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.

‘The Wrath and the Dawn’ Blog Tour – A Review and Giveaway of Renee Ahdieh’s Epic Fantasy


The Wrath and the Dawn

The Wrath and the Dawn (Image Credit: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)

Finally! Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn is probably the first book I’ve read in 2015 that felt like a truly immersive, page-turning experience. I’ve read plenty of good, but not totally fulfilling, books this year and it was so nice to read something so original and engaging for a change.

The Wrath and the Dawn tells the story of Shahrzad, a teenage girl who volunteers to marry Khalid, a young king notorious for killing his brides the morning after wedding them. There’s a long line of girls murdered at his command, including Shahrzad’s cousin – and she wants revenge. At first Shahrzad is just trying to stay alive long enough to figure out how to kill Khalid, but in the process she begins to realize that Khalid is not just an unfeeling monster, and perhaps there is more to his story.

Still, she is committed to finding his weakness and avenging her family. Things get complicated, however, when Shahrzad realizes that she is Khalid’s weakness. Both Shahrzad and Khalid have secrets, but they are drawn to each other despite themselves. (Because of course, otherwise this story would be way less interesting.) Meanwhile, Shahrzad’s childhood sweetheart is attempting to rescue her with the aid of her father, who’s playing with some dangerous magic.

There is a bit of a mystery running through the story, as both readers and Shahrzad try to understand how and why someone like Khalid is killing his brides, but the bulk of the story focuses on Shahrzad’s various attempts to strategize – first to stay alive, then to determine how to kill the king, and then other delicate, spoilery situations that arise as the book progresses. This aspect of the story reminded me quite a bit of The Winner’s Curse series, where the characters were constantly have to speak carefully and think one step ahead. If you enjoy that type of thing, I highly recommend The Wrath and the Dawn.

And even if you don’t, there are a lot of other things to love about this book. I really enjoyed the detailed world-building and ambiance of the book; although it’s a fantasy story there are enough elements of reality that it is very easy to picture in your mind as you read, yet it’s still a very unique setting. It did take me a while to fully wrap my mind around all the characters and their roles in the story, simply because quite a few characters are introduced very quickly and without a lot of initial context. Once you settle in, though, keeping track of the many characters and the quirks of the language they use becomes second nature. And the ARC of the book had a glossary in the back for anyone needing some extra help! Don’t let that scare you, though, I swear it’s easy to follow after a few chapters.

I’ve seen mixed reviews on the romance part of this story, so I’ll give you my two cents on that. Overall, it was done well. It’s not instalove, which is great, but there is a suggestion of that just in the fact that Shahrzad manages to convince Khalid not to kill her after her first night in the palace. Obviously there is something about her he likes. Which brings me to my one little complaint about this particular piece of the story – Shahrzad is kind of a Mary Sue. She’s a very intelligent, strong character with a quick wit and I understand why people might be drawn to her charisma. But other characters continually comment on her likability and how she is so beautiful without knowing it; so on and so forth. And apparently her beauty and charisma were enough to convince a king to keep her alive against all odds, even when he barely knew her. This seems a bit flimsy to me, and Shahrzad is sort of borderline in terms of whether she’s so amazing you can’t help but love her, or so amazing you want to hate her.

Fortunately Ahdieh does a really nice job of toeing that line carefully but, at least for me, never crossing into territory where I began to dislike Shahrzad or question her connection to Khalid. The parts of the story that focused on Shahrzad (which were the majority) were truly the best parts of the book. I was not particularly fond of the chapters that focused on Shahrzad’s father’s magic – it didn’t play a big role in the majority of this book but probably will in the next one, and I’m a little nervous about that since magic isn’t really my cup of tea.

The Wrath and the Dawn ends with minimal resolution and clear setup for a second book. I absolutely recommend this series for anyone looking for accessible fantasy and a unique spin on YA romance, but if you do pick up The Wrath and the Dawn be prepared to dedicate yourself to the whole series if you want a true ending. Personally, I’m just thrilled to finally be able to put a book on my “2015 Favorites” Goodreads shelf!

The Wrath and the Dawn Giveaway

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To celebrate the release of The Wrath and the Dawn,  TDQ readers have a chance to get a peek at this fantastic book! Enter below to win one of five prize packages including a hardcover copy of The Wrath and the Dawn along with three beautiful silk scarves featuring the book cover and designs inspired by the characters in the book (as shown above), courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers. Click through the link below to enter.

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