Disclaimer: I received a free copy via Edelweiss for review purposes.
First impression: I really enjoyed Sword and Verse, especially the importance of language and writing and their fight to get it back from the ones who had enslaved them. I wasn’t a massive fan of the romance and I think Raisa made some questionable choices in order to protect Mati, but it was tolerable.
Review: When Raisa was a child, her island was raided and she was kidnapped and enslaved by the Qilarite. Raisa is Arnath, but she is also a Learned One; this is one secret she has managed to keep. The Learned Ones learnt and taught the higher order symbols which are ardently guarded by the Qilarite, allowing only a select few to know the symbols, the Tutor and Tutor-in-training being one of the few. When the current Tutor-in-training is caught teaching the Arnath slaves their language, she is executed and Raisa is chosen to replace her. It’s a privileged position for an Arnath, but Raisa is aware of the delicate situation she is in. She is trained alongside the Prince in the guarded language and when romance blossoms between them, Raisa has a choice to make: freeing her people, or betraying Prince Mati, the man she loves.
What I loved most about Sword and Verse was the importance of language and their heritage, and the choice between guarding that language in some arrogant purpose to keep it pure, and letting the language be free for everyone to learn and use. I especially loved the extracts of their mythology at the beginning of each chapter which tell a story in itself throughout. It was this story of the Gods and the fantastic world building, and the emphasis on literature and language that made this book for me.
I did enjoy Raisa as a protagonist, even if her narrative was annoying and self-indulgent at times, so utterly focused on Mati that I believe she made some questionable choices that proved to be her downfall. She was compassionate and empathetic, but caught between her loyalty to Mati and her people and heritage. My favourite character out of the whole novel, though, was Jonis who I loved reading about.
Sword and Verse is definitely up there with some of the better high-fantasy novels, and if you’re a fan of the genre this will be one you don’t want to miss.