Saturday, 12 December 2015

Review: Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

Title: Sword and Verse
Author: Kathy MacMillan
Release date: January 19th 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: eARC
Pages: 312

Source: Edelweiss

Raisa was just a child when she was sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. Despite her young age, her father was teaching her to read and write, grooming her to take his place as a Learned One. In Qilara, the Arnathim, like Raisa, are the lowest class, and literacy is a capital offense. What’s more, only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn the very highest order language, the language of the gods. So when the tutor-in-training is executed for teaching slaves this sacred language, and Raisa is selected to replace her, Raisa knows any slipup on her part could mean death.

Keeping her secret is hard enough, but the romance that’s been growing between her and Prince Mati isn’t helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slave rebels—to help liberate Arnath 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.

First of all, can we appreciate how awesome that cover is? It's complex and brilliant and probably one of my favourite YA covers. Though the book doesn't have much to do with swords, it's a powerful symbol to place there. Sword and Verse is a standalone YA fantasy, which is great because we get closure at the end of the book - no cruel cliffhangers or anything. The downside is that we don't get enough time to get to know the characters, which is what happened in this case.

Raisa is a slave girl surrounded by elites of the race that ransacked her home. Though she's forgotten much of her home and heritage, she knows what kind of people her parents were, and that's a secret she'll guard with her life. When Raisa is chosen to become the tutor-in-training to the next prince, she learns the higher order language alongside Prince Mati, and her growing feelings for him only serve to confuse her further after the Arnathi Resistance demands her help.

The social hierarchy of this land reminds me of that of Ancient Egypt, with its royals and scribes and slaves, and the emphasis on knowing how to write. Since I've been learning about Ancient Egypt in class, I found this really cool. I liked the world building in this book - it's not an info dump, and also not lacking in background. For a standalone fantasy novel, it was the perfect amount.

I really liked Raisa too - she's so determined to figure out what her heart-verse is and that goal keeps her grounded through all the obstacles she faces. The timeline in this book is different compared to most - we see Raisa at fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen if I'm not wrong. We see the development in her character as well as Mati's. Though I was disappointed that we don't get to know the other characters too well, even Mati, I really enjoyed looking through Raisa's eyes.

What I didn't like was the romance aspect of the novel, between Raisa and Mati. It started way too suddenly and very out of the blue, and then stopped just as suddenly, and then picks back up again after several months or so. It was honestly pretty weird to read about, and I didn't think there was much chemistry between them at all. There was also no room for development, what with the sudden starts and stops. I would have preferred more fluidity in that respect.

The mythology involving the gods is a nice touch, and I felt it brought more validity to the world the author has created. Again, a little similar to Egyptian divine mythology, but I guess several ancient civilizations had similar origin stories regarding their gods. There's an interesting twist involving the gods, so pay attention to the little snippets of mythology at the beginning of each chapter!

Overall, I quite enjoyed this one. It was lighter than most YA fantasies, and though it wrapped up a bit too quickly and nicely, I liked reading about Raisa's journey. I would definitely recommend this to fantasy lovers!

*Thank you to HarperCollins for providing me with an eARC for review*

Rating: 3.5/5

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