Author: Kathy MacMillan
Publication: HarperTeen (January 19, 2016)
Description: In a sweeping fantasy that award-winning author Franny Billingsley calls "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.
My Thoughts: This fantasy was an engaging story. The main character is Raisa who goes from beloved daughter of rebels to slave to tutor to revolutionary to priestess in the course of 384 pages. Raisa and all her ethnic group are slaves. Raisa works in the palace before she is chosen as tutor-in-training. Literacy is reserved for only the Scholar class but Raisa's father was a Learned One who was about to begin teaching her to write when the raid that captured her killed him, her mother, and her brother. Her only gift from him is a bit of paper that she is unable to read which contains her heart-verse. Her initial motivation is to learn to write in order to translate this verse.
She learns side-by-side with Prince Mati who is the heir to the throne. As is often the case with two young, healthy people who spend a lot of time together, they fall in love. But the course of love isn't destined to run smooth. There is the betrothal to a rich Scholar's daughter and Raisa's growing role with the Resistance which conspires to separate them. There are many other stressors on their relationship too. Both tend to mistrust each other and each keeps secrets from the other.
After his father is assassinated, Mati is besieged on all sides. The priests want to depose him and take over the kingdom. His future father-in-law is also conspiring with the priests with the goal of putting his daughter on the throne. Then there are the Revolutionaries who view him as the symbol of all the oppression that they live under. Raisa needs to act as a bridge between Mati and the Revolutionaries which is an extremely difficult task.
Finally, a paranormal aspect comes into the story too. Each chapter begins with parts of the story of the gods who formed the world. But the gods are not gone and Raisa's actions manage to free one who has been imprisoned since the beginning of time. And she is bent on revenge.
This was an excellent story that has the added benefit of being a stand-alone fantasy. While more in the world would be wonderful, nothing is needed. The story is complete.
My fingers curled angrily around the edges of my heart-verse. What did he know? I'd been taking risks my whole life, just being alive as the daughter of a Learned One. And what could I possibly do to change all those horrible things? He was mad to think that learning to write would help the Resistance defeat anyone.I got this ARC from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.