(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)Published by HarperCollins on January 19th 2016
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Royalty, Young Adult
In a sweeping fantasy that award-winning author Franny Billingsley called "fascinating and unique," debut author Kathy MacMillan weaves palace intrigue and epic world building to craft a tale for fans of Rae Carson and Megan Whalen Turner.Raisa was just a child when she was sold into slavery in the kingdom of Qilara. Before she was taken away, her father had been adamant that she learn to read and write. But where she now lives, literacy is a capital offense for all but the nobility. The written language is closely protected, and only the King, Prince, Tutor, and Tutor-in-training are allowed to learn its very highest form. So when she is plucked from her menial labor and selected to replace the last Tutor-in-training, who was executed, Raisa knows that betraying any hint of her past could mean death.Keeping her secret guarded is hard enough, but the romance that's been blossoming between her and Prince Mati isn't helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance—an underground rebel army—to help liberate the city's slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries—one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees.
Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan was a book I was impatiently waiting to get my hands on so the second I had it I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold off on reading it. I’m glad I didn’t because I really enjoyed the story. Please know that my review won’t cover everything because there is so much going on in this story that I just wouldn’t be able to do it all justice. With that said, just take my word for it that this is one book you will want to add to your list if it isn’t already there. Also, just look at that beautiful cover!
Raisa is the main character and she has a secret past. We find that being Arnathim, it is a capital offense to read and write and prior to being a slave, Raisa’s father was setting her up to replace him as a Learned One. Unfortunately one of the worst things possible happens and her village is attacked, her parents are killed, and Raisa is sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. On the day we meet Raisa, we find out that the current tutor-in-training is being executed for teaching the slaves the sacred language. See, only the King, the Prince, the Tutor, and the Tutor-in-training are allowed to read and write and even then, everything is either burned or placed in a secure place of worship. With the execution, there is a need for a new tutor-in-waiting and because Raisa inadvertently puts herself on the Prince’s radar, she is put into the group of slaves being considered for the role.
When Raisa is selected to be the new tutor-in-waiting, she has to adjust quite a bit from her previous role but she also has a hope that by learning the language she will be able to read her heart-verse which was given to her by her father just before he died. As she begins her classes, she is learning things side by side with Prince Mati but it is clear Raisa and Mati are learning for different reasons. He will be a leader someday and she will teach his children to read and write and someday train her own replacement.
There were things I liked about both Raisa and Mati. First with Raisa, she was driven and intelligent. She clearly tried to think through the decisions she made and I appreciated the fact that she didn’t just jump on the rebellion bandwagon immediately. Prince Mati was a solid character but it was clear he didn’t really think through what his actions would mean for Raisa…at least not completely. Don’t get me wrong, he cares about her but he knows they are in very different roles. He does what he can to protect Raisa throughout the story and I love that about him. The progression of their relationship (from classmates to friends to more) is something that I thought MacMillan did a wonderful job conveying.
I also thought MacMillan did a wonderful job of developing this world the characters live in. There is clear tension between the classes and obviously language plays a giant role in the story. The different types of writing and communication and then too, the different statuses of people throughout the entire story made things very class oriented and I found it all very interesting.
As the story progresses, we are introduced to the rebels and what they are asking of Raisa. The action really picked up in the last third of the book and I enjoyed how MacMillan set the stage for the climax through the front half of the book. There are quite a few twists and turns and I couldn’t put the book down because I needed to find out what was going to happen next. If you are looking for a fantasy that focuses on class division and language, has some action, and of course, some swoony bits, consider checking out Sword and Verse. I look forward to more from MacMillan and since this is listed as a series, I am curious to see where she takes us with the next book!
Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for the review copy!