Series: Sword and Verse #1
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.
4 Drink Me Potions
“One does not entreat the gods through shouted prayers or offerings, but through their greatest gift to us, writing.”
Sword and Verse was the unexpected read for me this year. A marevellous fantasy with layers of romance, this book focuses not on the expert swordsman as our heroine, but an expert writer.
Raisa is the daughter of a Learned One, part of the Arnath people who knew how to read the language of the gods. However, through extermination over the years by the Qilarites, there aren’t many Arnathim, let alone Learned Ones, that could still read and write this beautiful language. So becoming a Tutor for the future king, she forms an unlikely friendship (that turns into something more) with Prince Mati.
Okay, I will warn that this novel isn’t what you may expect of a high fantasy. Our lovely girl isn’t an assassin (like some YA books) or even wields some kind of power. Oh no, she’s as normal as can be.
Minus the fact that she holds the secret words her father gave her and the courage she has to learn the language of the gods even when it’s forbidden.
This book is entirely focused on the idea of language and how to learn its individual symbols. For that reason, if you’re someone who doesn’t really enjoy the intricate details of such knowledge, this may tire you a little in the middle.
But hold on tight! I swear, this book is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. In this land, words and writings are just as powerful as any sword.
Beyond that very intriguing premise, the romance is packed from the start. It’s not exactly insta-love, but the thing is, Raisa forms a crush on Mati even before the story really gets rolling as the plot covers approximately a few years. Mati also somehow feels the same way but it all seems quite fast as we as readers don’t get to spend all that much time with them to truly understand the depths of their feelings before they start confessing their love for each other. That was one minor bump I had to get over initially.
You know my opinions on love triangles. I don’t have much patience for them, and so I’m glad to see their romance doesn’t throw in that obstacle. However, it’s not like nothing gets complicated for them. Things happen in the middle that’s understandable but makes me wanna smack Mati in the head. In this way, Raisa has some romantic issues to overcome as well.
With a large cast of characters, this adventurous story draws us into this land of racial and class prejudices, remarkably similar in feeling to The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. It explores the injustices the Arnath people face from the Qilarites, but it also takes a look at how the Qilarites are also trapped in their own roles and expectations just as much as Arnaths are slaves. I thought it covered these issues well, with Raisa being the perfect balance between the two groups. She’s Arnath, but she doesn’t group all the Qilarites into one anomalous blob that can’t be distinguished from each other. Mati helps her see that in each group there is good and bad. They are all human, after all.
The one thing that prevented me from giving it a 5 star rating is the huge secret that Raisa carries and the culminating acts that propels the story into its climax. I guess I was expecting a little more to the secret message, but overall, I’m still very satisfied with how MacMillan tied all the pieces together.
In the midst of Raisa’s story, at the beginning of every chapter, we see the beautiful story of the gods and goddesses of this world unfold and how they interacted with the mortals. The mythology crafted here was detailed and beautiful in its own way. Although they’re only small snippets per chapter, by the end of it, I wanted to weep with the gods as well for all they too had suffered and done wrong. It beautifully meshed in with Raisa’s story.
Overall, Sword and Verse showed that a heroine doesn’t have to be the best fighter or the strongest sorceress. She can be someone true of heart. A teacher. And a writer. As a writer myself and a lover of words, this message resonated with me. Words can be as sharp as a blade. And if you look carefully on the cover, the second symbol of Raisa’s name, Sa, is drawn onto the sword’s blade. Light of wisdom.
Sword and Verse is a beautiful story of the gods and goddesses of this world that created a rift between the mortal humans below. Raisa, an Arnath, has the privilege of being among the Qilarites in a capacity beyond a simple slave. She’s a Tutor. As the only Arnath to learn the language of the gods without being killed, she also holds a secret of her past. This book focuses on the gorgeous language completely imagined by MacMillan, including the different characters Raisa has to learn. If you’re not all that interested in literacy and languages, this may be a little tiring for you at times, but if you’re a lover of words like I am, it’s just perfect. Among her problems, her HOT but forbidden romance with Prince Mati leads to dire consequences that forces Raisa to be stronger than she ever had to be. Sword and Verse was a surprisingly endearing fantasy novel that crept into my heart. I duly recommend you give this a try.