Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan: Writing Can Be As Powerful As The Sword

February 1, 2016 by Aila J. | 5 stars, Reviews

Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan: Writing Can Be As Powerful As The SwordSword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan
Published by HarperTeen on January 19th 2016
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Amazon | Book Depository
Add to Goodreads

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!

The following two tabs change content below.
Aila is a young adult reader who loves to transport herself to new dimensions through reading. She's currently an undergraduate student at university in the US. Let's talk about our obsessions on Twitter @aila_1woaa!

Tags: , ,

39 responses to “Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan: Writing Can Be As Powerful As The Sword

  1. I am sooooo glad to see this! Like you, I saw the DNFs all over the place, and it made me so sad! But this, this is very good! I can live with an oddly paced start as long as I know there is greatness waiting for me 😉 I love your drawing too, it's fabulous! I cannot WAIT to read this book, lovely review!!
    My recent post The 100 Episode 3×02: Wanheda (Part 2)

    • Thanks so much Shannon! <3 I CAN'T WAIT FOR YOU TO READ IT EITHER. Definitely stick with it, because it's sooo worth it in the end. 😀

  2. WHOA a book that spans centuries? I don't think *I* could even get through that. But if you still loved it, then I think the pacing will be no problem for this one. 😀

  3. If you decide to pick up a fantasy, I would really recommend this one still! I think it really stands out in the midst of all the others out there, especially the messages it carries.

  4. Rachel Lightwood

    You have renewed my faith in '16 fantasy books, Aila! I've been hearing so many negative reviews lately that I'd almost given up on them so it's so refreshing to hear how much you loved this one. I'll definitely have to check it out soon then. Great review!

    • I'M SO GLAD RACHEL. :'DD I've heard about some not-so-great-ones, but I'm happy to report that the majority of the ones I've read are just delightful!

    • I HOPE SO TOO BEC!!! Seriously, the negative reviews cut through me like a dagger lol. It's just so amazing, and I really hope you look forward to reading it still. :))

    • Ooh I'm glad you've heard great things! 🙂 Whenever I see a negative review I kind of die inside LOL. Thank you so much! <3 I had to draw Raisa, the delightful main character!

  5. I've been seeing some pretty meh reviews of this one to be completely honest, so I'm glad to see that you liked it so much Aila! Definitely refreshes the excitement I had for this one. 🙂 Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

  6. samoak

    This sounds really great! I can see how a lot of people may be put off by odd pacing that spans several years. I sometimes have trouble getting into those kinds of books as well. Like the Demon Angel by Meljean Brook. That one spans centuries and it was a little hard to get into because it caused the plot to drag a little. But I still loved it.
    My recent post Read it or Ditch it: The Night Circus

  7. Oh I'm glad you enjoyed this one (better than most have, anyway). I was really looking forward to reading this, but the reviews hasn't been good. But I can see now why it could be a bit bothersome. I'm not typically a fantasy reader myself, but I do know to expect that long dredge.

    Great review, Aila!
    My recent post Slow January

  8. I am so excited about this book. I've heard some mixed reactions to the book but for once that hasn't deterred me because I find the premise to be so interesting. I'll be sure to brace myself for the odd pacing but I'm excited to delve in to this world. I love that there's a focus on the written word in this book because I find that the most powerful tool at our disposal is our words because they too have the power to create and the power to destroy. My excitement for this book has been renewed. 😀
    My recent post January Wrap Up 2016

    • That's excited what I did! After reading mixed reviews, I still forged on AND I'M SO GLAD I DID. It was just a spectacular read, especially because of the focus on the written word. You're definitely right when you say it has the power to create an destroy.

  9. lessca8sings

    This definitely sounds like one I should read! The synopsis sounded really busy, but it makes more sense for it to take place over several years. There are so many elements in this story that pull me in-I need to have it. Excellent review!
    Your watercolor looks amazing!! The expression on her face is one of my favorite parts.

    • Yup, the court intrigue can definitely get busy but overall they all tie in together so well! Thanks so much :)) And yes, Raisa is looking for words in that drawing hehe.

    • Aww, I really really hope you give it a try someday when you're looking for a fantasy read! The book goes by like no time because of how enjoyable it is! If you go in with less expectations, then who knows? Maybe you'll be surprised 😉

    • Hmm yeah, I kind of went into this one with no expectations at all hehe. (After reading some mixed reviews) I'm so sorry you didn't enjoy it! Hopefully your next fantasy will be better. 🙂
      Thank you so much! :DD I loved Raisa so much I couldn't not draw her hehe.

  10. OMGGG MY HOPE IS RENEWED! I saw so many horrible reviews for this I actually took it off my wishlist…but now I want it again. Badly. xD I really love words (obviously, haha) and it sounds a bit like Ink and Bone too? SO ERGO I NEED IT. *flails* And I'll be wary of the weird pacing, but I'm so excited for this kind of story and premise. 😀

    • YESSS FOR A RENEWED HOPE! No kidding, I almost took it off my TBR because of the mixed reviews too. But I'm glad I stuck through it for review because it was just an AMAZING experience. I don't think it was that much like Ink and Bone (just the parts about illegal reading), but as a fantasy, it sure stands out!

  11. I kind of love how this spans over a course of a few years, because it gives it more depth? Raisa definitely sounds like a strong heroine in this book, and I kind of like how she takes a bit of convincing because she's hesitant at the start. The world here sounds really rich and well developed – the story of the gods, the different writing, the history and the rebellion – I think I'll really enjoy this one! Thanks for the awesome review Aila!

    • I really think you will, too! I love the time span, not only does it give depth but you get to see the characters grow so much more. Raisa is definitely one of my favorite heroines in fantasy.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge