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.
The Rose and the Dagger continues the story in the aftermath of the storm caused by Shazi’s father. She is now in her husband’s enemies’ camp, and while they are still family, she can’t trust them with the secret of the curse nor the mission she is undertaking to break it. She is determined to use the skills at her disposal, including her magic, to get things right. One thing about Shazi is that she is fierce; even in a situation where she doesn’t have control, she asserts her power, being the queen she is. Her efforts at subterfuge don’t go unnoticed, but her sister Irsa is there to dispel any suspicion. Irsa, for her part, is the devoted but often neglected younger sister. She sees Shazi’s love for Khalid, but doesn’t entirely understand it. Over in Rey, Khalid is trying his hardest to be the king that he is, but his condition is worsening thanks to the curse and his own belief that he never deserved Shazi’s love. Tariq, lovelorn and rejected, still maintains some degree of hope for Shazi to return to him, but he also knows it is a long shot.
The majority of the book reinforces their romance, even when they are apart. Shazi’s love for him is a danger for her, and his love for her becomes a weakness for him, too. But he also has a smart head on his shoulders, and prefers to meet his enemies on even grounding. There are a bunch of new characters that get more focus in this story, but sadly their backstory doesn’t get much attention. While this is still a good sequel and a great finale, it doesn’t really compare to the former. TWATD was intense and hearstopping, while TRATD was more of a languid culmination of plot threads. I also felt that the curse was dealt with too easily? For a thing that was a noose around the main characters’ necks for so long, I wished there was a bit more information on how that connected to the mages hiding in the mountains. Anyway, it was a satisfying sequel, and that ending was good.