Series: Sword and Verse #1
Published by HarperTEEN on January 19th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
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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 slip-up 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.
A slave population, denied reading and writing. A girl, taken from her island home as a girl and chosen to be trained as Tutor to the royal family. A prince, wishing to be a better man than he perceives his father to be.
The premise of Sword and Verse sounded so promising. I was looking forward to an epic tale of the overthrow of oppressive masters and the reclamation of reading and writing. Some of that was, in fact in this book, but it was sadly overshadowed by a lovesick couple.
Yes, Raisa falls for the Prince she’s training with. That’s no spoiler because it happens right at the start of the story, and although they have known each other for a few years, the way the romance develops so quickly makes it feel uncomfortably like insta-love. Afterwards, there’s quite a lot of slightly awkward making out (and later, love-making) in a library. Not so romantic, I’m afraid.
The story itself is quite slow in the start, but picks up after the halfway mark, and after that there were plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing. The writing systems were interesting, sort of like the difference between the literal syllables of Japanese Hiragana and the “higher order” symbology. I actually quite enjoyed the sections when Raisa was deciphering her people’s writing. In fact Raisa and her determination were the best parts of this story – she’s not a kick-ass fighter or even a great leader – in fact amid all the kissing, Raisa makes all the wrong choices and creates all sorts of problems for everyone, but that’s what makes her feel more realistic. She’s just trying to do the best she can for herself and the man she loves, and she’s quite a reluctant hero most of the time.
It may sound like I didn’t enjoy Sword and Verse much but I am actually interested to see what’s coming next for Raisa and Mati. I just wish there had been a bit less of the dry romance and a bit more about the world around them.