Sword and Verse
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.
FTC Disclosure: This book was provided to me from the author or publisher (Edelweiss), free of charge, with the understanding that my intention is to read it and provide feedback in the form of an honest review. I am not compensated in any way in exchange for positive reviews, and I don’t let anything other than the book’s contents affect my opinions and review.
Sword and Verse impressed me from the very beginning. First off, the writing was lovely and quite polished — this story did not have that *debut* feel that many other debut novels seem to have (especially in YA). It was a rich and well-written story with many delightful layers.
I love stories that incorporate new and different languages or ways of writing within the worldbuilding, and this had plenty of both. One of the main mysteries in Sword and Verse involved Raisa trying to learn a whole new language and way of writing, just so she could decipher a special message from her past. This had me hooked right away, and I was an anxious as Raisa to figure out what it said!
This book was full of tensions — between groups of people and between individuals — that felt real and vibrant. Worlds where one group of people is enslaved to another always carry plenty of moral questions, intrigues, and opportunities for danger. Sword and Verse totally delivered. It was satisfying to watch as Raisa tested her boundaries, tried to maintain (and figure out) her loyalties, all while going through some very challenging ordeals that put her life and many others in danger. There was a hefty dose of character growth here, especially for Raisa.
Another aspect that really piqued my interest was the whole religious threads that bound this world together. Each chapter began with a snippet of a story from their religious text, so as a reader you come to understand the lore that these people revolve their lives around. It was very nicely woven into the story, and I enjoyed seeing how these ideas were challenged, believed, and where it took the people.
Overall, this was a wonderful read, and I’d recommend it to fantasy fans or anyone who wants to dive into a very different world, full of interesting lore.