The Rose and the Dagger continues the story of The Wrath and the Dawn, finishing it up. In the wake of the storm and fire that have mostly destroyed the city of Rey, Shahrzad finds herself in the desert with her father, her sister, Tariq, and gathering forces that are preparing to move against her husband and her city. Ultimately, that's most of what this book is: Shazi city around doing not much at all. She flies around on a magic carpet a bit, tries to learn some magic of her own--mostly unsuccessfully, except when it most matters, of course--and pines for Khalid, who is still referred to as "the boy-king" in every other sentence, even though he most certainly is not a child. Oh, and she tries to figure out how to break the curse, except the curse no longer seems to figure that strongly into the plot. In fact, nothing really seems to figure strongly into the plot.
The Wrath and the Dawn had some compelling romance to propel it, and a mystery lurking in the background to prop it up. But that's not the case here. Shahrzad and Khalid are already in love; Tariq is a sham of a third size on a love triangle. The mystery has all been revealed, and the curse is ultimately wrapped up in a handful of pages. The most interesting pieces of this, the Fire Temple and the people involved with it, are pushed off to the side as unimportant. Instead, this broiling political intrigue of "who will win Khorasan?" lurks in the background, but it's really not much intrigue at all. Ahdieh throws in a near-rape for what I can only imagine was intended shock value, though I thought it fell flat and really had no purpose in the plot at all. There's another secondary romance that pops up, and is frustrating in the end because the way that it ends is just...ugh. Really? There was no point in that. And Despina is back again, with a Secret Background that is...again, pointless. It feels like Ahdieh basically wrote some crazy fanfiction and then just made it into cannon. None of it really held any emotion or any real significance.
And the fragmented sentences! Oh my. Did the first book have this many fragmented sentences? Some would probably say that this is a stylistic choice, and that it may be, but it's a poor one. It makes every other sentence, and sometimes multiple "sentences" in a row, read as choppy and broken. They don't flow, and they pulled me right out of the story, such as it was. Combined with the "not much is really happening" plot of this book, I was left very disappointed in this book as a whole. The first one wasn't great, but it did have some good potential, and I really hoped to see that nurtured and fleshed out in the second half of the story. That didn't happen; like in The Mirror King, this book ended up being a disappointing second half to a duology, and I feel like this particular pair of books didn't have a ton to offer in the first place. The premise itself is absolutely breathtaking, but I think the execution fell flat and the story never really lived up to that promise.
2 stars out of 5.