Skip to main content

Review | The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh

So basically all I can say is prepare yourselves, if you would. Because it's been days since I finished this one and I absolutely refuse to go quietly into the night about it. I completely adored Ms. Ahdieh's debut novel The Wrath & the Dawn. I thought it did a beautiful job of reworking an extremely problematic fairy tale to begin with, and it did so in believable and beautiful ways. I mean, I went into it frankly expecting a degree of justification for the story's subject matter. But I also was prepared to give the author the benefit of the doubt, seeing as how she went to all the trouble of retelling it for a modern audience. And my willingness was unquestionably rewarded. Which is why I was so eager to get my hands on the sequel and find out what those two people I'd thought about so much in the intervening year had been up to. I felt sure all would be well. Perilous, to be sure. Fraught, to be sure. But well.

The rubble has cleared and Khalid Ibn al-Rashid is on one side of the wreckage, while Shahrzad al-Khayzuran is on the other. Khalid is occupied night and day by helping his people rebuild their shattered city and by forcing himself not to think too much on exactly why Shahrzad left and when, if ever, she will be back. For her part, Shazi is determined not to bring any more hell raining down upon the husband she loves. And as such, that means she is forced to once again play a part. The part of dutiful lover of Tariq. The part of doting daughter and sister. The part of a woman who has come to her senses, who sees the monster king of Rey for what he is, and who is ready and willing to take part in the rebellion that is being crafted to bring about his overthrow. Reality is somewhat more difficult to discern, and it will take more than a magic carpet and a secret love to halt the war that everyone sees coming and possibly bring an end to the curse that has plagued the king and his people for so long.

So. I have a Goodreads shelf entitled "Absolute Train Wrecks." And while there is not what you might call a long list of titles on that shelf, the ones that are there are the ones that drove me to absolute distraction. They are the ones that were such a hot mess that I was forced to rant aloud to my husband and closest of friends in order to somehow process the magnitude of how wrong everything went. Unfortunately, that shelf has acquired its latest denizen. Because I literally cannot seem to overstate how disappointed/enraged/appalled I was by this book. At the 3/4 mark, I seriously considered not finishing it at all. It was bad, guys. So bad that Beth came over to help run damage control by talking it out. So bad that Aaron immediately saw the writing on the wall and took me out to see the new Captain America film to remind me that there are still good things in the world. But finish it, I did. And then I immediately cast about finding a different home for the copy I'd bought so that it wouldn't darken my door a moment longer than necessary. That's right, we're talking The Actor and the Housewife levels of anger and resentment here. I told you it was bad. 

The thing is, I felt like the tight narrative grip that held throughout the first book completely unraveled in this one, with devastating consequences. With the exception of one scene, I didn't enjoy a single moment between Shazi and Khalid. Not that they spent anything resembling enough time together. The arbitrarily enforced separation felt so manufactured to me. All the stakes could have been kept just as high had they fought together. Separately, all the tension and beauty and squabbling that made up their relationship dissipated in so much smoke. Ms. Ahdieh excels at dialogue, and yet the only people actually talking were the abruptly introduced secondary couple. I quite liked Irsa and Rahim, but the fact that their scenes wildly outshone the protagonists' left me cold and troubled. And finishing it only confirmed my conviction that this sequel, its pacing and characterization, was a slapdash effort at best. Essentially every plot point and/or "twist" in the final third felt like a cop out to me. Characters behave thoroughly inconsistently and too little is made of the few moments that should have held a lot of meaning, robbing them of any shred they might have held onto. I'm sorry, but I cry foul. Cheap emotional manipulation and sub-par storytelling was not what I witnessed in the first novel, and it was not what I expected here. But it was what I got, and when I think of it, I still feel ill. Shut it down, book. We're through. 

Comments

You Might Also Like

Angie's Best Books of 2022

  Somehow the end of the year is here. And we're all here. And I still feel like placing this post in this space. So I shall. With gratitude and a certain wistful hope. For us all. But especially for these books, the people that walk them, their words, and their creators. (listed in the order in which I read them) Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian You Were Made to Be Mine by Julie Anne Long Impossible by Sarah Lotz Book Lovers by Emily Henry Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher The Bodyguard by Katherine Center The Worst Guy by Kate Canterbary Fire Season by K.D. Casey Husband Material by Alexis Hall Love in the Time of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson Heartbreaker by Sarah MacLean Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood Lore Olympus, Vol. 3 by Rachel Smythe Greywaren by Maggie Stiefvater The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion, Vol. 6 by Beth Brower Daniel Cabot Puts Down Roots by Cat Sebastian Scattered Showers

Angie's 2023 Must Be Mine

  Begin as you mean to go on, they say. And so here are my most anticipated titles of 2023: And no covers on these yet, but I'm looking forward to them every bit as much: The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion, Vol. 7 by Beth Brower Knockout by Sarah MacLean Ten Things That Never Happened by Alexis Hall Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian Diamond Ring by K.D. Casey The Gentleman's Gambit by Evie Dunmore What titles are on your list?

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber

This book has made the rounds and no mistake. I started seeing early reviews awhile back and read a few delightful interviews with Leanna Renee Hieber and found myself intrigued to read her first novel-- The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker . I was, therefore, tickled to receive a copy for review from Ms. Hieber and quickly set about settling in. I knew it was a Gothic paranormal mystery of sorts, featuring (among other things) a group of loyal comrades, a private London academy, a bit of magic, an albino, and a swoon-worthy broody professor a la Richard Armitage in North & South . *moment of silence for the awesomeness of The Armitage* And that was the extent of my pre-reading knowledge. That and the fact that I loved the cover with its simple yet moody, midnight blue and its slightly off-kilter, scripty title. Miss Percy Parker is about to embark on an adventure, albeit a much larger one than she imagines. Leaving the convent--the only home she's ever known--