In a sweeping fantasy that award-winning author Franny Billingsley called "fascinating and unique", debut author Kathy MacMillan weaves palace intrigue and epic world building to craft a tale for fans of Rae Carson and Megan Whalen Turner.
Raisa was just a child when she was sold into slavery in the kingdom of Qilara. Before she was taken away, her father had been adamant that she learn to read and write. But where she now lives, literacy is a capital offense for all but the nobility. The written language is closely protected, and only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn its very highest form. So when she is plucked from her menial labor and selected to replace the last tutor-in-training, who was executed, Raisa knows that betraying any hint of her past could mean death.
Keeping her secret guarded is hard enough, but the romance that's been blossoming between her and Prince Mati isn't helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance - an underground rebel army - to help liberate the city's 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.
©2016 Kathy MacMillan (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers
I haven't read the print version. Thus, I can't make a comparison. Though I did notice that some parts of the audiobook seem to interchange Linea and Lorea(?) who are different characters
Definitely when Raisa finally finds out the meaning of her Heart Verse. And when she manages to save people with it
I could have done without Raisa and Mati being hormonal teenagers. Or Raisa having to ponder constantly on her relationship with Mati. To be honest, I find the book a LOT more interesting when it has little to nothing to do with Mati. In other words, when the book focuses more on Raisa's stints with the Resistance and the book's mythology.
Readers/Listeners who don't care much about the heroine pining a lot about her beloved might have to bear with it in order to appreciate the book as a whole. Because I've noticed a lot of pining. And I feel that some readers/listeners would have issue with the romance as Raisa was very naive going into a relationship with Prince Mati, who is technically her owner and expected to marry some noble girl to bear the next heir.
This is not to say that Mati is the worst guy ever. Because he does do some redeeming actions. However, that back and forth of that relationship as well as Raisa thinking so much about Mati (and thus, focus being turned away from the Slave Resistance and the current political turmoil -ie the more interesting bits of the book) makes me even more unsympathetic of their love.
But personally, I think the book makes up for it by introducing that universe's mythology and how much it actually bears relevance to the things happening to Raisa's world. Unfortunately, I just had to go through Raisa's tale in order to finish the mythology (which I think is totally cool and awesome).
So in short, If you love an interesting mythology within the book's world but don't really like spending hours listening to the heroine angsting about how her love shouldn't be...you might have to think twice about this book. But in my opinion, it's worth going through it to get to the ending. Because I really love the ending, which to me was VERY Satisfying
the story was a lot better than some of the stories I've read. But still seemed a bit lacking. But the performance of narrator was nice sometimes I forgot I was listening to a female narrator speak the male dialogue in the book.
A world with a pantheon of gods, a strong girl, and the underlying message about verse- reading and language are powerful.
A budding romance entertains the reader as the plot unfolds.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT
Raisa was only a child when she was kidnapped and enslaved in Qilara. Forced to serve in the palace of the King, she’s endured hunger, abuse, and the harrowing fear of discovery. Everyone knows that Raisa is Arnath, but not that she is a Learned One, a part of an Arnath group educated in higher order symbols. In Qilara, this language is so fiercely protected that only the King, the Prince, and Tutors are allowed to know it. So when the current Tutor-in-training is executed for sharing the guarded language with slaves and Raisa is chosen to replace her, Raisa knows that, although she may have a privileged position among slaves, any slipup could mean death.
That would be challenging enough, but training alongside Prince Mati could be her real undoing. And when a romance blossoms between them, she’s suddenly filled with a dangerous hope for something she never before thought possible: more. Then she’s approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slaves—to help liberate the Arnath people. Joining the Resistance could mean freeing her people…but she’d also be aiding in the war against her beloved, an honorable man she knows wants to help the slaves.
Working against the one she loves—and a palace full of deadly political renegades—has some heady consequences. As Raisa struggles with what’s right, she unwittingly uncovers a secret that the Qilarites have long since buried…one that, unlocked, could bring the current world order to its knees.
And Raisa is the one holding the key.
The book is beautifully written, the world well built and imagined. It was fascinating to learn of the Qilarite society through the eyes of Raisa, an Arnath slave--both the horrible and the tiny bit of good (Mati). While their love seemed to happen rather quickly, storywise, and the resulting ebbs and flows of that plot line dragged in the middle (enough that I skipped ahead), I still loved their love story. This dragging is the only reason I'm marking it as 4.5 stars (rounded up to 5).
There's a really nice twist at the end resulting in a fantastic cataclysmic "event" or maybe it's more like a series of events.
*** spoiler alert***
I loved Mati the best, especially his kind heart. It's difficult for someone raised to believe a certain way--that they are better than another people and had a right to treat them terribly--to see that that what they've been taught is wrong, to have compassion. Especially since Mati was mocked by his own father and told those very characteristics made him unworthy to be king. Yet Mati did believe it and was determined to be better. Through all the challenges to his love for Raisa, even when it looked like she had betrayed him, he still did everything in his power to protect her.
Story inspired by author's interest in ancient libraries and the power of words. Once I started listening, I didn't want to stop. I love the relationship between Raisa and Prince Mati. At times not sure how their romance would progress. Fused with mythology and political intrigue. A well written YA book that an adult reader can enjoy. Overall, good story with a strong and brave heroine . Great narration.
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