Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Review: Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

Book Description:

Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: January 19th 2016 by HarperTeen

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.

Reviewer's Copy: ARC

Source: Harper Collins(Thank you!!)

My Thoughts:

Raisa was an endearing heroine. She was realistic, in such a way that she was not entirely rebel and not entirely turning her back on the Arnathim. She was somewhere in between, being pulled to different directions by her desire to help her people, her personal goal to decode her heart-verse, the last reminder she had of her family, and her pounding heart. She struggled and grappled with hard decisions and impending consequences throughout the book. Her honesty, desperation, loyalty and perseverance made her 100% human in my eyes. Raisa knew her strengths and weaknesses and embraced them. She was a beautifully flawed character who made mistakes and sometimes, bad decisions. But she rolled along with the consequences with grace, and this was one of the things I liked about her.

Mati was the kind-hearted prince charming of the story. Devastatingly handsome with his olive skin and onyx hair, I fell for him along with Raisa. The weight of responsibilities and expectations dragged him down. With an anti-Arnathim circle, he needed to be one step ahead of everyone, if he wanted to keep his throne and protect Raisa. Mati was one of the most loyal characters I have ever encountered, through good and bad times. I liked his conviction and dedication to see things through. He was the true prince charming, minus the stallion and the armor, but with a sword and secret passages.

This book reminded me of The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski because of the class struggle and master-slave relationship. Qilarites were olive-skinned and black-haired, the reigning class in all of Qilara. They were the ruling class, composed of guards, courtiers, priests and royalty. The Arnathim, the slaves, were pale-skinned and had varying colors of hair. My first impression was this: the generic, stereotypical assumption on the races of masters and slaves was reserved. The concept was refreshing and quite daring, if I may add. The Qilarites were suppressing all manifestations of rebellion but in doing so, they were creating a bigger fire. The Arnathim Resistance was bristling with anger and thirst for revenge for all their loss and suffering. Though not all Arnathim were part of the Resistance. Most of them were too scared to lose their lives or endanger their loved ones. The situation was a mirror of real life histories, such as the Philippines during the Spanish Colonial Period.

At the beginning of every chapter, there was a short part retelling the story of the pantheon of gods and goddesses that Qilarites and Arnathim worshipped, reminiscent of the Greek mythology in some ways. As Raisa and Mati’s story developed, the mythology of the story world complimented the events. Sword and Verse was actually two stories in one book. The author did a splendid job on the elaboration of her own mythology and it resonated and fit in the story.

The plot of Sword and Verse was beautifully crafted, like a colorful tapestry: there was an abundance of twists and turns and surprises to keep the reader guessing, heart-warming, smile-inducing romance that could flip the reader's world at any time, loss, heartache and tragedy to keep the reader grounded in the story world's reality and salvation to give the reader hope. The book was quite political, too. I loved how the characters moved and thought, struggling to be one step ahead of the other in this political game. Power, influence and impending doom played into the story raising the stakes.

The writing style was fluid and easy to lose yourself into. I delighted in each page that I read. The book had an endearing cast. I enjoyed reading about the Resistance the most for some reason. Jonis, the not-so-nice, spunky rebel leader, had barbed banter with Raisa. He was just doing everything in his power to survive and keep his people as safe as possible, all while plotting how to bring down the Qilarites. The children slaves made my heart ache with their innocence, lost childhood and suffering.

All in all, Sword and Verse was a beautiful, romantic and heart-shattering debut, with the forbidden romance, the deliciously sweet rebellion, the mystery behind the writing and the mythology. I'm giving this book a five because it appealed to the softer side of me: the hopeless romantic and the lover of all things written. It might not be as epic or action-packed as I was expecting it to be, but it definitely satiated my thirst for fantasy and romance. What a way to start 2016. I highly recommend this to fantasy readers, romance readers, people who are looking for a colonial-period, historical vibe book and people who are interested in books about class struggle.


5 Cupids = Eternal book love.
I will never, ever, ever forget this book. I highly recommend this!


  1. Glad you liked this. I'm looking forward to it too.

    1. Hi Natalie! I hope you give it a shot when it's out. And I hope it doesn't disappoint.

  2. The Winner’s Curse is another series I need to read, but after reading your review of Sword and Verse, it definitely demands to be read soon–I’ll be pushing this one up my reading list :D Great review!!

    1. Push both up your reading list! Thank you!! <3