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Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan
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Sword and Verse

by Kathy MacMillan

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Terrible. Central character is a romantic weakling that does nothing to move her own plot along. ( )
  trinityM82 | Aug 3, 2017 |
I'm not really sure what to rate this one. During the first couple of chapters I thought it was going to be fantastic. I loved the depiction of writing, and the fact that we have a female character who is strong in learning, but not fighting for once. I thought Raisa's crush on Mati was cute. I thought that the descriptions of the writing symbols and runes were interesting. I liked the times where Raisa's hardship was described, and her capture was interesting, but because she was a tutor, and was pampered (compared to other slaves) and had relatively few hardships, we didn't get the impression that slavery was very hard. Yes we saw some whipping scars on other slaves, but that was telling, not showing. Overall Raisa seems to have adjusted to slavery too quickly and easily, even though she was only six when she was captured. It might have been a better story if it had started at Raisa's capture, instead of telling about it in flashbacks, and if there had been more focus on the hardship of slavery, and less focus on the romance. I was also confused by the talk of 'Learned Ones' on the islands. I thought that on the islands everyone learned to read and write, and only in Kilara were these skills limited, but the fact that the islands had 'Learned Ones' made it seem like the islanders limited the skills in a way similar to the Kilarans.

And then the romance started and what was cute as a crush came out in a nauseating depiction of lust being passed off as love. I wished that the author had left the romance as a crush until the end when Mati and Raisa could have had a relationship without the sneaking around. I felt that, if Mati had really loved Raisa he wouldn't have let the relationship go as far as it had. It's one thing for people in love to risk themselves to be physical in a relationship. It's something different if they are risking each other. If Mati had loved Raisa instead of just being infatuated with her, then he wouldn't have let the relationship go on for that long, or become so physical. The middle of the book was just romance or Raisa moping because of the lack of romance, and that was very, very annoying. The romance also made Raisa stupid. When Janna found Raisa's hidden papers in the Adytum, she made it to have been an accident. Mati was smart enough that he already knew that Raisa was hiding papers, but Raisa should have taken Janna aside and told her that she couldn't tell anyone about the hidden papers. If Janna was smart enough to lie and claim to be an orphan, than she would have been smart enough to understand that she had to keep quiet about the hidden papers if Raisa had asked her to. But Raisa was neglecting her duty to raise Janna, instead going back to her affair with Mati and letting other servants take care of her, so I guess it's not really all that surprising that her stupidity and neglect led to her getting into trouble.

Eventually, I think that Raisa and Mati's relationship became real, and I stopped minding it so much, but it took a very long time. It wasn't until after all of Raisa's lies and stupidity were shown to Mati, and he still protected her, still loved her, that I started to believe his lust may have turned into love. The descriptions of the end battle were muddled and confused. I don't think the author was very good at describing fighting. The way she talked about it, it seemed like the fighting only happened where Raisa was watching. If she wasn't looking at a battle it froze, and if she looked back at it, it began again. The wrap up wasn't well done either. It was very fast, and I thought it was weird that suddenly everyone went from wanting to murder Raisa to practically worshipping her.

There were parts of this book that were good, but they were rare, and had long gaps of boring scenes and poor writing in between them. I think that Kathy MacMillan has potential as an author, but she didn't even come close to fulfilling it with this book. (less) [edit]
Jun 18, 2016 [edi ( )
  NicoleSch | Jun 21, 2016 |
I was fascinated by the topic of the novel, that writing and words have power. It has a foundation in history, where those who were viewed as lower status people were refused the right to learn to read and write, while those with wealth excelled in these areas. I think the power of words can often be discounted in unusual ways, mostly because now writing and reading has become more common place in various cultures. This book calls to mind the past and shows the potential impact of not being forced to never learn how to read and write. It can cause revolutions and that is what happens in this novel.

Raisa has a great deal of promise as a main character. She is a slave, but she remembers a life beyond being tied to the service of a King that doesn’t know her and doesn’t care about her existence. She cares for one of the other slave girls. She becomes a Tutor-in-training and she begins to learn the language that she has been forbidden to even look at since she began to work at the palace. I found it interesting that there was a slave that learned the language of the Kings, mainly because it was so sacred to those in power. I would have thought that they would have kept the language within the affluent individuals, but I liked that the author chose a slave to be the center of something so rare.

But she does make frustrating decisions. When she has the opportunity to become a hero in the beginning of the novel, she refuses the call. This falls into the idea of the hero’s journey; however, she doesn’t resurface from her idealized existence until much later in the novel, when she finally becomes a hero in some ways. In some ways, it feels like it is a moment too late and even the book seems to portray it that way.

Another issue is the love between Prince Mati and Raisa. A lot of people feel that it is an insta-love situation, which is typical with romance novels and very overused in novels lately. However, it is important to note that the reason why it may feel like insta-love is the fact that the crush stage of the novel is blurred and the period before the crush is not highlighted within the novel. The romance is a focal point and it can be slightly frustrating because it gets in the way of Raisa becoming a heroic figure.

Overall the story was interesting and I liked the idea of words having power a lot more than I anticipated. That interest drove me through the novel, but certain aspects can be off putting. ( )
  zeitgeistreviews | May 5, 2016 |
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: A fight for knowledge.

Opening Sentence: First came Gyotia, many-limbed and all-seeing, born from mountains of hidden fire into the darkness.

The Review:

The concept behind this book is very interesting. The book world is divided between slaves called Arnath and the nobles/wealthy called Qilarites. Learning how to write is forbidden to anyone but a Qilarite. The only exception to this rule is the Prince’s Tutor, and an orphan slave (Arnath) is always selected for this role. This tradition has continued for years but the slaves are becoming restless, resistance is growing and the war for knowledge has begun.

“You think the knowledge you have is a gift,” he said. “But you wear shackles too, even if they’re silk instead of iron.”

At first, Raisa, the new tutor, struck me as a silly slave who had her head in the clouds. She’s selected as tutor and falls in love with the Prince immediately, which I thought was bizarre. But the more I learned about Prince Mati, the more I realised that he was unlike any normal Prince so it was little wonder that she fell for him. He in turn falls for her but Raisa’s uncertainties and secrets almost destroy their relationship.

She pointed at me. “At least one of you has sense. He told me that you broke it off. You’d have been wiser to do so long ago.”
Broke it off. The phrase was apt. I felt as if a piece of my body, of my heart, had been broken off.

I found it odd how many secrets she kept from Mati and stranger still was how easily he forgave Raisa. It took a while, but as the story progressed I began to like Raisa more although her inability to take a stand for her people was frustrating. Raisa isn’t a typical heroine, she preferred to sit in the background pretending to be oblivious to the injustice her people faced, which annoyed me since she was in such a crucial position to make some changes. Eventually, she sucks it up and helps bring peace to both sides.

“If you betray us, I’ll kill you myself.”
I had no doubt he meant it. I should have been terrified, but his words only angered me. Who was he, to demand my help and threaten me when I gave it?

As a Prince, I didn’t expect to like Mati as much as I did. In fact, when his betrothal to Soraya was announced yet he continues to pursue Raisa, I thought he was just using her and felt disgusted by him. However, Mati was the compassionate and open minded Prince his father never was. The innumerable times he protected Raisa and saved her life might not be realistic but were certainly romantic!

Between the chapters of Sword and Verse, there are snippets of history relating to the old gods but I didn’t quite understand the relevance of these until a lot later in the story. Yes, there was always some sort of link between the events of history to the scenes in Raisa’s life, but I only appreciated the importance of history and the author’s creativity until I reached the final chapters of this book.

I shoved the stopper into the bottle and stood abruptly. “I’ll do this, but only for those children. Not for you. Be perfectly clear: I wouldn’t help you if you were on fire and I were the ocean.” I whirled and ripped back the curtain, startling Kiti.

Finally, I would like to add that there were times when this story dragged on and occasionally I wondered why it was taking so long to wrap up but the surprising ending made it worth the wait. Despite this, Sword and Verse is unlikely to be on my list of book recommendations!

Notable Scene:

I couldn’t let anyone see how much I wanted to learn to write. I’d long ago learned that wanting things too much was a sure way to have them taken from you.

FTC Advisory: HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Sword and Verse. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Apr 28, 2016 |
In reality, it's probably closer to two and a half stars, but I generally round up. Not bad, but fairly standard and predictable YA fare, only (thankfully) without a love triangle. I did like the creation myth MacMillan invented for her world, but found the book as a whole fairly easy to put down. I picked it back up every time, though, so that's something. ( )
  BillieBook | Mar 1, 2016 |
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