Sunday, January 3, 2016

Review: Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

Title: Sword and Verse
Author: Kathy MacMillan
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy 
Source: HarperTeen via Edelweiss

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.
Review by Nara

I feel like Sword and Verse is, overall, a relatively predictable, by-the-book sort of high fantasy plot without too many fresh ideas. I feel like it was still enjoyable in its own way. It wasn't bad, but it just wasn't anything new either. I kind of only have myself to blame in some respect, as I was reading the book concurrently with the masterpiece of The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay. Big mistake, since I kept comparing them, and unfortunately found that Sword and Verse was inferior in basically every way.

The biggest problem I had with the plot was most definitely the romance. It was quite sappy and kind of cliched throughout the entire novel, with the classic forbidden romance between the King and the "servant". I wouldn't call it instalove, since the romance takes place over a period of months to years, but it did have the feeling of it since there were a number of time skips. I just never shipped the two characters. Mati, the love interest, was quite typical and never really grabbed me as a character, so this might also have contributed to my lack of interest in the romance. The rest of the plot was relatively well done, but on the whole lacked the originality that I was looking for.

The writing system in the book was pretty interesting to read about, and reminded me of the Chinese language, where each character has a sound but also has a particularly meaning, and where adding strokes changes the meaning slightly. The different gods and the backstory of how the writing system came to be was also very intriguing. Each chapter reveals a little more of the story through small italicised excerpts at the start of each chapter, and I found that these little passages were my favourite part of the story.

Well, basically, read this book if you haven't read too many high fantasies is all I can say. To the more hard core fan (and especially if you read quite elaborate epic fantasies), it's pretty typical.

Liked it
Overall: 6/10
Plot: 3/5
Romance: 2.5/5
Writing: 3/5
World Building: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 3.5/5