Title/Author: Sword and Verse (Sword and Verse #1) by Kathy MacMillan
Publisher/Date published: HarperTeen, January 19th 2016
How I got this book: received it from the publisher as an egalley, thanks!
Goodreads summary: 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.
So Sword and Verse has been getting a lot of negative reviews and I have to say that I actually did really like this! My expectations were somewhat lowered by the not so glowing thing I'd heard, so that might have helped, but I genuinely liked this.
I really liked Raisa, she's been through a lot as a kid and she's part of a group of people that is being repressed by the nation she lives in. They're slaves to the Qilarites and the way they are treated is apalling and the dangers they put the children in, that's just.. awful. And Raisa has found a way to live a better life than most as she became Tutor in training. She's a little safer and is treated better than most of the Arnathim. And because you see the way that she interacts with the current Tutor and with Mati, the prince, I could understand her hesitancy to join the Resistance and risk her life and everything in it. I felt that it was a realistic struggle between her loyalties and I enjoyed seeing her grow as a person and find what's important to her.
One of the other things I really liked was the language, while science is more my thing, I loved learning languages in school as a teen and I'd still love to learn Spanish, Italian and Chinese if I ever find the time for it. So I was very interested in how the Qilarite language system works and especially once Raisa starts on trying to figure out the Arnathim language. There's a lot of technical stuff and details about the whole language and Raisa learning it, but that didn't bother me, though it slowed down the plot a bit at times. The thing that I did feel kinda iffy about is that I have zero idea as to how Raisa actually figured out the key to the Arnathim language. I mean, she had basically nothing to go on and then she just starts figuring it out because she hears her father's voice in her head? Who hadn't really started teaching her language before he was killed? I mean, huh? Je suis confused.
Also, I can get behind the romance, I'm not full on shipping it, but I do like that Mati and Raisa actually have a history together and have known each other for years before things start to happen. At times I wished Mati was a bit of a better man, cause I can't for the life of me figure out how he thought it was a good idea to keep certain things from Raisa, but I did like how she handled it. I mean, she doesn't forgive him out of hand and she definitely shows that she's the better person for it. I mean, that was just a big no.
So the ending leaves me very interested to see how things will go on, because certainly the events that lead up to it are gonna lead to a LOT of changes and I am definitely reading the sequel to find out what happens next!
My rating: 4 stars