Details of the Book
paperback ARC, 378 pages
Published by HarperTeen,
an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Synopsis: Raisa was just a child when she was sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. Despite her young age, her father was teaching her to read and write, grooming her to take his place as a Learned One. In Qilara, the Arnathim, like Raisa, are the lowest class, and literacy is a capital offense. What’s more, only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn the very highest order language, the language of the gods. So when the tutor-in-training is executed for teaching slaves this sacred language, and Raisa is selected to replace her, Raisa knows any slipup on her part could mean death.
Keeping her secret is hard enough, but the romance that’s been growing between her and Prince Mati isn’t helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slave rebels—to help liberate Arnath slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries—one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees.
Sword and Verse reads exactly how I want historical fiction novels to read. There is a lot of information, a very detailed setting, but with twists that change the original story. I don't think that Sword and Verse is actually a historical fiction, but I really wish that more books from that genre were more like this one. Sword and Verse would have benefited from being broken up into two books so that MacMillan would have had more time and space to develop the plot and the characters. The pacing of the book goes from to slow to BAM—you've advanced months or even years forward in time. At times, it worked and during other times, it didn't. I really like Raisa and Mati's relationship, and I especially loved how much faith Mati had in Raisa, despite everything she put him through. However, I have to say that I found Raisa to be really frustrating at times; there may have been a few instances when I wanted to shake her a bit haha. All in all, it was an interesting read, but it would have been better if some of it's plot devices were expanded upon.
1) I really liked how the religious aspects tied into the plot. They wasn't obnoxiously in your face but well incorporated into the culture of the society. It really added to the foundation of the plot and immersed you into the world that MacMillan created.
2) I totally ship Raisa and Mati. You can see their love brewing from a mile away. No matter what was happening in the plot, I was rooting for them. Even at the times where Raisa found herself doubting their relationship—I BELIEVED.
3) Sword and Verse reads like a historical fiction novel and I really enjoyed that. The plot and the setting reminded me of Ancient Egypt, especially in regards to how the government was run and the description of the tombs.
1) The pacing of the book to be pretty odd at times. There were sections where I felt that it was moving by slowly and then suddenly the plot would advance rapidly almost out of nowhere.
2) This book would have been better off as a duology because the plot and the character relationships could have been better developed. Sword and Verse covers the story of Raisa and Mati from when they are little kids until they are young adults and that's a lot of time to cover. MacMillan was successful in how much information and detail she was able to put into the plot, but if given more time and space for a sequel, I think that the story would have benefited from it.
3) At times, I didn't really understand certain characters' personalities or motives. Even though you get to know Raisa and Mati as Sword and Verse progresses, they sometimes do really out-of-character things that just don't add up. For example, Mati is a very level-headed and loving character, but randomly he had outbursts that didn't make sense or go along with what I thought I knew of the character.
4) I wish there was more dialogue between the characters. There are long sections of prose which are well-written but I think more dialogue would have developed the character's relationships more.
1) "Don't you like it?" Mati asked. "I know it isn't anything special—
"I love it," I whispered quickly. I came so close to telling him about my father then, but I was afraid to—or maybe I didn't want to remind him how different we were.
Mati drew me closer and kissed my neck. "Tell Laiyonea you found it on the beach," he said, his words buzzing against my skin. "No one will know what it really is but us."
"What is it really?" I asked carefully. My skin seemed to dance up away from my bones, waiting his answer.
He looked right into my eyes. I very nearly melted away into nothing. "It means you're mine, and I'm yours, Raisa. It means I love you."
2) I froze, then turned on my side so that he couldn't see my face, but I was still within the circle of his arms. "You cared for her," I said to the dim library.
"Yes, of course I—Raisa, don't be ridiculous." He kissed my neck, working his way up to my ear, and when he got there he whispered, "I never have loved, and I never will love, anyone the way I love you." He pushed himself up and faced me, as though to make sure I believed him. I did. No one could doubt his fervent tone. It lit me on fire and made me forget what we were talking about, so that when he flopped back down and went on, it took me a moment to follow.