Book Review: ‘The Rose and the Dagger’ by Renee Adieh

Book Review: 'The Rose and the Dagger' by Renee AdiehLast year, Renee Adieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn was the book that finally managed to pull me out of my annual late winter reading slump. It’s such an interesting mix of fantasy, romance, folklore and action – it feels different and interesting even if you’re already familiar with the inspiration, One Thousand and One Nights. I’ve been looking forward to the sequel, The Rose and the Dagger, which is available now.

Interestingly, One Thousand and One Nights is sort of trendy right now in fiction – between reading The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger, I actually read a different YA novel inspired by it – A Thousand Nights. As a result, I’d kind of mixed up some of the things from The Wrath and the Dawn with things from A Thousand Nights, and it took me a while to remember exactly who some of the characters were and what role they played in the story. No biggie, though – you could actually jump into The Rose and the Dagger without having read the first book and have it make sense. But please don’t do that, because you’d be missing out!

Last time I tried to recap the story leading into a series book my paragraphs got out of hand quickly, so if you want a reminder, check out my review of The Wrath and the Dawn. The Rose and the Dagger starts a bit slowly. Sharzad and Khalid are separated, with Khalid attempting to clean up his kingdom after the magical disaster brought by Sharzad’s father, and Sharzad seeking solace in the desert. Sharzad is attempting to understand her magic, and in doing so realizes that she may be able to help Khalid break his curse with help from the right people. Complicating things are Sharzad’s father’s misguided attempts to use his own magical power to make up for the havoc he wreaked across the kingdom, as well as ongoing political upheaval threatening war at any moment.

For me, there was a clear separation in the overall tone of The Rose and the Dagger compared to The Wrath and the Dawn. The first book was a story of world-building, character and relationship evolution, and ongoing suspense as Sharzad simply tried to stay alive. The Wrath and the Dawn focuses on the political (and magical!) repercussions of all that – the results of what was set up in the first book. It felt a little less suspense & romance and a little more fantasy & strategy. That’s not to say the books aren’t cohesive, though. All of the beautiful world-building from the first book continues, and the characters readers grew to know and love (or hate, as the case may be) return true to form in The Rose and the Dagger.

I’m not quite sure how Adieh pulls it off, but she manages to make Sharzad dangerously close to a Mary Sue, yet Sharzad is still extremely likable due to the dimension Adieh is able to give her. Other characters (Sharzad’s power-hungry father, for example), aren’t always afforded the time for such depth, but I really only found this troubling in one regard – the mysterious GENIE, who is initially introduced in such a way that I expected to become very familiar with him, but on the last page of the story I felt like he had never really been explored effectively.

I love how Adieh is able to present an epic story without going overboard on page count…or amount of books. It allows the story to move along swiftly and makes it easier to keep up with the wide array of characters, clans, kingdoms, and the politics between them. I’m not terribly familiar with One Thousand and One Nights beyond things that have been adapted from it, so I can’t speak to how closely Adieh followed its stories for inspiration, but I can say there were at least a couple fairly major plot twists that were executed really nicely. Set up with subtlety, withheld for just the right amount of time to make you forget the setup and then…bam!

The one thing I struggled with in the first book was Sharzad’s father’s use of magic. The short chapters following Jahander just did not interest me, and having the climax of the first book so influenced by him was a disappointment for me. I was nervous about how that plot thread would carry over into The Rose and the Dagger. Fortunately, although there are chapters that focus on Jahander and his story is followed up on, I had absolutely no trouble with how it was executed. The chapters were more engaging and less frequent, and plot thread itself made much more sense to me in the context of this book.

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