Title: The Rose & the Dagger
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Genre: Historical fiction, fantasy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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 liked book 1 better, but I have to say I adored the epilogue :) I know I'm in the minority; most people I know liked book 2 a lot better. There were definitely some things that were better in this book than book 1. For one thing, the romance is far more well-developed and it doesn't feel as rushed/awkward because the relationship has already been established. Magic is also way more prominent in this book and directly affects the characters instead of being a sort of background element of the world.
Still, this book was missing one of my favorite things about the first book: the friendships. I loved Shazi and Despina's banter, and Jalal and Khalid's relationship. This book hardly featured those friendships, and I felt like some characters changed in ways that weren't organic to their original characterization at all. Even though I missed seeing some of the old characters, there were still a lot of awesome new characters to root for. I really liked getting to know Shazi's little sister Irsa, and her quiet resilience and strength as she finds her voice. I also loved fireball dude, whose name I'm blanking out on...oops.
The plot in this book is really fast paced compared to the first one. There are crazy high stakes with war looming and betrayals and political machinations galore. I loved all of that, but in terms of the magic I felt like the resolution was anti-climactic. I also was really unhappy about one of the twists but it worked out okay in the end, thankfully.
I'm definitely looking forward to more of Renee Ahdieh's lush, gorgeous prose. Even if there won't be any more installments in this series, I'm sure whatever she writes next will be just as magical!