Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

Sword and Verse

“What might happen if writing were a shared endeavor, meant to connect people instead of being hoarded as a tool of power and privilege.”

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.

Personal Thoughts:

Being a lover of written words Kathy MacMillan’s debut novel instantly piqued my interest from the blurb alone. Imagine a world where literacy are reserved only for the most elite people. Where reading and writing are not easily accessible. I don’t think I want to live in a world like that but a story set in it has its intrigue.

Sword and Verse introduced us to Raisa and her world. Raisa belongs to the lower class of Qilara – a nation where literacy is for the higher class only. When the tutor-in-training to the Royal family is executed for treason, Raisa was chosen as a replacement. Together with Prince Mati, she got the privileged to learn not just to read and write but also know the very highest order of language and the language of the Gods.

But learning how to read and write nor having the chance to spend time with the Prince doesn’t changed her status as a slave. She still belong to the lower class and the Resistance wants her help to get their freedom back. But Raisa’s relationships with the Prince complicate her stance. Between her people and love, which side she will choose?

What I really love about Sword and Verse is the central theme of the book – how important knowledge is or in this case – literacy. For me, knowledge or information is one of the things that should be shared or given freely. No one should hold information in tight fist, especially the knowledge of learning such as reading and writing. Sharing knowledge can accomplish many things and it will benefit a lot more.

As for the the writing, Sword and Verse is a triumph for a debut novel. Kathy MacMillan clearly knows what she is doing in her first book. Her writing style is easily accessible, her characters are realistically drawn, and her world is uniquely setup and vividly sketch.

The mythology before each chapter is very intriguing. It reminds me so much of one of my favorite series The Thief by Megan Whalen-Turner. Though in here, the mythology started as own stories that eventually blended to Raisa and Mati’s world. The way Kathy MacMillan intertwined those two worlds is simply outstanding. She crafted the mythology with enough intrigue and details. At first, it so easy for readers to take the mythology as a different entity, giving only brief anecdotes at the beginning of each chapters, but as the story progress, readers will see how Kathy MacMillan mirrored the story of Gods and Goddess to Raisa and Mati’s world which eventually resulted to a more exciting and thrilling combination.

The intricate writing system is impressive. I’m sure lovers of language/words and writings will surely appreciate this part. The reader in me surely does. The way Kathy MacMillan described the scripts, symbols, languages of the Gods, and the written words in this tale is detailed, making the scenes so vivid. Sometimes I imagined Raisa and Mati in a calligraphy or lettering class doing all the symbols meticulously described by Kathy MacMillan. I almost see the letters and words in my mind like floating symbols.

All in all, Sword and Verse is a gorgeously drawn fantasy that will surely captivate readers from start to end. Kathy MacMillan blends fantasy, mythology, and romance beautifully creating an imaginative, exciting, and satisfying read.

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