Book Review: Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillanSword and Verse (Sword and Verse, #1) by Kathy MacMillan
Published by HarperTeen on January 19th 2016
Pages: 384

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.

I received this book for participating in the Epic Reads/ Harper Teen Early Readers Group.

I was super thrilled when I received this book from Epic Reads/Harper Teen. It sounded just like the type of story I would absolutely love. It’s a book about the power of books, language and communication. I loved the main character Raisa. She was a taken away from her homeland and brought over to Quilara as a slave when she was very young. After the current “tutor in training” was sentenced to death for helping teach the slaves the “language of the gods” she was sentenced to death and, Raisa was chosen to be the next “tutor in training” to the royal family.

Raisa already knows a few words/symbols because her father was training her to be the next “Learned One” before her village was attacked. In Quilara written language is restricted, only the nobles, King, prince and tutor are allowed access to it. Even more so, only the King, prince and the tutors get to know the very highest language order, known as the “language of the gods”. Raisa hopes that she can learn enough to decipher the “heart verse” her father gave to her, and which she keeps hidden, because all written language is forbidden.

As the new tutor in training Raisa spends lots of time learning the written language along with the young Prince Mati, and they soon develope feelings for one another. Their love is forbidden and just another dangerous secret Raisa has to keep to herself. If matters of the heart were not enough to deal with, Raisa is approached by the “Resistance” and asked to help teach the slaves the written language. Now Raise must decide if she is willing to but her own life at risk (as the previous tutor in training did) to help her own people raise up, which would ultimately mean making war against her own beloved Prince Mati.

I really loved Raisa. She is smart, kind and loyal. She isn’t the typical heroine out to save the world. She struggles between the love for her people and her love of Mati. She doesn’t want to disappoint either, but she also doesn’t want to cause one harm, over the other. She has had so much loss in her life, but she still manages to be emotionally and mentally strong. I love her desire to learn, and to gain knowledge.

I also liked that the romance in this book was not a love triangle, or instant love. Mati and Raisa actually get to know each other. They spend lots of time together and their love is something that grows with them. They are friends before they are “lovers” and that is something I really appreciate. I also like that though the book had this romance in it, it did not define the book. It was in there, but not center stage all the time.

Overall I was really impressed with this book, and I really enjoyed reading it. The ending left me overall pretty happy, and I am glad to hear there will be a second book (which I hope will address a few things that were a bit still unfinished to me at least). I definitely would recommend this book to anyone that loves reading Fantasy or YA.