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.
A good start to a series which gathers momentum in its final third.
If you want to know more about this story, inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, skip down to the bottom of this review for the (rather long) blurb.
The premise is great, the setting and descriptions are wonderful and the plot is sufficiently complex. I didn’t have any issues with pacing and, on the whole, the characters had depth and became increasingly three-dimensional as the book progressed.
Unfortunately, I had to take stars away because the writing style commits a serious crime: it jars you out of the story. Firstly, I found myself turning to the glossary at the back of the book several times (thank you Ashley for mentioning this – it helped!). Secondly, the characters often have conversations referring to several characters we haven’t met yet, discussing them as if we all know who they are and what’s going on. This was very disorientating, not helped by how long the character names tend to be, with formal and familiar variations.