Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan – Review

February 3, 2016 Reviews 13 ★★★★½

Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan – ReviewSword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan
Series: Sword and Verse #1
on 1/19/16
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 384
Source: Edelweiss
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex, but it's not shown)
My rating:
4.5 Stars

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.

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My Take

This book didn’t quite fit the mold that I’ve gotten used to with a lot of YA fantasies lately, but that made me appreciate it even more. I loved the mythology that was woven in throughout the book and the fact that the written word was so important to the story was a huge bonus!

This book has a great synopsis, so I won’t spend time telling you what it’s about. Instead I’ll jump straight into my review.

 What Fed My Addiction:

  • Fantastical religious history. One of the first things that really drew me into this book were the “mythological” stories of the gods and goddesses of Raisa’s world. Each chapter begins with a snippet of the gods’ stories, but those stories are also interwoven into the main plot of the book because they are so central to the beliefs of the people. In Raisa’s society, the written word is sacred. Only the Quilarans are allowed to write at all – Raisa’s people have been forced into slavery and are severely punished if they’re caught writing. Then there’s the more elevated form of writing reserved for the gods, the king and his tutor – the slave who is supposed to teach the next king to write. Writing is used as a form of power, and we slowly learn the story of how this came to be and how the gods fought over whether or not writing should be given to the people. This history was my favorite part of the book, and I LOVED the way it all tied into the story in the end!
  • An enslaved people. The themes of slavery in this book and how people could allow some of the atrocities that came along with it were incredibly powerful. I loved that Mati wanted to change things, but he didn’t have the power to enact true change, even though he was supposedly one of the most powerful people in the kingdom. I also appreciated that Mati wasn’t perfect. He was a realistic sympathizer – even though he wanted to change the major atrocities that went along with slavery, he didn’t necessarily understand the perspective of the slaves or see how all of the little oppressions were just as damaging as the more obvious abuse. Trust amongst all the major players in this book was extremely low – which was both realistic and understandable. And Raisa’s internal struggle between supporting her people and supporting the man she loved also felt incredibly truthful.
  • Raisa and Mati. While there were some aspects of Raisa and Mati’s relationship that were frustrating, I again thought that this was realistic based on their society. As a slave and a future king, Raisa and Mati were doomed from the start. How Raisa and Mati felt about this varied depending upon what was happening around them, how much control they felt they had over circumstances and just plain emotion – sometimes the heart and the mind just aren’t on the same page!

What Left Me Wanting More:

  • Pacing toward the beginning. While I loved the set-up of the story, I did feel like there was a slight lag when Raisa and Mati were developing their relationship – the part where things were mostly smooth sailing (with only the need to hide the truth marring the perfection of their budding love) actually felt a little slow. BUT I did appreciate that time where they were happy so that I was more affected when things started to go very wrong.

One other point of note – even though this is the first book in a series, it could very easily be a standalone. (I’ve read that the next book will be take place after this one, but will be from a different character’s perspective). This is a definite bonus, as far as I’m concerned.

This is one of those books that I appreciate more the longer I think about it. In fact, I initially gave the book four stars, but felt the need to bump it up a half star upon reflection. The mythology and the final outcome of the book just far overshadow the parts where I was slightly dissatisfied, in retrospect. Therefore, I give it 4.5/5 stars.

***Disclosure: I received this book from Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

About the Author

Kathy-MacMillanKathy 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.

Author Links:
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13 Responses to “Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan – Review”

  1. Karen Blue

    Yes, I had the same feelings. Despite the issues with the story, it stayed with me way after I finished reading it. After reviewing the eARC, I bought a hardcover to support the author. I really can’t wait to read more from this series. Great review!

  2. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    Oh YAYYYYY I am so glad you liked this one! I have been reading the strangest things- some people looooove it, some people HATE it, but I think you and I have pretty similar tastes, so this is reassuring!! And it’s good to know that the pacing is slow at first, I will take that into account! Great review 😀

  3. Lois @ My Midnight Musing

    I am so excited about this book. So far I’ve been hearing mixed reviews about this one but I’m confident that I’ll enjoy it. The premise sounds really interesting and I love the fact that writing is used as a tool of power. I’ll be sure to power through the slow pacing at the beginning. The dynamic between Raisa and Mati sounds like my kind of relationship. I’m a sucker for a couple vs society angle haha. 😀

  4. Madilyn Quinn

    This sounds really interesting. I like the idea that writing is a sacred thing.. I’m not sure I’ve seen it in a book before. Will have to add this to my endless TBR list!

  5. Jen

    I’m so happy that you enjoyed this book! I find mythological stories fascinating, and I use to read a ridiculous amount of Greek Mythology books when I was a child. So I’ll definitely be looking into this book more, thank you Nicole!

  6. Alecia

    Wow this sounds like an incredible YA fantasy! The only thing that has me put off is the slow pace of relationship buildup at the beginning which any slow pacing at the beginning of any novel can put me to sleep. Awesome review btw!

  7. Debbie

    OMG look at that beautiful cover!! This sounds amazing and your review has got me wanting to read the book!

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