Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan (Sword and Verse #1)
Published January 19, 2016 by HarperTeen, 384 pp.
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 goes it?
Let me just say, I was holding out so much hope for this. A slave girl who knows a language that’s limited to the upper class that has the potential to upend the entire social pyramid as they know it? Oh my god, I could just see it: language as a tool for the leveling of society, and demonstrate just how powerful language can be. My inner language geek was positively giddy at the prospect. But this is why one should never expect, because expectations can sometimes lead to disappointments. Like this one.
I was rooting for this so hard, you guys. But from the moment Raisa just became aware of Mati, it all fell apart. I wish I could show my notes for this, but it’s so full of f-bombs and I’m trying to keep it PG so I won’t. I am not against romance, not in the least, but Raisa and Mati have got to be my least favorite couple. Ever.
Seriously, I’ll buy any romance so long as you manage to provide me with what they see in each other, how the romance developed, and not even the “why” because I can suspend my beliefs for any sort of logical reasoning behind love. But Mati and Raisa fell in love just like that, and I’m so sad that I can’t root for them. Like, if all else fails, at least I’ll have you two to ship! But no! I don’t even see how Mati fell for Raisa, and vice versa. Where do these feels come from?? What and where was the spark?? I didn’t see it.
This is filed as Fantasy, but the world wasn’t solid, I couldn’t envision where this great conflict was playing out, because somehow more attention was given to Raisa and Mati’s nighttime escapades than the plot and the world-building. This is a romance, and as much as it pains me to say it, not a very good one. There were glimpses of what could have been a great fantasy YA novel, such as when Raisa was working on decoding her heart-verse, helping out the rebellion, but that’s all tamped down whenever Mati appears and kisses her. (Looking at what I just typed makes me so mad lol) Never mind what could happen if and when they get caught, just so long as they can be in each other’s arms, because the version of this couple’s clandestine midnight rendezvous is in the Library. Where only nobility can enter. Inside the palace. I swear to the high heavens I can’t believe these two. It’s like the plot disappears into thin air whenever they’re within kissing distance!
By the time the crescendo of the book arrived, when the rebels were about to storm the palace, I was so pissed at Raisa and Mati I couldn’t care less. Not that it was building to anything significant anyway.
There is not one person in this book I like. Everyone is so quick to judge – Jonis, who is supposed to be the leader of the Arnath rebellion, is a hothead and quick to shoot down Raisa every opportunity he gets. He has an in to the Palace in the form of a Tutor and he antagonizes her every time they get face to face? Who made this child a leader? Laiyonea, who has known Raisa for over 2 years, is quick to brand her a traitor when she herself is a slave.
I’m being nice, so 2 paper planes, but also because I liked what glimpses of Raisa I saw when she wasn’t losing her head around Mati. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much of that.