Sunday, 25 September 2016

Review: The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh

The Rose & the Dagger by Renée AhdiehThe Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh (Bought) - WARNING! I cannot review this book without spoiling the others in the series. Read no further if you're planning on reading this series and don't want it spoilt for you.

I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge in the desert, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid's empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn't yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.
From Goodreads (slightly edited due to spoilers).

After absolutely loving The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh, I was so excited to read the sequel, The Rose & the Dagger - so much so that I bought it as soon as I was able. And although I really enjoyed the story, I'm left with mixed feelings.

After being whisked away from the crumbling city of Rey by Tariq, Shahrzad has now been reunited with her sister and father in the Badawi camp in the desert. But here it feels like a prison, with everyone watching her, trying to see where her loyalties really lie - with her first love, Tariq, or with the murdering boy-king. Forces are gathering to march against Khalid, and Shazi knows she needs to make a plan. Shazi must prevent the impending war and find a way to break the curse that threatens the kingdom of Khorasan if Khalid doesn't kill a young woman each dawn. She needs to get to the Fire Temple and seek the help of the magus Musa Zaragoza, but to get there she must search deep within herself and connect with the magic in her blood.

When I first finished this book yesterday, I thought it was amazing! I had a few little niggles, but I really enjoyed the story on the whole. But as I continued thinking about it, the more those niggles became problems. I was left with so many questions, there were things that felt a little too convenient, and characters who felt like the sole purpose for their existence was to be the solution to a problem.

The Wrath & the Dawn ended on such a cliffhanger, I expected The Rose & the Dagger to get things moving pretty quickly. I was expecting a lot of action right from the offset, but in actual fact, it took quite a while for anything to really start happening. There were reasons for this that I was able to accept, and so continued to enjoy the story, though it felt quite at odds with how the last book ended. However, there was very little to come that reached anywhere near epic.

When Shazi finally manages to get to the Fire Temple, Musa introduces her to a young magus, Artan, who he believes will be able to help Shazi break Khalid's curse. Artan was a really great character; he gives as good as he gets when it comes to Shazi, and is really quite amusing. But really, the whole purpose of Artan is to introduce Shazi to someone else. He is such an interesting character and he had so much potential for having a bigger role and being a better potential ally to Shazi, but his part ends up being quite small, and it just felt he was there to solve a problem. I had so many questions surrounding him and his family, and just felt his character wasn't developed enough.

Then we get to the whole issue of the curse and how to break, and this is where my niggles kept on niggling until I couldn't ignore them. I have some big questions surrounding it all, and I can't talk about it without spoiling the story, so if you haven't yet read this book, don't click the button below.

Things did get pretty exciting towards the end; I was really anticipating all the danger and action that would surely be coming any second now. But even that felt resolved all too easily for me. And the ending? Such a cop out. There was nothing epic about this book. I'm so disappointed by how easy everything seemed, how convenient, and The Rose & the Dagger just didn't deliver the fast-paced action I felt the end of The Wrath & the Dawn hinted at.

And yet I love these characters. I enjoyed being with them again, seeing Shazi being spunky and brave, and Khalid being such a lovely guy. I loved seeing the development of other relationships, and I enjoyed how some things turned out. So I did enjoy the story for the characters, but there were too many issues for me, too.

I will give Ahdieh another go and read her next book, The Flame in the Mist, the first in another duology, this time a retelling of Mulan. I really hope this duology doesn't have too many issues, or I might just have to give up reading Ahdieh's novels.

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Published: 26th April 2016
Publisher: Putnam
Renée Ahdieh's Website

My other reviews from the series:
The Wrath & the Dawn (The Wrath & the Dawn Book 1)

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