Published by HarperTeen on January 19th 2016
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
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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.
How can I possibly write a review that does justice to this book? It was, simply put, absolutely epic. It also seems to be a hit-or-miss book. I’ve read reviews where people DNF Sword and Verse, and reviews where they were quite “meh” with it. I’m totally on the opposite spectrum: I pretty much loved every aspect of it. The splendiferous world, with its own writing system, combined with all the courageous and spitfire characters make it an example of fantasy at its finest.
One does not entreat the gods through shouted prayers or offerings, my father had told me when I was a child, but through their greatest gift to us, writing.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget when we’re caught up in all the action and violence of a battle scene that the greatest power we can use is the one that comes from out written words. MacMillan reminds us of this through Raisa’s exploration of the kingdom of Qilara and the history behind it. Each chapter, written by the first person point of view of Raisa, is headed by an epigraph that follows the story of the gods in the story. They become more important to the story as Raisa discovers the secrets behind her religion.
In Qilara, the Arnath people are slaves and written language is prohibited. However, Raisa gets approached by a rebellion group of Arnath slaves who want her to help them with the Resistance. She has access to a lot of things, being a Tutor-in-training: one of the only people who get to learn how to read and write so she can teach future kings on how to do so. But the more she gets caught up in the Resistance, the more she realizes that there is so much more to the history between the Qilarans and Arnaths – and those secrets are hidden in writing.
I think what made this book a bit off-putting for readers was the odd pacing. It spans over the course of a few years, giving it a slow, draggy feeling. However, it all contributed to the build-up in the latter half of the book and the incredible climax that succeeds it. Our characters go through many things during that period of time, including the development of a romance and an exciting rebellion plot that picks up during the second half of the book. I know some people didn’t enjoy the pacing, but I thought it was fitting to the story and didn’t mind it.
Here’s the thing with the romance: I loved it. It was done so realistically considering the characters’ social status and responsibilities. Mati, the prince, and Raisa grow up together and their feelings develop over a few years. It’s not insta-love; there is no love triangle; the only conflict our characters face in their relationship is their commitment to who they are. For Mati, it’s to be a king and for Raisa, it’s to be either the next Tutor or possibly… a rebel. The romance goes through so many ups and downs because of these things, and the way Raisa and Mati put their trust in each other just made my heart swell. They’re both unique, but together they’re just brilliant.
Raisa is such an intelligent and determined main character. She stuck by her beliefs, even when it went against her kingdom. She definitely isn’t the rash type of character that does things without thinking. It took the rebels a couple of tries to get her interested in helping them, and only when she thought it was for the good of the people – her people. Many times we read about these kickass heroines who fight and navigate court politics and juggle four guys at once and is chosen to be the hero of the country. Raisa has the wit, courage, and spunk of those kind of characters, but uses her abilities in less ostentatious ways.
‘If… you help him, I’ll teach you to write. All of you. Whoever wants to learn. It’ll help you spy on them and it’s…’ I thought of what Anet had said earlier. ‘It’s fighting back as much as picking up a sword is.’
Like I said in the beginning, I can’t explain how utterly captivating this book is. Despite the odd pacing in the beginning, my eyes were glued to the pages and I couldn’t stop reading. Not about the delightful romance, or the gradual development of the characters, or the magnificent world, or the religion and language that encompasses it all. The ending just creates a legend that you never want to let go of in your heart.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Thank you Harper Collins for the eARC!