Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Thousand and One Nights Inspired Duology

Title: The Rose & the Dagger (The Wrath & the Dawn, #2)
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 26th, 2016

From Goodreads...
The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

My Review!
I was terrified of this book. Mostly because I loved the first one SO MUCH and I shipped a ship so hard that they became one of my favorite OTPs. So I was worried, obviously, because I NEEDED it to be a happy ending. I also could not remember much from The Wrath and the Dawn (thank you, brain, for being so dreadfully awful with remembering books). And after I reread it, I just became more obsessed with this series and its characters. And the way that Renee weaves all the elements together. Her writing is SO gorgeous, and my eyes are just glued to the pages, and I swear I wrote down SO MANY quotes during the read. Because it was so quotable, and I basically devoured everything about this story. And that happened again during The Rose and the Dagger! As if it were possible, this surpassed my expectations and pulled me in until I couldn’t stop reading. IT WAS SO FUCKING GOOD! I MAY HAVE LOVED IT EVEN MORE THAN WRATH, GUYS, AND I LOVED WRATH A LOT.

Of course, much of that stems from the amount of love I have for Shahzrad. She is one of the fiercest heroines I’ve ever read about. She is strong-willed, stubborn, resilient. She is a freaking fighter. And whoa boy, you do NOT want to get in her way when she wants anything, and if you piss her off, you’d better run far away. I love how she always stood up for herself, even if she was in the wrong, even if she didn’t know what she was doing. I love her strength, her spirit, and her quick wit. I love her way of finding the good in people, even when they don’t deserve it (i.e. Khalid, sometimes, mostly when she’s first met him). I love how she didn’t take anyone’s shit (esp Tariq and Khalid, you ridiculous boys you), and that she also forgave and apologized when she should. She’s certainly a reckless person sometimes, and she can definitely be selfish, but she’s also selfless when it comes to those she loves. She’s protective of her sister, and she fights like hell to resolve her relationships with people, when she’s hurt them and when they hurt her. And the one that gives her the most trouble (and most happiness) is, undoubtedly, her romance with Khalid. The boy-king she fell in love with in Wrath and can’t imagine a life without.

But don’t get me wrong, it’s not without its trials and learning curve. The thing that makes Shazi and Khalid work out SO well is that they understand each other in a way that not many people can. And whatever they face, they face together. Belong together. Fight together. In the first book, you’re not sure about Khalid, but you can tell that he’s entranced by Shazi and her storytellling. He falls under her spell, and she his, until they fall into a love so deep that nothing is ever going to break it. Not a childhood love, and certainly not war or death. Khalid’s curse could be a perfect scapegoat, but it’s never used as one. It just… is. He’s done bad things, and he did so wrongly about this curse, but he’s still a good person. All he’s ever wanted is to save his people, and to give them a life worth living. And he’s been so careful about keeping his heart locked up tight, for fear he won’t be able to withstand the feelings of guilt, and doubt, and rage at himself. He hates himself for what he’s done and caused, and he’ll spend his life atoning for his sins. So it’s hard for him to let Shazi in, to feel like he deserves her love and forgiveness, to feel like he should ever get to EARN it. But the thing about this is that it’s not about whether someone deserves love or not; it’s that someone chooses to love them, flaws, mistakes, and all.

I will defend the two of them to the stars and back. Their romance is filled with understanding, kindness, forgiveness, and passion. It is filled with a depth that is painted across the pages in words of love and happiness. IT IS EVERYTHING TO ME. I also love the other relationships in this. The one between Irsa and Shazi made me melt! I’m such a sucker for wonderful sibling love, and even though I wanted to yell at Shazi to let Irsa in and make her feel worthy, I could understand why she wanted to protect her so badly. I also ADORED the innocent flirtations and quiet love between Rahim and Irsa. They were so cute together! He is such a gentleman; good and kind and someone that makes Irsa feel wanted and special, when everyone else in the story often pushes her to the side. (But she does grow into her own by the end, which was great to see!). Um, I’d say stuff about Tariq, but I don’t care about him. lolol kidding. I do love that he and Shazi could patch some things up, and also that this showed that it’s okay to not stay with your first love! Very appreciative of that. What else? OH DUH JALAL AND DESPINA, MY FAVES. I love these cocky confident, flirty people and their rocky but passionate relationship. There were Things in this that made it hard for them to be together, and they could’ve been more developed, but whatever, I loved them.

Okay, but can I talk about how refreshing it is at the total honesty between the characters? Forget the spies, the secrets, and the general Khalid-ness (meaning his inability to open up to people). Though those may be in the story, there is still honesty. The characters call each other names, and make fun of each other openly, and aren’t afraid to say it how it is. IT IS SERIOUSLY SO REFRESHING! I want to be able to just do that, without restraint. There is something so honest about that open dialogue and communication, about saying what you mean and not apologizing for it, but being genuinely sorry if you hurt someone. These characters need to teach me (or really Renee, lbr) how to do this, because I’m always so afraid of hurting people’s feelings but at the expense of my own, and I’m tired of it! MORE CHARACTERS WHO CAN DISCUSS UNPLEASANT THINGS WITHOUT FIGHTING AND WHO CAN FIGHT BUT MAKE UP IN THE END. And now for the plot: it was engaging and magical and all sorts of things! I could spend days reading this author’s words without getting bored. Like my only complaint is that this series ended at all, tbh. I never wanted it to end, but that ending was SO perfect and wonderful, and gah. Can I get some novellas to check in with Khalid and Shazi over the years? PRETTY PLEASE, RENEE?? I don’t think it’s ASKING too much!
The Rose and the Dagger was a lovely and intense and well-put together story that nodded to its origins (A Thousand and One Nights, which I actually don’t know very well other than Aladdin, whoops) while also staying original. A lot of that probably had to do with the author’s writing (yes I am still talking about it, SHE IS A GODDESS OF WORDS, OK?! AND I WILL FOREVER READ HER BOOKS NOW), but most of it had to do with the characters and how they brought to life this retelling duet. This was everything I could have hoped for in the sequel, and something that definitely lived up to the high expectations that Wrath set out for it. IT WAS EVERYTHING TO ME. SHAZI AND KHALID ARE EVERYTHING TO ME. I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS ENDED. WHYYYYYY DID IT HAVE TO END. ahem. I’m getting carried away again, but you know what, I AM BEING WAY MORE CHILL THAN I WANT TO BE. Just. Guys. Just read these freaking books, okay?! YOU WON’T BE SORRY ABOUT IT.


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