Monday, May 9, 2016

the rose and the dagger: stardust reviews

The Rose and the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn #2)
by Renée Ahdieh



(Spoilers for book 1) The much anticipated sequel to the breathtaking The Wrath and the Dawn, lauded by Publishers Weekly as "a potent page-turner of intrigue and romance."
I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.
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.

full review under the cut! 

I just have one thing to say before I commence with the real review.

Me while reading this, and after, and for all eternity when I think of this series. 

OKAY, FOR REAL NOW. The Wrath and the Dawn was one of my favorite books from last year. It was something so unexpectedly good, something that took me completely by surprise, and it made me fall in love over and over again. So, you can assume that, during that long, arduous year between books one and two, I was not just sitting around. I was actively lying in wait for the day that I could hold this book in my hands and love it with all of the zeal of the first novel.

And I got my wish! 

I've read a lot of reviews now that say the end was a little rushed or that the story was not as well developed as the first novel, but I have to disagree. While I didn't think this book was perfect (what book is?) I felt the same way about this one as I did the first one. And that feeling was the utter inability that I had to put this book down. Once I hit about page 60, I physically could not stop reading this book, and from 60-420, I did not put it down once. That feeling is incredible, and I loved the way this book/series ended, so I really can't ask for anything more. All of the warm fuzzies from this novel.

Okay, let's first talk about the incredible GIRL POWER in this book. Of course, Shazi and Despina we are already completely familiar with from the first novel, but Irsa and Yasmine are kind of unknowns to us, and I loved the parts that all of these amazing ladies played in this novel. While the men are hotheaded and singlemindedly determined, even to their own ruin, the girls in this novel USE THEIR DAMN BRAINS! AND THEY SLAY! Shazi, of course, takes no BS from anyone, even Khalid, and there is not a moment that she isn't reminding someone that she is the HBIC. I absolutely love her character. Her strength and her loyalty are absolutely beautiful, and so her is ability to become vulnerable around those she loves. I loved how she developed, retaining her brashness and imperiousness, but gaining a sense of calm and belonging that eluded her in the first novel As for Irsa, she was definitely my favorite character in this book. I loved that she's so different from her sister, but they both have an incredible strength, in their own way. She is sweet and caring, but she can be a lion when she wants to be. I also thought that she and Rahim were so cute, they made my heart melt. I love it when there is a simple and honest love story (like Irsa and Rahim), which can go alongside a more tempestuous and complicated relationship (like Shazi and Khalid.) 

When it came time for Despina to FINALLY come back on screen, I literally gasped aloud and was just talking to myself, like "i can't believe she did this," "she and shazi are literal besties," etc etc. I just could not believe that she would betray everyone, from Shazi to Khalid to Vikram to ESPECIALLY Jalal. And then when she revealed her whole plan I was like "oh that makes a ton more sense," because with Despina, nothing is as it seems. I love her for that, and I like to believe that she and Shazi are braiding each other's hair and telling secrets over tea to this day. Yasmine was the best surprise for me in this novel. I definitely was not expecting her to be as essential as she was. Though she had a pretty small part, it was so awesome to read. I was 100% behind the girls all banding together and being able to stop the stupid war before it even started. #GIRLPOWER 

The person who bothered me the most in this book was Tariq, which I assume was intended, because he just kind of sucked. I was honestly... I don't know, a little disappointed maybe, that Rahim was the one that had to die, instead of Tariq. LIKE!!! RAHIM WAS NICE!!! AND KIND!!! AND HE HAD IRSA!!! Tariq was just a little bit creepy and possessive and had a falcon. Still, I could see where Rahim would be the noble sacrifice that would bring everyone together, and Tariq would be worth more to the story by staying alive and learning his lessons. I was so glad there was no unnecessary waffling on Shazi's part. Like, she is so strong, it would be so outside her character to show a modicum of doubt about her loyalty to Khalid, so I was super happy to see that Tariq finally came to a point where he could accept that he was the loser in the battle for her heart. 

Rahim and Irsa = new fave couple. What death? I didn't read any death. They're alive and happy! 

(though I did kind of love it that she ended up with Artan and his GIANT FLYING SNAKE?, but more on that later) 

Speaking of Artan, I thought he was a terribly interesting character, and my only complaint is that he didn't get to learn more about him. (Spinoff series about him!!!? Maybe?) I loved he and Shazi's easy rapport, and the fact that he was someone who didn't necessarily belong anywhere, but was able to find family with Shazi and Khalid, like Despina and Vikram and etc etc. That part where they went to see his aunt was crazy! I also liked him because he was the only one that could match up to Shazi, sass-wise. So good. Also, he has a freaking flying snake, so there's that bit of AWESOMENESS.

The plot was great, it went where I expected and wanted it to go a lot of the time, which is gratifying as a reader, but it also went places that were totally not what I was expecting, and I loved it for that surprise aspect as well. The war with Parthia seemed inevitable, so I liked how everything was revolving around that, but that wasn't the sole focus, because I tend to get bored when everything is centered around war. I loved seeing Shazi delve more into the mystery of her magical gifts, and her visits to Musa's Fire Temple and training with Artan. I loved the side note of having to get rid of the curse, of Irsa and her falling in love and coming into her own, of Jalal's drama with Khalid and Despina, and of Omar, being the tipping point between two countries on the brink. Definitely some amazing scenes in here, especially when Tariq accidentally shoots Shazi! Weirdly, I loved that whole scene. The confrontation between Khalid and Tariq, Irsa stopping the fight, Shazi's strength, then Khalid and Irsa bonding. That was amazing. And I thought the end was fab, like I said, with the girl squad of Khorasan/Parthia coming in and telling all the men to stick it, that they were gonna work it out like the queens they are. 

Saving the best for last, Shazi and Khalid's relationship. Is there a ship that I've shipped as ardently as this one over the past year? They are just incredible! I love that part where Shazi says something like "it isn't about belonging to one another, but about belonging with one another because they were two parts of a whole," and I think that sums it up so nicely. They both know that the other is stubborn, and they don't try to control each other or overpower the other person's will. Shazi lets Khalid do what he thinks is best, and he does the same for her. He knows that he can never hope to encompass or own her, and he doesn't want to, or try to. They just fit so perfectly together, and they're sure of each other in love. I loved Khalid's growth in this book, in his own words, from a creature of the shadows to a person who can live fiercely, in the light. GOD they're so romantic with each other, it makes me sick (in a good way). They were never unsure of their love, and because of their communication and loyalty, they were able to come together to seamlessly exist, in relation to one another. It was a beautiful thing to watch. I am just so so thankful that this book exists, because it is so gratifying to see two characters you love fall in love and stay in love, figuring out how to be together, but never letting outside things get to them. I feel like we are deprived, a lot of times, of seeing the couples we love have a ton of happiness together, because the book always ends. I love the Wrath and the Dawn because I see them fall in love, but I love the Rose and the Dagger because I see them stay that way. 

Finally, a couple quotes, because Renée Ahdieh's writing is gorgeous. 1. "And up here – higher than she'd ever thought she could be– the wind blew alongside her, while all else vanished in a blur. Still, there was no fear. For up here, Shahrzad chased the wind. The ground fif not exist. Nor did the sky. Here, she was truly boundless. Fear would never overtake her again." (p 126). 2. "Khalid ran the tip of his nose beside her ear, a grateful smile upon his lips. 'From the stars, to the stars.'" (p. 183) 3. "But Khalid did not have time for hatred. Did not have time for retribution. His eyes met Shahrzad's. No. In the end, there is only time for love." (p. 406)

 In conclusion,


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