The Rose and the Dagger
by Renee Ahdieh Publication: April 26, 2016 Genre: Fantasy My rating: 4/5 stars Spoilers: Some for the previous book, none for this one.
This book has been on my to-read list since the title was announced in 2015; I tried reading it shortly after the release date, but for some reason, it didn't appeal to me just then. I'm a firm believer in the concept of 'the right book at the right time' and I'm so glad I finally got around to trying again! The Rose and the Dagger was incredible. This series is a great example of the popular duology format. There's something very appealing about a rich, well-developed story that can be wrapped up neatly in two books.
And this story had an intensely satisfying ending--devastating, in some ways, but satisfying. The book was tension-filled (to the point that I read it in two days). I have complaints about a few inconsequential things, but pacing isn't one. Neither is character development. Shahrzad has grown immensely since the first book, and she continues to do so in this one. All the characters and relationships change in ways that contribute to the plot and make the ending more poignant.
I'd recommend The Rose and the Dagger to anyone who enjoyed the first book, because this is more of the same, told with even more excitement and skill. The series will appeal to anyone who enjoys well-developed settings containing magic, political intrigue, and glimpses of cultural tradition. It also contains a healthy, trust-based marriage, other minor relationships, and strong families and friendships, so if those sound good, this is for you!
Recipe: Joojeh kabob, adasi, and noon barbari
In an interview about The Wrath and the Dawn, Renee Ahdieh discussed the inspiration and research behind the food in this series. She based many dishes on ones from ancient Persia, so I turned to blogs about modern-day Iranian cuisine for my recipes. I made as few adaptations as possible for authenticity's sake; credit and links are below. These are just three of the delicious-sounding dishes Shahrzad mentions in the book, but I tried to pick ones that combined to make a nice meal!
Joojeh Kabob -- Saffron chicken
(recipe slightly adapted from Persian Mama)
2 or 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (depending on size)
1/2 a small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, pressed or grated
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil (preferably not extra virgin)
1/8 tsp ground saffron powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Instructions Begin at least 24 hours before you want to cook the chicken, because it needs time to marinate.
Cut chicken breasts into large pieces. (Aim for 1 1/2-inch cubes, but it won't be perfect. Do your best to get them approximately the same size.) In a medium glass or metal bowl, combine onion, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, saffron powder, salt, and black pepper. Stir to combine. Add chicken to bowl and stir until all sides are coated with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least a day.
Forty-five minutes before you're ready to cook the chicken, remove it from the refrigerator. If you're using bamboo skewers, soak them in water. After 45 minutes, put chicken on skewers. Preheat a skillet on medium-high. (Normally, these would be grilled. I'm terrible at grilling, so I did it on the stovetop; if you prefer to grill, see the source link above for instructions.) Place kabobs in the pan and cook until the bottoms start to brown. Flip and repeat until all sides are cooked. Test a piece of meat for doneness (it should be white and opaque all the way through) and remove to a plate. Cool slightly and serve!
Adasi -- Persian lentil stew
(recipe slightly adapted from Ahu Eats)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced, grated, or pressed
1/2 tbsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup green lentils
3/4 tsp cinnamon
Instructions Warm oil and butter in a saucepan over medium heat; add onion and cook until translucent. Stir in garlic. Turn
heat to low and cook for another 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced and golden. Add turmeric, pepper, and salt; stir and cook on medium for 1-2 more minutes. Add stock and lentils, turn heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, stir, and cover, cracking lid to vent. Simmer for 45 minutes, or until lentils are tender and liquid has been mostly absorbed. Stir a few times to prevent sticking. Stir in the cinnamon, then taste and add more salt if needed. Remove from heat and serve.
Noon barbari -- flatbread with sesame seeds
(recipe slightly adapted from Persian Mama)
For the dough
2 1/4 tsp (or one packet) yeast
3/4 tsp sugar
2 cups water, divided
4 1/2 cups bread flour, plus extra for dusting the counter
2 tsp coarse or kosher salt
For the glaze and topping
2 tsp flour
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup boiling water
3 tsp black sesame seeds
Instructions Heat 1 cup water to lukewarm, barely above body temperature when tested with a finger (no hotter or it will kill the yeast). In a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine warm water, yeast, and sugar. Rest until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the salt and flour to the bowl, then heat the other 1 cup of water to lukewarm and pour into the bowl. Stir until combined. If using a stand mixer, mix with dough hook for three minutes on medium. If mixing by hand, stir until the dough is smooth, with no dry flour. The dough will be VERY soft and sticky, but don't add extra flour! Oil another bowl lightly with cooking spray and transfer dough to it; cover and rest for 25 minutes.
While the dough is rising, make the glaze. (This isn't glaze in the 'sweet topping for donuts' sense; it's more like the solution used to give bagels their signature chewy exterior.) In a small skillet, stir flour into cold water. Add baking soda and boiling water; turn heat on to medium and continue to stir. Continue stirring until mixture boils gently and becomes slightly thick; it should no longer separate when you stop stirring. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat oven to 500°F. (My oven doesn't like to go above 475°F and my bread turned out fine, so if your oven won't do the full 500, don't worry!) Put an empty sheet pan in the oven with the rack in the bottom position. (You can also use a pizza stone, but preheat the oven with the stone in it before you begin making the dough.)
Sprinkle work surface liberally with flour and gently pour the dough onto it. Handling the dough as little as possible, cut off a third of it and carefully roll the piece in more flour until it forms a roughly round shape. Repeat with remaining two thirds. DO NOT knead or squash the dough; we're trying to keep as many air bubbles as possible!
Sprinkle more flour on your work area if necessary. Pick up a dough round and stretch it into a rough oval about 6" by 9". Use your fingers to paint the top of the oval with approximately a tablespoon of the glaze mixture. Stab your fingers into the dough to form lengthwise parallel lines, but don't puncture the dough. Run a finger along the stab marks to make long grooves. Sprinkle the dough oval with about 1 tsp sesame seeds.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a large cutting board. Carefully transfer the dough oval to the parchment paper, stretching slightly to form a longer, thinner rectangle or oval. (It helps to scoop up opposite sides of the oval with a bench knife/scraper, then use the scraper and your hand to quickly move the dough. You can reshape it slightly on the paper, but be sure not to handle it too much.)
Remove the hot pan from the oven and slide the parchment paper onto it. Return the pan to the lowest rack and bake the bread for about ten minutes, or until the top has spots of deep brown. Remove from pan and parchment paper to cool on a rack. Repeat with other two circles of dough.
Serve as soon as possible, preferably warm. (I had mine with goat cheese, as mentioned in the book!)