Series: Sword and Verse #1
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex, but it's not shown)
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.
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.***