In the fantasy novel, Sword and Verse, Kathy Macmillan creates a complex world based on mythology with an elite master class, the Qilarites, dominating the slave class, the Arnathim. Based on her research into ancient libraries and the power of language, she plots a kingdom in which language is heavily guarded with only the King, the Prince, and the Tutors having the ability to write higher order symbols to communicate with the gods. The emphasis in this novel on the importance of literacy for everyone is a worthy theme. The main character, Raisa, a slave is chosen as a Tutor in Training to learn the language so that she can instruct the royal family. There are a lot of characters, palace intrigue, and a resistance movement among the slaves to entice the fantasy reader. There are horrible executions, whippings, murders, and cruelty. Characterization is the weakness in this novel. I could not engage with the main characters of Prince Mati and Raisa and I found their love relationship to be flawed. Jonis as the leader of the resistance is stereotypical. I also wished that the author had integrated the mythology into the story line rather than at the start of each chapter which caused an uneven and disjointed plot structure
The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle is witty, tightly plotted with sparkling language and crisp dialogue. Quinn Roberts has not left his house since his sister Annabeth was killed in a car accident. Quinn and Annabeth had a close relationship and worked as a sister-brother team to create short movies. Their mother sleeps on the couch and also has not left the house, the mail is stacked high and they are both paralyzed in their grief. Enter friend Geoff and his sister Carly, who entice Quinn out to the real world where he meets a love interest, Emir. I was charmed by both brother sister relationships, the friendship between Quinn and Geoff and the respect the author showed to the mother who has serious issues. This novel is about an aspiring screen writer and is written with such a sharp focus that I could envision each scene. The short love story between Quinn and Emir is tender and thoughtful. The friendship and love that Quinn receives is his salvation. The writing engaged me with heartwarming moments and lifted my spirit. Sword and Verse weighed me down and I could not connect with the story. My vote goes to The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle.