kind heart (who also reminded me so much of Prim from HG). Sneaky Despina, with her snark and cunning mind. And even Yasmine, who completed the set with a surprisingly emphatic behavior.  

Coming back to the essential though -- Khalid and Shazi. These two are like magnets, soul mates, whatever you want to call them. There was a particular scene that ripped me to shreds where they were fighting to protect each other in the face of imminent and immediate danger. I think that visual captured the couple perfectly -- Khalid is not painted like a knight in shining armor, neither is Shazi painted like a damsel in distress. Far from it, actually. They are pictured as they should be -- a king and a queen that would rather die than see their loved one suffer. They are menacing, commanding and hella sexy, royalty coursing into every inch of their veins. 

"Cut the strings, Shazi. Fly.”

Our spunky heroine did not change much, besides the short-lived interactions with her magical tendencies. She's still stubborn, feisty, arrogant and silver-tongued, but fierce, caring and astoundingly determined as well. What surprised me was her optimism, I didn't previously perceive her as the one to bring it forward, yet in comparison with the brooding, sulking caliph she was like a minion from Despicable Me.

Like the yang to the yin, Khalid completed Shazi in a regal manner. A strategist, an intelligent engineer and a terrifying swordsman, but this boy-king is still a boy and a romantic one at that. Holy intense, a goddamn poet that could turn us all enraptured girls into husks of die-hard fangirls and a devoted husband (that's putting it lightly). I've said back in my Wrath review, this man worships his wife and it was astounding to see how easily she can bring him to his knees. Yet he transforms. He starts to bear hope for a bright future with his love, in which they are together, with him healthy and 100% alive. And he starts fighting for it, making sacrifices and walking over his ego and colossal pride to ensure such happiness will be attained. 

“No. He was not here to wreak revenge.
For revenge was trifling and hollow.
No. He was not here to retrieve his wife.
For his wife was not a thing to be retrieved.
No. He was not here to negotiate a truce.
For a truce suggested he wished to compromise.

He was here to burn something to the ground.”

On top of that, he really did mature. For once, you could say he forgives. His relationship with Tariq (yeah, there is one) had me nearly in tears and their interactions were so consuming. I loved his sincere attempts of creating bonds with Irsa and his sadness and helplessness at the situation with Jalal was hard to see. Also, his turmoil about the fate of Khorasan was awful, with self-loathing and doubt shadowing his thoughts. But he slowly crumbled his walls and lets everyone witness the thoughtful and passionate young man lurking beneath his stoic facade. He became a true leader. 

A wish of mine that turned true this installment was the deeper delving into the magic business. However, it was not as developed as I expected it to be. Regardless, I enjoyed the unique light upon Artan's legacy (a new and very interesting character) that added to the genius of the author's retelling. It was honestly brilliant. 

Other characters have changed the plotline numerous times. Jahandar, for instance, was horrendous. I loathed the guy. Greedy and power-hungry and with no sense of a moral compass, he continued to toy with the lives of others like he did in the prequel. On the other hand, Tariq, who is usually an amazingly lovable boy, possessed a recklessness and impulsiveness that had me preparing for every ill-fated new development with an "Oh boy". 

And so there were many such instances. I cried a bit at a particular scene in the end that had me internally screaming "IT'S NOT FAIR". My heart stopped soon after. And I picked up my jaw off the ground at some HOLY SHIT discoveries, the kind of twists that turn you stupid. Nonetheless, I smiled and laughed a lot. 

Vikram needs to be mentioned: he was awesome. There was not nearly enough Jalal and Despina, but seeing Jalal so heartbroken and lovesick messed with my brains. And Jalal and Khalid's friendship had a rough phase which was sad to witness. To compensate, we got more of Tariq and Rahim's bromance which inserted a light-tone every here and there, although they are indeed a true force to be reckoned with if together.

The epilogue was so fitting and wonderful in all shades known to humankind. I mean -- that name eeeep!! I was so euphoric and grateful for this heartwarming closure. One thing's for sure -- this duology will remain one of my favorite series because it's no easy feat to trigger the whole emotional palette in me, yet these books succeeded in doing so -- I was happy, sad, angry, frustrated, bewildered, amused, in love. And thankful for the thrills, romance and adventures. 

"It’s late,” Khalid said. “You should sleep.” 
“What are you talking about? I’m not doing anything.” 
“Stop smiling and go to sleep.” 
“How do you know I’m smiling? You’re not even looking at me.” 
“I can feel you smiling, Shazi.”

I wouldn't necessarily say this is better than Wrath (because honestly, in my view, it isn't), but I think I missed the mystery surrounding Khalid's killings the most. Since all was revealed, the slow burning intrigue and countless questions did not make an appearance in the sequel. However, that is not the reason I minimized the full rating by half a star -- the sole motive for that was that sometimes I simply felt my mind wandering off. Might have been my sleep deprived mind telling me to close the freaking book, might have been not. 

Renee Ahdieh has established herself as a thorough, original and downright amazing author. There was big pressure on her shoulders due to the overwhelming and well deserved popularity of the first book, but she did not succumb to the nerves in order to give readers a meh book. No, she managed to take the world of Khorasan to greater heights. She managed to captivate her readers with developed characters, an engaging plot and swoons. Most importantly, she managed to prove that she's a kickass writer and the first book wasn't a fluke. Her style is different and compelling and I declare myself a definite fan. 

The Rose and The Dagger is an empowering, achingly beautiful sequel to one of the loveliest books ever. Soul-wrenching, yet uplifting all the same, this book has it all, from political vibes, Arabian spins on a famous story, doses of humor, gorgeous love stories interwoven with thrills of action, magic and a kaleidoscopic turn of events. It delivers the perfect kind of tale -- one side dished with great amount of heartbreak. Even so, you want more, and that's what makes it best.

“As always. As ever. As a rose to the sun.”


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