Winter 2016 YA Fantasy Debut: Sword and Verse, by Kathy MacMillan

I’m sure you all know by now how much I LOVE many of this year’s highly acclaimed releases in YA fantasy, especially by debut authors. (Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes, Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen, and Renée Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn are at the top of my list.) 

Fortunately, 2016 will be another amazing year for YA fantasy, with dozens of releases I look forward to recommending over the next twelve months: starting with Kathy MacMillan’s Sword and Verse (January).


Sword and Verse‘s heroine, sixteen-year-old Raisa, is an orphan and a slave at the royal palace of Quilara. Ten years ago, the Quilarite king’s forces raided her homeland of Arnath, killing her parents and capturing her.

In Arnath, Raisa’s father taught her to read and write, training her to take his place as the Learned One. But in Quilara, she must keep her literacy secret, since the Arnathim, the lowest class, are forbidden from reading and writing. (Literacy among the Arnathim is punishable by death.)

Raisa’s status improves, however, after the royal tutor is executed for treason, and Raisa is chosen as the tutor-in-training for the Crown Prince, Mati. As she and Mati learn the sacred language of the gods and royalty, they fall in love. But their forbidden romance isn’t Raisa’s only secret: the Resistance wants her to help them free Arnath slaves. But can she really betray Mati?

What makes this book special–and distinguishes it from numerous other YA fantasy novels about thwarted love and power struggles–is that the conflict between Quilara and Arnath is not merely political, but it is mythological. Quilarites worship the king of the gods, Gyotia, who dictates that language is sacred. (Only the king, his heir, the tutor, and the tutor-in-training learn the language of the gods.) The Anarthim, however, worship Gyotia’s sister and lover, Sotia, goddess of wisdom, who was punished by Gyotia for wanting to grant literacy to all people.

If you’re a fan of this year’s top YA fantasy (such as my favorites mentioned above), pick up Sword and Verse come January. It has all the elements of great epic fantasy: a strong, yet conflicted, protagonist; rich, inventive world-building; and a unique, well-crafted, compelling story, involving power struggles, complicated romance, and mythology.

Alyssa recommends new and upcoming releases in young adult fiction (and occasionally middle grade and adult). She thanks Edelweiss and HarperCollins for providing her with a digital review copy of Sword and Verse, for review purposes only. Please follow her on Tumblr and Twitter.


3 thoughts on “Winter 2016 YA Fantasy Debut: Sword and Verse, by Kathy MacMillan

  1. Pingback: Winter 2016 YA Fantasy: The Dark Days Club, by Alison Goodman | Coven Book Club

  2. Pingback: Winter 2016 YA Fantasy Debut: Rebel of the Sands, by Alwyn Hamilton | Coven Book Club

  3. Pingback: Winter 2016 YA Wrap-up | Coven Book Club

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