So today I finished The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh, and I have kind of conflicted feelings. The beginning was great. They left off from when Shazi was taking by Rahim, Tariq and her father, and Khalid was left in his kingdom of Rey. But it just went downhill from there…
Shahrzad was a fun character, and she was definitely argumentative and fiery– but there were times where it annoyed me instead of making me root for her. I think that there was a proper way to go about it, but Ms. Ahdieh didn’t really achieve that. Instead of making Shazi spunky and independent, she came off as petulant, whiny and rude at crucial parts of the novel. One of these times was when she met the fire-wielding sorcerer, [A-something].
Speaking of the fire-wielding sorcerer, what on earth was with the magic in this novel? In the first book, sure, we have some magic with the curse and Musa-effendi, but the second book is just chock-full of random magic, like the magic carpet and the magic book and the magic powers. There are ways to incorporate magic into novels that take place mostly in “real-life situations,” but I can’t help but feel like the magic in this novel was really arbitrary. It appeared conveniently, which is kind of the worst part. This book could have been a political-based thriller, and it would have been interesting. There are two warring kingdoms, and that’s enough to build a whole world off of, but Ms. Ahdieh seems to have tried to balance magic and political schemes and, frankly, failed at it. I think that the only magic that I wasn’t completely bewildered by was the fire-breathing Rajput, because he was exotic and strange enough to be believable as a magic-user. Introducing Musa’s pupils and wards, and the winter sorceress lady, all of that just felt really random.
Another thing is that you met a lot of characters, but you met them very briefly. Most of these characters appeared in the first novel, but only for a brief amount of time; the ones that come to mind are Jahander, Irsa, and Rahim. Because of this, I wasn’t too attached to any of the characters. They were like passing clouds that I didn’t want to bother paying attention to, because they didn’t feel very important. I couldn’t connect emotionally with them, that was the biggest problem. Although Irsa caught my interest, her romance with Rahim felt a little sudden, and his death elicited no reaction on my part (although I will admit that I felt bad, reading about her feelings regarding his death.)
Also, another thing that bothered me was Despina. She becomes “evil” so suddenly, and although later on, she shows remorse and apologizes to Shazi for what she had to do, the whole thing felt really disjointed. Like the author had made Despina act first and then sorted out her feelings afterwards. I think that it could have been really cool to see more of Despina’s side of the story, because I still don’t really understand her reasons for leaving Rey and heading to Parthia, and I’d like to see more of her relationship with her younger half-sister, Yasmine. Also, I can’t believe that Jalal al-Khoury forgave her so quickly. Sure, he’s kind of a playboy and her reasons for not wanting to marry him are legitimate, but when she reappears near the end of the book with Shazi and the others in tow, he takes her back with open arms. There’s no question of “why the hell did you run off to the enemy,” though he does ask her where she went and she does apologize to him. It was all super, super brief. Like two sentences. I find it hard to believe that he’d forgive her two-sentence explanation, and also, what made Despina change her mind? She didn’t want to marry Jalal because, according to Jalal, “he has a harem waiting outside his door,” and she even says later on in the book that she’s sure that Jalal will find some willing girl to distract him from being sad about her disappearance. There’s no resolution to this. Despina just goes back to him despite not receiving any reassurance that he will be true and faithful to her, and Jalal, the captain of the guard, takes her back without even a moment of hesitation– even though she was working with the enemy and admits that she has been working with the enemy since the very first day that she stepped in Rey.
I don’t know. Like I said, there’s a lot of unresolved, random stuff that was tied up very quickly and thoughtlessly at the end of the novel.
I definitely feel like The Wrath and the Sun was more interesting. Maybe it was because there was more focus on the characters, whereas the Rose and the Dagger felt like a rushed attempt to complete the story of Shahrzad and Khalid, and then it was like Renee Ahdieh tried to match up the survivors. Also, the world-building kind of fell apart in this novel. At least it ended happily, I guess.
Anyways, I’m kind of tired of writing so I’m going to stop now.