Sword and VerseSeries: Sword and Verse #1
by Kathy MacMillan
Published by HarperCollins, HarperTeen on January 19th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Raisa was only a child when she was kidnapped and enslaved in Qilara. Forced to serve in the palace of the King, she’s endured hunger, abuse, and the harrowing fear of discovery. Everyone knows that Raisa is Arnath, but not that she is a Learned One, a part of an Arnath group educated in higher order symbols. In Qilara, this language is so fiercely protected that only the King, the Prince, and Tutors are allowed to know it. So when the current Tutor-in-training is executed for sharing the guarded language with slaves and Raisa is chosen to replace her, Raisa knows that, although she may have a privileged position among slaves, any slipup could mean death.
That would be challenging enough, but training alongside Prince Mati could be her real undoing. And when a romance blossoms between them, she’s suddenly filled with a dangerous hope for something she never before thought possible: more. Then she’s approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slaves—to help liberate the Arnath people. Joining the Resistance could mean freeing her people…but she’d also be aiding in the war against her beloved, an honorable man she knows wants to help the slaves.
Working against the one she loves—and a palace full of deadly political renegades—has some heady consequences. As Raisa struggles with what’s right, she unwittingly uncovers a secret that the Qilarites have long since buried…one that, unlocked, could bring the current world order to its knees.
And Raisa is the one holding the key.
Sword and Verse is getting some very polarizing reviews out on Goodreads. Just quickly looking at the ratings, it appears you either loved the story or you gave it a valiant try and DNF’d it around 50%. I can actually support both viewpoints.
I, myself, got quickly wrapped up in Raisa’s story because it was quickly off and running. We meet Raisa and other young slave girls as they are cleaning a room in the palace. Very young slave girls are forced to climb high, wobbly platforms to clean friezes in the palace and temple rooms. Quite often the guards will shake the platforms just for giggles. Sounds horrible, right? Starvation, torture, and beatings are some of the other reasons why Raisa jumps at an opportunity to “audition” for the role of Tutor to a future child of the Prince.
I think another reason why I got wrapped up in this fantasy story quickly is because I had NO CLUE what was going to happen – I had forgotten everything that the synopsis had said! In my opinion, I think the synopsis to a book can make or break a book (similar to a cover). In this case, the synopsis gives away almost the entire plot and leaves almost little to unfold naturally for the reader. The reader is then left waiting anxiously for the expected things to happen, and happen quickly. Possibly why some readers gave up on the story.
I almost gave up at 50% because the plot was trucking along in a flat, straight line. Usually I like to see a plot progress steadily up towards the climax. Granted, I read the ARC so this could have been fixed, perhaps “tightened up” in the final copy. But I stayed with the story because at 60%, the veritable poop hit the fan.
I wouldn’t say this story is a romantic fantasy. In my opinion, the romance is secondary to Raisa’s story. It’s about 65% intriguing fantasy and 35% romance (5+5, carry the 1…. yep, I added that correctly).
There are two main reasons why I’m pardoning the plot pace and rating this book just over three stars: the story’s intelligent intrigue and the book’s unique message about libraries, languages, and where they fit in history.
I thought the characters were great. Ms. MacMillan’s dedication to stay true the character’s nature throughout the entire story made the court intrigue and the mystery to who killed who and who has their eye on the throne even more interesting to me. What I mean by that is that I hate it when all of a sudden a character changes a pretty major character trait or belief and it suddenly solves the dilemma in the story. No such luck here. Raisa believes so fully with her heart that she fights tooth and nail to convince everyone else what she believes, risking her own life in the process.
And at the crux of it all, the right for every human being to learn to read and write, to have access to a library. That’s something I can get behind.