Book Review: The Rose and the Dagger

Title: The Rose and the Dagger
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Magic

What’s it About: Khalid goes around his city helping the citizens rebuild. He encounters two kids who are cleaning up a house on their own, and the girl is named Shiva. Both of them remind him of Shahrzad in their own way.

Shahrzad on the other hand is in her tent with the al-Sadiq family. They found her father at the outskirts of the city, with burns on his hands, and so he is now recovering–asleep. She goes with her sister to the Sheikh’s tent, and gets stopped because she has a weapon. Tariq comes to her rescue telling the soldier to drop it, and she notices a thin boy whose eyes watch her with hatred. Inside the tent, Omar al-Sadiq talks to her and Tariq, and while Shahrzad is trying to keep her emotions in check, she thanks him for taking care of her father. Then, Reza speaks to her and asks her why she is insulting him by wearing the ring of the boy who murdered his daughter. Reza tells her to decide, and she runs out of the tent, straight into the soldier from earlier, and finds out that he is one of the Fida’i assassins for the mark that he wears on his forearm. She finds herself back in her own tent, promising herself that until she can understand what is going on, she will not trust anyone. Irsa follows Shahrzad to the tent, and ties her ring on twine so that Shahrzad can carry it as a necklace. And then they talk about Khalid and Shahrzad’s time in Rey, though Shahrzad does not impart everything.

Khalid is training with his swords, thinking about how he had learned to fight alongside his brother, Hassan, and how when he bested his brother, their father had shown pride. He then sent Hassan off to be taught by the best, while Khalid had to fend for himself. Khalid thinks about the two kids he met the other day, when Jalal shows up and starts joking about money. He also chastises Khalid for disappearing for hours during the day, but Khalid realizes something is up and asks Jalal what is the matter with him. Jalal finally tells him that he is going to be a father and that the mother of his child won’t have him. Jalal tells Khalid that his only intention was to keep Shahrzad safe, and Khalid tells him that he believes him; there’s no need to discuss it further. Jalal tells him that he thinks he wants to marry the mother of his child, and Khalid first asks him whether he knows or thinks, and tells him to be careful; that saying you love someone means different things to different people and it’s not okay to just say it in a passing moment.

Back at the Badawi camp, Irsa watches Shahrzad finish telling her about the carpet, demonstrating how it works and what it does. Irsa then asks Shahrzad if she would ask the Magus at the Fire temple about their father waking up from whatever thing befell him. They head over to their father’s tent, and Irsa tells Shahrzad that she doesn’t know why they’re allowed to say at the Badawi camp, but that Tariq is close to Omar and Omar also trades in horses and weapons with Reza. Shahrzad then asks about the thin boy she saw earlier, and Irsa says she calls him Spider because of how he looks but she doesn’t know what his name is. When Shahrzad comments that he is disconcerting, Irsa just disregards her concern saying he’s harmless. While the girls are in the tent, Shahrzad raises her voice and Irsa knows that she’s lying about why she raised her voice, so she confronts Shahrzad about it–and Shahrzad says that she thinks someone was listening. It’s the first time that Irsa feels unsafe and wonders why someone would target two girls of common birth, until she realizes that Shahrzad is the Calipha of Khorasan. Irsa enters the tent and someone grabs her, apologizing and saying that it shouldn’t be her. Shahrzad enters and tells the guy to let Irsa go. The struggle begins, and then Shahrzad lets go of her dagger, at which point Spider lets go of Irsa. Irsa scrambles out, and finds Rahim, to ask him for help.

Shahrzad stays in the tent with Spider and tries to listen to him. He tells her that his name is Teymur and tries to choke her, but realizes that he is far more afraid of her than she is of him. He reveals that he was in love with Roya, one of the women that Khalid had killed. Shahrzad lies and tells Teymur that her heart lies with Tariq, not Khalid, and then tells him that Khalid never touched Roya. At that, Teymur throws her to the ground and she realizes that he is too strong for her. She taunts him, asking him what he was trying to do, and manages to find a piece of dried meat. Recognizing it, she puts it on Teymur’s collar, and Zoraya swoops down attacking Teymur. Rahim and Irsa run in, helping Shahrzad to her feet. She then calls Zoraya off, and threatens Teymur.

Shahrzad dreamt that night of the palace in Rey. In it, she finds Shiva who reveals that she had always been there with her, watching her, but that Shahrzad had never needed her until now. They share their sincere thoughts, and then Shiva tells Shahrzad that she must break the curse and asks her if she made a plan. They talk more, Shahrzad decides what she wants–Khalid, and her father well. Shiva then tells her to cut the strings and fly. Shahrzad wakes up, and walks into Tariq in front of her tent. They have a mini argument about what to do and what not do to regarding Teymur. They go farther away from the tent and it is revealed that after Shiva’s death, Shahrzad showed up in Tariq’s room, thinking that if she lost herself in his arms, she would feel again, and mourn for Shiva. Tariq on the other hand has resented himself ever since for turning her away, and it’s because he thinks that she would have stayed with him, marrying him, if she had stayed that night. He tells her that he has loved her since they were eleven, and asks if she no longer feels the same way. She tells him that she loves him but Khalid is where she is meant to be. Tariq then admits that Rahim also told her what she had said to Teymur, about her heart belonging to him, and that the rumor would spread–so it would be safer for her if she kept up the pretense that she wants to be with him. He also tells her that next time he sees Khalid, one of them will die.

In his unconscious state, Jahandar realizes that Shahrzad has the same power as he does, except that she is more powerful than him. He thinks to himself that he didn’t mean for the destruction to occur-he just wanted a distraction.

Back in Rey, Khalid visits the Rajput, whose real name is Vikram, and does not like the sight of Despina near him. Vikram is recovering from an obsidian arrowhead that was shot by Tariq into his shoulder the night of the storm. Vikram tells him that he is recovering from a shattered breastbone and a bone in his shoulder, but that he will no longer be able to fight. He tells Khalid that he feels nothing in his left hand. Ultimately Vikram asks Khalid for permission to leave the city to start a life of his own and take a wife. He chooses Despina and despite his surprise, Khalid agrees to it, promising to not start rumors in the town. Vikram asks Khalid if he will not bring Shahrzad back, revealing that he had begun to miss her.

In the Badawi Camp, Shahrzad keeps hearing Shiva’s voice repeating to her that she needs to cut the strings and fly. She tests the carpet with pitchers of water to understand how it works. In the meantime, Irsa visits with Jahandar and upon leaving the tent, does not notice Rahim, who wishes her a happy birthday. He gives her a scroll that he borrowed from Omar on the different plants and their healing properties.

Khalid helps out with cleaning the library, and while he goes to get some water, paying children for the bucket and the pitchers, Jalal finds him, and they start fighting because Jalal is so angry that Khalid sent Despina away, though Khalid had not realized it was her that Jalal loved. He draws his sword, and Jalal tells him to kill him, that Khalid had never forgiven him for sending Shahrzad away. Jalal ends it by saying that family is nothing to Khalid, and Khalid finds everything around Despina’s disappearance so strange. Ultimately Jalal tells Khalid to watch his own shadow because he no longer will.

That evening, the men in the Badawi camp go to the War council. Omar doesn’t like all of the anger, and for the first time he feels fear. He doesn’t feel comfortable having the Badawi people associated with this uprising, not yet, not until he gets enough information, and everything that Reza has been saying, has deepened Omar’s suspicions. He didn’t like that the Fida’i assassins were in his camp either, and also the attack on the Calipha did not sit well with him, especially since he was not allowed to met out justice. Shahrzad decides to stick around with Irsa as the men start coming out of the camp–she knows that if she leaves, whispers would start, and it would be a good place to watch and glean information. Tariq and Rahim join them, and the four of them sit there, talking, drinking wine. Shahrzad then realizes that Irsa and Rahim are falling for each other. Some of the other soldiers were laughing and saying that they want to put Khalid’s head on a pike, and then turn to Tariq who also tells them what he would do. Afterwards, he walks Shahrzad back to her tent, when he sees that there are some men looking out for a fight, he hides her from their view. She tells him to not trust men with the scarab on their wrists, but he doesn’t believe her. When he puts her to bed, he finds the note from Khalid, and realizes that there’s more to Khalid than he thought.

The rest of the following day, Shahrzad spent her time in her tent nursing herself from the hangover. That night, she sneaks out with her carpet and heads to the Fire Temple where she finds Musa Zaragoza. She tells him what is going on with Khalid and asks him if he would help her with her father. Musa takes her to a different man, Artan Temujin, who is better fit to help Shahrzad. Artan tells her that the book her father has was the one written by his ancestors, and it is full of old, dark blood magic. He agrees to help her so long as Shahrzad tries to practice her magic. They spend the next three nights practicing, to no avail. Shahrzad is not able to control the magic within her to repel Artan’s fireballs, and one happens to hit her square in the stomach. Artan transfers all of the burns to himself, leaving her with a scar. He tells her about his family, and why they’re horrible. Musa arrives and gives Shahrzad a pendant to give to Khalid for his sleeplessness. The following night, Irsa follows Shahrzad out and Shahrzad tells her that she will explain tomorrow, so Irsa sends her off, telling her to make promises that she can only keep, and then goes in search of Rahim to tell him a story.

Shahrzad makes her way to Khalid in Rey, and at first he doesn’t believe it’s her. He embraces her and then he keeps his distance to protect her. They talk about breaking the curse and Khalid is not too happy about getting involved with Musa Zaragoza. She tells him to fight for what he wants, and then they spend the night together. She tells him another story, and then gives him the talisman from Musa, telling him to accept help when it’s given. Khalid accepts and then tells her that the reason he won’t tell her that he loves her is that he wants to do it with his actions.

Shahrzad returns to the camp and finds Irsa in her tent. Irsa tells her that she told Rahim the truth, and asks Shahrzad to not go out that night. Instead the ladies head to see their father, and Shahrzad sees that there’s a raid happening, and realizes that they’re trying to make it easier for the Sultan of Parthia to take over the land between Parthia and Khorasan. Jahandar wakes up when the girls aren’t in there, and Reza is in his tent, so he confesses to Reza exactly what he did the night of the destruction of Rey, and Reza asks him to help him with what he plans to do. That night, Shahrzad picks up Khalid in Rey, and together they go to the Fire Temple, where at first Khalid almost gets into a fight with Musa but then they go to see Artan. Artan in turn takes them to a fortress hidden in a mountain, where his Aunt is. The lady tells him that she will help his friends now, in return for a favor later. Isuke puts Shahrzad into a trance, where Shahrzad faces her memories. Of particular interest are the ones involving Shahrzad’s father, and then the trance is broken by Artan and Khalid. Isuke tells Shahrzad that her father cannot be allowed to keep the book–his injuries will heal, but what he has unleashed with the book is more destructive. Isuke tells her that if Khalid destroys the book, his curse will be lifted.

For the next three days, Shahrzad tries to get the book from her father, but is unable to do so. She finally confides in Irsa that she needs to take the book from their father without him knowing. In exchange for her help, Irsa demands the truth, which Shahrzad tells her this time. Irsa offers to take the book from Jahandar, and meet Shahrzad and Khalid at the outskirts of town. That’s exactly what happens, except that this night Tariq and Rahim follow Irsa out of the camp. Shahrzad is not happy with the location when she arrives but holds hope that she will be able to end this finally. Then she hears a bow being drawn, and the snap of the arrow, so she shoves Khalid aside.

And the arrow buries itself in her back.

Tariq and Rahim run up and Khalid almost decapitates Tariq, but Irsa, at Shahrzad’s request, yells at Khalid. They transport her to Tariq’s tent, and Irsa is certain that Khalid almost killed Tariq at least three times while they were removing the obsidian arrowheads from Shahrzad’s. Finally when all of that is settled, Irsa heads outside the tent and finds Rahim, who tells her that he loves her. Tariq in the meantime wanders around the whole camp, chastising himself for what he did and not letting go of the hope that Shahrzad would fall back in love with him, the longer that she was apart from Khalid. He goes to his tent and tells sleeping Shahrzad that he will no longer hurt her. Khalid finds Tariq giving Shahrzad a kiss on her forehead and pulls him out to the desert, giving him a bow and three arrows to shoot him. Tariq is about to shoot Khalid, but then realizes that if he does so, he will be going back on his promise to not hurt Shahrzad. Instead Tariq asks Khalid why he killed Shiva, and Khalid is honest with him–it was the result of a curse. The two men make up.

Shahrzad wakes up the following morning wrapped up in Khalid. He wakes up too, and shortly thereafter, Tariq wakes up from the other side of the tent. Shahrzad is confused about what transpired between the men, as they’re no longer trying to kill each other. Tariq tells them that Khalid should leave, and Shahrzad agrees. Tariq leaves them alone to get provisions and a horse for Khalid, who in turn confirms that he has the book, and will destroy it as soon as he’s far away from the camp. After they argue for a bit longer about whether Shahrzad should have or shouldn’t have jumped in front of the arrow, Khalid leaves the camp.

Jahandar wakes up feeling cold, and realizes that the book is gone. He is angry, and he knows that there were three people in the camp who knew of the book–his daughters and Reza. He quickly realizes that his daughters were the one who cheated him, and decides to go to Reza to tell him about it, because he knows Reza has just as much to lose from by its disappearance.

Shahrzad leaves Tariq’s tent, and falls into Reza, who asks about her feelings and her health. He tells her that he insists on calling Aisha, Omar’s wife, to tend to Shahrzad, and takes her into his tent, where the Fida’i assassin is lying in wait for her. He grabs her by the throat and everything goes black.

Omar is afraid–he doesn’t know what has happened to Shahrzad, and he realizes that suffering has changed Reza, leaving Omar’s tribe stuck in the middle of two warring nations. He was not trying to choose sides without knowing, but he has eyes in the desert and realized that Reza was dealing behind his back with the Sultan of Parthia. He decides to tell Tariq the truth of everything that he knows and see how the boy decides, hoping that he will choose the better path and so his tribe can ride with him.

Khalid road through the dessert, and does the steps that Isuke told him to do. He ignores the book’s cries and wails, and though he is momentarily tormented by the book’s attempt to bring out his worst emotions–that he’s not worthy of anything or of anyone–Khalid decides to fight for what he wants. And he destroys the book before collapsing onto the desert.

Shahrzad wakes in the palace, and sees her father, who tells her that Reza thought it best that she was brought to Amardha, in Parthia. She realizes that he father will no longer be moved by her please, and he asks about the book, claiming to have spoken to Irsa. He doesn’t tell Shahrzad where Irsa is, and cuts her off saying that he’s given her too much freedom and that he will not allow her to lie any more. Jahandar tells her that they will discuss this matter later. Shahrzad is dressed for dinner, and is the first one at the table, when the Sultan joins her followed by her father. She exchanges some barbs with him, and the Sultan brings out dinner of all of the plates that are Shahrzad’s favorites. Salim Ali el-Sharif calls in his daughter, who turns out to be none other than Despina.

Shahrzad is enraged and Yasmina looks embarrassed. Despina keeps goading Shahrzad, which in turn results in barbs exchanged with Salim, until finally she tells her own father off for kidnapping her. Ultimately Despina takes it one step too far, and Shahrzad throws wine at her, resulting in guards taking her away from the dinner table and throwing her into prison, after cutting her braid off.

Khalid made it back to Rey and is getting to work, when his uncle comes into his room to tell him that Omar al-Sadiq had come to speak with him, with Tariq at his side. The General tells Khalid to avoid speaking to him, but Khalid rushes to meet with them. They tell Khalid the truth about Reza and what happened to Shahrzad, and Omar tells him that he wants to fight alongside Khalid. Khalid has Tariq send a message to the Fire temple, and then they make their way to the gates of Amardha. Khalid, Tariq, Rahim, Jalal, Artan and a small contingent of guards go into Amardha to meet with the Sultan of Parthia in order to get back Shahrzad. Salim tries to provoke Khalid but it is actually Tariq that gets angry when seeing Shahrzad’s braid. A fight breaks out, and Rahim gets stabbed. Artan is the one who stops all the fighting by physically threatening Salim. As they ride back to camp, Rahim asks for Irsa, and Omar goes to get her. She says her goodbyes and then angrily asks Khalid why he didn’t protect Rahim. Khalid pulls her in for a hug and lets her cry.

Shahrzad is freed from her prison by none other than Vikram, and realizes that her magic works on the basis that she has contact with other magic. Vikram takes her through the sewers and tells Shahrzad that Despina did everything she could to help her, but Shahrzad is unable and unwilling to believe it. He throws open a door and Shahrzad finds herself face to face with Despina. Despina tells her the truth of her story–how she found out about her father, and what her father wanted her to do in order for her to win his approval. Despina says that she was happier in Rey and wants to go back. She then reveals that both she and Yasmine were sent out of the palace, as the Caliph had shown up with troops. They head out of the sewers and try to find the smugglers, but those men are missing. Instead, Yasmine finds them and after getting them to trust her, she tells them that she has a plan to stop the war

The women and Vikram head over to the camp, and at first the soldiers won’t let them in, until one finally goes for Jalal. Jalal runs towards them when he hears Despina’s laughter, and he cannot believe that she’s back. She tells him that she wants to be with him. Shahrzad goes to Khalid and they talk. The following daybreak, Khalid began battering the gates of Amardha–being conscious about who he had killed, and how he would destroy the gates. He has Tariq ride with the al-Sadiq tribe, and Artan shows up with his dragon at nightfall to terrorize the people by spilling oil everywhere. Tariq shoots an arrow with fire at the gates and sets them all on fire.

At night, the Sultan shows up with his contingent of guards–unfortunately, they have to leave behind their weapons. Khalid asks for Shahrzad in exchange for returning Yasmine, and Salim tries to lie. Then Shahrzad steps into view, and lets both of his daughters tell him how she managed to get out. Despina of course was easily disregarded, but Yasmine was not. And Khalid asks that Salim abdicates his throne, gets a home outside of Rey with guards to watch him, while Yasmine becomes the Sultana of Parthia. Jahandar watches this whole exchange, with blood boiling, because he thought that he was going to get help from the Sultan, but he realized then that Khalid had taken everything that Jahandar had held dear, and he can’t find his book. When everyone stands to leave, Jahandar asks about the book, and Khalid tells him that it is destroyed. Khalid ignores his question after that, and Jahandar grabs Shahrzad’s dagger in anger. Khalid steps to protect her, and Jahandar slashes across Khalid’s face…

Straight into his heart.

Khalid slowly loses consciousness, thinking about how much he was surrounded by love and how it was more than he deserved, while Shahrzad screamed and then started sobbing.

Witnessing Shahrzad’s breaking point, Jahandar breaks. He’d never meant to hurt her–so he touches Khalid’s blood and performs a spell. His vision fades, and he finds the true power of love.

Reza waits for the Fida’i messenger, who tells him that the Sultan had surrendered to the Caliph. Reza ends up being stabbed by a sword, and the messenger gives Reza a message from Tariq.

Five years later, Khalid sits down with his son, Haroun, waiting for Shahrzad to return from the solarium. Irsa is busy studying medicine in the Solarium, and plans to travel with Tariq to Amardha, when he goes there next time-it seems that he may have a thing for Sultana Yasmine. Then, Shahrzad begins telling her son a story about a magic carpet.

My Verdict: I really enjoyed this book and the tale of Aladdin that was spun into this story–or rather the magic carpet aspect, and the dragons. I enjoy how Khalid didn’t chase after Shahrzad, because it gave this story a chance to develop by giving a depth to the mythology from the middle and Far East regions. That said, I felt a bit heartbroken for Irsa at losing Rahim, and was in shock when it turned out that Despina was Salim’s illegitimate daughter, but I’m glad that she was more loyal to Shahrzad than her own father. It seems like the book and the series had a very good resolution.

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