Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan
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.
With the story of SWORD AND VERSE readers are introduced to the Kingdom of Qilara and the heroine Raisa, a slave girl who rises above her station to become a royal tutor, one that gains access to a forbidden language of the gods and sparks a rebellion that may cost her everything.
One of the first things I noticed and really found fascinating in Sword and Verse is the unique language that author Kathy MacMillan creates and the mythology of the gods and goddesses surrounding it. Ms. MacMillan is an American Sign Language interpreter and I felt her love of language and symbols easily in the story and became fascinated by its presence.
It is a language of symbols forbidden to all except the king and his heir...a language the protagonist Raisa is taught as a royal tutor. A language that holds truths long hidden away and will spark a revolution. Raisa's devotion and love for the prince and her loyalty to her people will have readers feeling ups and downs emotionally as the push and pull seems to come from all directions. I could not help but wonder if it would end well for any of them.
I'm a fan of an imperfect heroine, ones that struggle to make right choices. And when the choices fall into gray areas of political conflict and rebellion, I could not help but sympathize with her plight even when her decisions and indecisions frustrated me. Regardless, I felt the relentless tug at her loyalties.
The romance is a clandestine one, and it feels very fast coming on - though it really has been building since Raisa begins serious training as a royal tutor and is in very close confines with the prince heir. Oh boy, if you like yummy settings for passionate kisses, then Sword and Verse is your book. From hidden underground temples and secret passageways, Raisa experience all the pangs of forbidden love. Unfortunately, the prince did not woo me as much as he did Raisa and I think it was due to the simple fact I like/need usually more push and pull, more feisty repertoire between my couples.
The ending felted complete and wrapped things up nicely though it felt a tiny bit anticlimactic to me. I would have liked more development in regards to a certain goddess and the mythology she evokes in the story as I think this has some great potential.
Overall, I enjoyed Sword and Verse as an introduction to Kathy MacMillans writing and a new YA fantasy world that holds intriguing ideas of symbols, verse and myth.