cover image Sword and Verse

Sword and Verse

Kathy MacMillan. HarperTeen, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-232461-0

Fans of Megan Whalen Turner will enjoy MacMillan’s debut novel, set in the country of Qilara, in which writing is sacred to the gods, and only the king and his tutor may know the high script used to pray. Raisa, who comes from the enslaved Arnath ethnic minority, studies to become the next royal tutor, but she and the prince, Mati, fall in love. Raisa is torn between the conflicting machinations of the Arnath resistance group, who are trying to abolish slavery; her love for Mati; and the old guard of Qilarite nobility, who see Mati as a dangerous progressive. In addition, Raisa, born in freedom and captured in a raid, is trying to decipher the one piece of writing from her home that she has held onto all her life, unaware that it may be relevant to her larger problems. The integration of the peculiar Qilarite pantheon into the plot is handled awkwardly, gaining importance late in the story after being somewhat neglected, but MacMillan explains the complicated political twists and turns clearly, and her characterizations are layered and believable. Ages 14–up. [em]Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Jan.) [/em]