Hello, fabulous bibliovores! Today I'm going to tell you why you should read Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan, a 2016 fantasy debut with HarperTeen. I'd started this book some time ago (thank you for the ARC, Kathy!), and then I did a presentation with Kathy at KidLitCon, and now I figured I've tortured Kathy enough and I've finished the book. And loved it. It's getting the rare five-star rating from me. Yay! I'll post a full review in about a month; but for now, be prepared to be convinced!
Five Reasons Why You Should Read Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan
5. The cover.
Um. Hello, world! Have you seen this cover yet? No? Here you go:
Colin Anderson, the cover artist of this amazing masterpiece, should be a given a medal or prize or something. Or at the very least, a raise. I know we probably shouldn't judge books by their covers but... it's okay to do so with this book.
4. It's a high fantasy novel.
You all know how much of a sucker I am when it comes to high fantasy. Fantasy is my favorite genre, especially those along the lines of Fire/Graceling/Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. I think I've actually seen that recommendation around ("for fans of Kristin Cashore, that sort of thing), and while I usually dislike those, this particular one is accurate. Yes, I am comparing my favorite book ever (Fire) to Sword and Verse. Hopefully the universe doesn't break! In any case, this novel has amazing world-building, setting, characterization - all very appropriate to the high fantasy genre.
3. The romance is so unconventional and yet so achingly beautiful.
I was about halfway through the book when I told Kathy that I was LOVING the romance, despite how different it was compared to most romances in YA. I was half in agony, half completely intrigued, and not at all sure how things would end. No love triangle is the most I'll say - but I did say "unconventional" and "achingly beautiful", so there's that. :D I'll even leave you all a line...
"I will love you," I told him, my throat catching, "until the gods read out the scrolls."
Gah! So perfect! You'll have to read the book to understand the context - READ IT!
2. It's a standalone novel.
I personally am a bit sick of trilogies and series in general (notice how that hasn't quite stopped me from starting new ones, although I've started a lot less series this year than any other year). I've been forcing myself to 1) wait for the entire series to publish, 2) not consider the book at all, or 3) read the first book and then die a slow death of agony after a ridiculous cliffhanger or silly romance trope, etc. With this book, there is no crazy cliffhanger. No open ending. Raisa's story is finished, by the end of the book. While the author could (and may) add books to follow this one, they will be companion novels (I have this on good authority!).
1. Kathy is literally the nicest person ever.
I'm speaking from personal experience, so I know I'm biased, but I'm totally genuinely serious! I "met" Kathy after I uber-stalked Goodreads and found Sword and Verse (this was pre-cover days). I added the book (fantasy, sounded good to me) clicked on the author profile, found her Twitter, and saw that she was also from Baltimore. Then I commenced to flip out and squeal at her (probably like a crazy person), because there aren't YA authors in Baltimore! She asked me to do KidLitCon with her, we met a few times, did the presentation at KidLitCon last Saturday, and that's how it all went down. I am honored to know Kathy!
Post-KidLitCon - we did it!
I'm very picky with what books I decide to promote before actually reading the book, and I can safely say that I made the right choice with Sword and Verse. I was SO nervous to read this book (quite possibly why it took me so long), but it did not disappoint.
And there you have it! Are you convinced? You should be. Go forth and add this book! Request it from Edelweiss! Read it!
About Sword and Verse:
Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
Reviewers - request Sword and Verse from Edelweiss!
About the Author:
Kathy MacMillan is a writer, American Sign Language interpreter, librarian, and avowed Hufflepuff. Her debut young adult novel, Sword and Verse, explores questions of power and prejudice in an epic fantasy setting, and has been called “fascinating and unique” by National Book Award finalist Franny Billingsley. Find her online at www.kathymacmillan.com