Review: Sword and Verse

Sword and Verse
Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally finished this one! I started it back in March, and then it sort of fell to the wayside for a while.

So, as with many books, there were some things that I really liked and some thing of which I was not overly fond. I will, first and foremost, that I think Ms. Macmillan is a wonderful person, as I got the chance to chat with her for a bit at NoVaTeen Book Fest 2016 while getting my book signed. It was, in fact, the only book that I picked up where I was completely unfamiliar with the author and had heard not a peep from anyone else on the book. Going into books blind, but going into books with a wee bit of insight from the author can also be fun.

Ms. Macmillan said that her “elevator pitch” of sorts for what happens in Sword & Verse was: “Libraries, Linguistics, and Kissing.” Despite the fact I’m not always the biggest fan of romance, hearing that kissing was third on this list made me really excited — especially when it’s third on a list that includes libraries and linguistics. To be fair: I have not studied linguistics, nor am I any sort of expert on ancient libraries, but I did get a chance to geek out a little over the Library at Alexandria (STILL NOT OVER THAT, ROME) with Ms. Macmillan, even learning that the original title for this novel was Library of the Gods.

First: Libraries.
What’s interesting about that little tidbit of information is how both titles serve this novel really well, though I would argue that the original title suits it best. The actual space of the Library of the Gods is where we spent the majority of the novel, and also contributes massively to this novel’s finale — which stands as the best part of the book, by the way. But we’ll get to that in a minute. Both the physical place of the Library of the Gods and the part that it all plays within the in-world mythos and religion is fan-freaking-tastic. I can definitely see the influence of libraries such as the one at Alexandria, but also the power that knowledge has in keeping a people enslaved…or in setting them free. The library and its treasures belong to the conquered, the elite; for a slave to be in the presence of its contents can have deadly consequences. I love this idea, and Macmillan not only develops it really well, but keeps it both cohesive and consistent throughout the story.

Second: Linguistics.
Language and the art of language is essential to this story and, honestly, I wish there had been more of that. The romantic element of the plot definitely overshadowed much of the other fantastic things that were going on in Macmillan’s story, with the linguistics part being, perhaps, the most interesting. Tying back above to what I said under the libraries element, linguistics and language are just as important on enslaving a people or setting them free, and this is one of the biggest themes of the entire story. It plays out not only with Raisa in her quest, but also in these beautiful italicizes scripture-like portions that occur above each chapter heading. There is the idea of myth coming alive before these characters’ very eyes in such an interesting way, all through the power of the different languages. If I could wish for anything, it would have been to get some kind of lexicon of the symbols mentioned throughout the novel — though, in all honesty, it’s mostly so I’d be able to translate the message Ms. Macmillan wrote into my book. I’m assuming it’s probably somehow a part of Raisa’s heart verse, but I’m not entirely sure.

Third: Kissing.
There’s a lot of it. I mean, I don’t know how else to say it other than that this probably should have been the first thing listed because the romance is overwhelmingly present throughout the novel. I can begrudge it just a bit because of my own personal tastes…but I also have to begrudgingly acknowledge that it plays an important role within the story and I do appreciate that Macmillan spent a lot of time developing the relationship between Raisa and Mati, even giving it some reasonable and understandable kinks in the road. I just wish that there had been less passages devoted to it percentage-wise. I wanted to know more about the myth and the libraries and the language. But, again, these are my own personal tastes and I’m sure that people who are fans of a good romance, will really enjoy that aspect of the book. And I do want to stress that it is a well-written and well-developed romance. I, personally, just didn’t need as much of it as I got.

On the whole, this was a really solid book and the finale was absolutely stellar. There was definitely a point where I got over the hump of “Okay, when’s the ball really going to get rolling?” and then just tore through the rest of this book. I’m a little curious that this is going to be a series because, as a standalone, this book stands up so incredibly well. But, hey, if you’re going to give me some more libraries and linguistics, then I’m game for more of this.

Just, maybe a little less kissing next time? 😉

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