A satisfying end to an enchanting story. 4/5.
The blurb: 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 with enemies of Khalid, 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.
My take (no spoilers):
I enjoyed this very much and more than the first installment of the story: The Wrath and the Dawn. This was partly because The Rose and the Dagger delivers entertaining magical shenanigans, and also because my enjoyment of book 1 was hampered by some irritating stylistic quirks which were mercifully absent from book 2.
Character-wise, things also improved. Tariq is far less annoying in The Rose and the Dagger. And while I still didn’t warm to Shazi or Khalid, their personalities were consistent and their actions made sense at all times. Some new characters were also introduced and I got so involved in one of their stories it managed to make me cry.
I read most of this book in one long sitting and I think that’s best. In fact, I think these two books would benefit from being read back-to-back. Firstly, because I found I’d forgotten many things which happened in book 1 (although don’t worry – the author drops in lots of little reminders). But mostly because I think the triumph of these books in their tone. The story is based on 1001 Nights, and the entire tale is cloaked in a convincing ancient, mystic, exotic atmosphere. Within this fairy tale cloud, the way the characters speak and act makes perfect sense. I suspect if you keep dipping in and out of the story this spell could be broken and certain elements of the narrative may appear strange and even ridiculous.
Finally, major points to Ahdieh for writing a two-book story. It seems like all YA series these days are trilogies or longer. Bucking this trend, The Rose and the Dagger wraps up the story started in book 1 nicely with no loose ends.
Overall: fans of The Wrath and the Dawn won’t be disappointed. A satisfying end to a magical, mystical tale which successfully balances romance and adventure.