Review: SWORD AND VERSE by Kathy MacMillanSword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan
Published by HarperTeen on January 19th 2016
Pages: 384
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Royalty
eARC provided by HarperTeen

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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.

I was so excited to read this story. The cover is beautiful and the tale is complex with language and writing as it’s theme. Raisa was a conflicted character. Although she is a slave, she is one of the most privileged slaves in the kingdom. She studies the lower and higher order language right next to the prince as she will one day tutor his offspring. When she is approached by other slaves, her own people, she scoffs at the idea of an uprising against the king. Once she and the prince, Mati, start to fall in love, the blinders come off and she see how captive and exploited her people really are. Caught between helping her people and the man she loves, Raisa makes some tough choices.

This isn’t easy to review. I genuinely loved this Sword and Verse. Let me try and explain why:

Language is the basis of Raisa’s life. As a child, Raisa was taught the lower order language by her father. Her parents die to protect her and by a stroke of luck she becomes the one slave who gets to learn how to write and read ot just the lower order, but the higher order language as well. She fights hard to learn how to read, write, and understand everything she gets her hands on. The main reason is for her to understand her “heart verse”, something her father wrote for her in the hopes that she would one day decipher it for herself. I loved learning about the language through Raisa’s coming to understand it for herself. Since we are in Raisa’a POV throughout the story, I found myself really excited when she discovered something new.

The romance was well written. At first it seems impossible for  Mati, (the prince), and Raisa to get together.  This wasn’t an insta-love situation. There was a slow build up to their romance and I loved it! I didn’t even see how they would try to be together, but then they were and it was so good. This love goes through loads of trials and separations. I swooned at how Mati was toward Raisa, and I loved where they ended up. This was a great romance.

The conflict for Raisa is real. Since Raisa is for all intents and purposes a “slave” to the king, she should want to help her people. It was mentioned over and over that because she lived in the palace she had no idea what it was really like for a slave. I enjoyed seeing things through Raisa’a eyes. She doesn’t immediately throw herself into the rebellion. Once she really finds out what it is like for her people, she does try to help. In the end she becomes an army of one, not really fitting into either side. (sorry, that’s all I can say without major spoilers)

There is somethings about this story that I know will be hard for some to like. Again, let me try to explain:

The 1st chapter confused me at first. We get that there is an execution happening. I completely forgot about it until it is explained (much later) in the book. It is only by chance that Raisa gets her position as tutor, but it does look mighty coincidental given her family’s history.

This story takes place over a looong time frame. We cover over a year in this book. Things change dramatically from what we see in the first chapter. I lost a bit of interest around the 1/3 mark. Then something happened and I was drawn right back in.

Raisa’s character starts off a bit blank. She is really young at the start of this story, so there isn’t much to her character. A lot of growth happens for Raisa and some of it is painful to watch  read. The person she becomes is pretty awesome, but the reader needs to be willing to watch her make some mistakes in order for her growth to happen.

The story of the Gods is written into the beginning of every chapter. I guess this could be a good or bad thing depending on how you feel about them. I would have liked them not at the beginning of each chapter. There was a lot going on for Raisa, so keeping track of their story was difficult for me. It did all make sense in the end though.

In conclusion I enjoyed this Sword and Verse enough to recommend it:

I got so swept in Sword and Verse that I stayed up way past my bedtime reading. It tells a great story that was hard for me to put down. Raisa was believable because she was so conflicted. I would like to say that learning the language was the best thing about this book, but for me it was the romance. This was a fun read. I am sad it is a stand-alone, because I want more.

My Rating

4kisses

About Kathy MacMillan

Kathy MacMillan is a writer, American Sign Language interpreter, consultant, librarian and signing storyteller. She holds National Interpreter Certification from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Her diverse career includes working as a children’s librarian at public libraries, working a school librarian at the Maryland School for the Deaf, leading the Eldersburg Library Bookcart Drill Team, and performing as Scooby-Doo, Velma, and a host of other characters at a theme park. Kathy presents American Sign Language storytelling programs through her business, Stories By Hand, and also runs the storytime resource website Storytime Stuff. She is a volunteer director and board president of Deaf Camps, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides camps for deaf children. Kathy holds a Master of Library Science from the University of Maryland, a Bachelor of English from the Catholic University of America, and a Certificate of American Sign Language Interpreting from the Community College of Baltimore County. She lives in Owings Mills, MD with her husband, son, and a cat named Pancake.

I received this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links. This review is in compliance with the FTC guidelines.

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