Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

Sword and Verse (Sword and Verse, #1) 
Title: Sword and Verse
Author: Kathy MacMillan
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: January 19, 2016
Source: eARC from the Publisher
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.
Of all the fantasy novels that I have read recently (and I have read A LOT), I have no qualms in saying that Sword and Verse has the most intriguing premise bar none. I mean, come on - a kingdom where literacy is banned? Where education is not a right but a privilege granted to only the most powerful? Where the one who will teach the prince and heir to the throne is a slave - a slave treated well, but a slave nonetheless? And if you're still not convinced... this book also has elements of mythology woven in to its storyline! Sounds amazing, right!?

I'm not going to lie - despite my initial excitement, the first few chapters of Sword and Verse were not the easiest to read. I found them a little bit boring, but more than that, it was a struggle making sense of the decisions Raisa and Prince Mati, our main characters, made. I initially found their characters immature, and I had a hard time believing that they were truly in love because they profess it so early on! I also found it difficult to like Prince Mati because feel like I didn't get to know him like Raisa knows him. The first 20-25% of the book read more like a love story than a fantasy novel, and not that there is anything wrong with that, but it's just not what I signed up for, if you get what I mean.

I'd like to point out, however, that the love between Raisa and Prince Mati isn't exactly insta-love though it may seem like it. It's just that I feel like their relationship started and developed (though they didn't exactly realize it) as they grew up and learned the Language of the Gods together as tutor-in-training and heir apparent respectively... and thus before the happenings of the book. As a result, we weren't exactly privy to it. I do think that it would have been much better if we got more of the 'before' - how Raisa and Prince Mati met, how they became friends, and how they learned to trust each other.

Okay, folks, so I know that the last few paragraphs might have made you decide to pass on this book, but DON'T LISTEN TO ME... because as I read on, well damn, the book GOT SO MUCH BETTER. (So much better that I needed to express myself in all caps!) Remember how I thought Raisa was an immature character? Nope, I couldn't be more wrong. She wasn't immature - she simply was just a young girl who was distracted in love. Also, my previous misgivings of how Sword and Verse seemed more of a love story than a fantasy novel? Uh-huh - I was proven wrong too! The latter part of the book gave due focus to this beautiful world she has created, and I also want to take a moment to laud how expertly MacMillan developed Raisa into a believable character that you root for and someone you want to succeed!

Raisa is not your quintessential fantasy heroine. She's not brash and outspoken; and she's not a skilled fighter. This doesn't mean that she isn't any less strong though - Raisa uses her intellect and her wit to win battles, and these are what make her a force to be reckoned with. The most difficult of decisions and tasks were thrust to Raisa, and since Raisa had no one who can guide her, everything she did she had to do herself - she stood up, dusted her hands, and took action. I also liked the fact that MacMillan portrayed Raisa as a girl that everyone she can relate to - she gets upset, she sometimes makes the wrong decisions, she sometimes lets her feelings get the best of her... her character is as realistic as they come.

Sword and Verse is not just your ordinary fantasy novel, nor is it your ordinary romance either. It's a tale of strength and courage; a tale of love and passion; a tale of growth and self-discovery, and most importantly, a tale of change... all these amidst political dissent. You might find the first few chapters bland, but I encourage you to continue reading because next thing you know, you'll be tearing through the pages because you cannot get over the world-building, the heart-pounding action, and Raisa's character development. Oh - and did I mention that Sword and Verse can be read as a standalone? And that it doesn't end as a cliffhanger!? (I KNOW!!!)

Rating: 4 Stars


  1. Lyra, you are giving me hope for all these books people have DNF'd or not really cared for! THANK YOU! Haha. I really want to read this one, but have heard similar things to what you stated early on in your review.

    I am so glad you ended up really enjoying this one despite those things! I think I can handle them bc I know about them going in. I'm excited to meet Raisa! She sounds great after we don't see her so lovestruck. But then again, if she's a teen it actually makes sense!

    Now I'm really excited to read this. Thanks Lyra!

  2. Whoa! Ok so I must admit that this book is on my TBR but I haven't seen many reviews for it and I haven't read the blurb. I don't think I have at least. But there is mythology combined into it as well? That's so amazing! It's usually the other way around though that at some point romance totally takes the wheel and the plot weakens but I'm super glad to hear that this is the opposite and tbh I love bffs to lovers love stories so I think this will suit me well :) I AM SO IN LOVE WITH RAISA ALREADY!!!! I love characters who we can all relate to, who are intelligent and not physically the strongest; characters who make mistakes, but learn from them. I'm so glad you loved it and you made me super excited about reading this book Lyra <3

    Siiri @ Little Pieces of Imagination

  3. I'm glad to see you enjoyed this! I'd seen so many mediocre reviews of it that I was getting worried. And I'm happy to hear the main character is more of an intellectual badass than a physical one!

  4. I (Sasha) am in the middle of reading this one. I've been reading it for a while because I don't like to read on an ereader, but also because sometimes the book is not the MOST exciting. I mean, I do really like it, but the beginning of the book was, like you said, more of a love story than a fantasy novel. I'm hoping I can finish it soon, though!

    Also, we're subscribing to your blog right now! We love it. :)

    Sarena and Sasha

  5. It seems like its a general consensus that the beginning of the romance could have been better developed, but I'm glad that you enjoyed the rest of the book like I did! I especially found the mythology that was woven into the story really interesting.


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