Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan
Book #1 in Sword and Verse
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: January 19th 2016
ARC Provided by Edelweiss and Harper Teen
Christal’s Review – 3 Skulls – C
Sword and Verse has emerged as a very divisive novel; people seem to either love it or hate it. While I neither want to pledge my undying love to the book nor throw it out a window, I did find it to be a pleasant enough, if a little bland, read.
In the kingdom of Qilara, the Arnathim slave class is not taught to read and write. That privilege is mostly saved for the ruling elite; but Raisa, a young Arnath slave girl, is picked to be the new tutor-in-training — one of the only Arnath slaves allowed to become literate. The previous tutor was executed for aiding the slave rebellion, so Raisa knows her own life will be scrutinized as well. She is taught side-by-side with Prince Mati and the two quickly develop a romance. Soon after, Raisa is approached by the rebels with a request for help. Even though she is struggling to balance her feelings for Mati, Raisa can’t ignore her own people.
Raisa was a likeable enough character in Sword and Verse, but she was very passive and content to let things happen to her instead of acting upon her choices. She does get better in the end, but it took a while to get there. The relationship between Mati and Raisa leans pretty heavily on instalove and the appeal of Mati, at this point, was kind of lost on me. He had so much power over Raisa, with her being a slave and him royalty, that their interactions always seemed doomed to failure. Mati was born to fulfill expectations and marrying a slave girl isn’t one of them. He doesn’t understand why him marrying someone else bothers Raisa and he actually comes off kind of naïve and spoiled in the beginning. By the end of the book, he is much more selfless but the amount of growth he displays almost doesn’t feel earned. While I wasn’t a fan of their relationship in the beginning, I did like them together in the end when they had more of an equal partnership.
The plot of Sword and Verse itself was interesting; I actually liked how the mythology of the gods was reveled bit by bit in each chapter. This slow reveal actually worked to help align the gods’ modern day with Raisa’s modern day and I quite liked how that fell together. That said, I can see why a lot of people dropped out of this book around 50% or so. It is kind of slow-going for a while with Raisa learning how to read and write and the tepid romance between her and Mati; but, I found the back half of the book to be really exciting, especially when the real Resistance began to come together. I loved the introduction of Jonis, even if he was extremely (and rightfully!) angry through most of the book. The ending conflict was nicely done and I enjoyed the last few chapters where the survivors began putting Qilara back together.
I was happy with the way Sword and Verse ended and don’t feel it needs anything more to support the story. The author is working on a sequel with a different POV character though. I’m not sure who I would recommend this book too… It was definitely a YA with all the angst and teenage love/drama we expect from the genre, but the fantasy elements were so small they were practically nonexistent. I would actually consider this book to be more alternate history than fantasy overall. It had a vaguely Egyptian mixed with some Greek feel to it. Also, while I enjoyed the focus on learning and literacy and how fighting for the right to learn was so important to the Arnath slaves, I can see why others found the build up to the conclusion to be tedious. I think Sword and Verse is one of those books you just have to try for yourself. Check out a sample at Amazon or pick up a copy at your local library before you commit to this story. I found it enjoyable, but your mileage may vary.
Thank you to Harper Teen via Edelweiss for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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