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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Book Review: Mistwood by Leah Cypess


Reading level: Young Adult 
Hardcover: 320 pages 
Publisher: Greenwillow Books; 1 edition (April 27, 2010) 
Language: English
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

The Shifter is an immortal creature bound by an ancient spell to protect the kings of Samorna. When the realm is peaceful, she retreats to the Mistwood.

Isabel remembers nothing. Nothing before the prince rode into her forest to take her back to the castle. Nothing about who she is supposed to be, or the powers she is supposed to have.

Prince Rokan needs Isabel to be his Shifter. He needs her ability to shift to animal form, to wind, to mist. He needs her lethal speed and superhuman strength. And he needs her loyalty--because without it, she may be his greatest threat.

Isabel knows that her prince is lying to her, but she can't help wanting to protect him from the dangers and intrigues of the court . . . until a deadly truth shatters the bond between them.

MistwoodBook Opening:

"She knew every inch of the forest, every narrow path that twisted and wound its way beneath the silver branches. They never should have found her. She should have been up and away long before the horses' scent came to her, and very long before the sound of men's whispering drifted to her ears. Through the trees or in them, even above them, she could have fled in an instant, or hidden herself so well that they could scour for days and never find her. "


Notable Scene:

"It had been an attack, of sorts, and people did fight who lived in castles like these. Not with fists and feet and claws, but with words and whispers and influence. Isabel couldn’t remember having been here before, but she knew. It was a fight, or rather a game, with many players and many rules and many strategies.

She smiled suddenly, feeling her blood pump through her veins. She didn’t know how, and she didn’t know why, but she was suddenly sure it was a game she knew how to play."- Page 14

In a faraway kingdom plagued with political unrest, there lies a forest. Enshrouded in mist, it is home to the Shifter, an immortal creature with legendary mystical capabilities and supernatural strength. Isabel is the Shifter. She doesn't remember her life before Prince Rokan rode into the Mistwood. But from the moment he places a delicate crystal bracelet upon her wrist, one thing and only one thing matters—protecting him at all costs.  Soon, however, disturbing memories begin to resurface.  What do they mean? Who is The Shifter? And who can Isabel really trust?

From the first paragraph, MISTWOOD kicks off with a blast and hits the ground running. Leah Cypess' depiction of Isabel was cleverly crafted. This is not a book that wastes time with long drawn out descriptions or large information dumps. Cypess chooses her words carefully to depict Isabel, devoting much time to paint a picture of a supernatural creature interacting with conniving royals.   I enjoyed watching Isabel grapple with her inhuman-like thoughts and conflicting emotions. Her character constantly evolved throughout the book and I never quite knew what she was going to do next. I loved that she constantly kept me guessing, and so often my predictions were completely wrong. Not all the characters, however, were as sharply etched as Isabel. I found Prince Rokan to be a little dry.  I never thought he was good enough for Isabel.  Another character, which I really grew to care for, was killed off way too soon in my opinion.

There is no prequel and little time spent catching the reader up on the world building within MISTWOOD.  I would've preferred a little more expansion on this, especially anything involving the mystical properties of the Mistwood itself.  Because of the lack of insight into the world of The Shifter and her history with the royal family, a lot of the plot twists and turns were at times somewhat confusing. But I suppose,  just as Isabel had to make her way with only her instincts to guide her, so must the reader.  It definitely kept tensions running high and held my interest, though it was a bit confusing, especially in the beginning.  But even with that being said, MISTWOOD never ceased to entertain me. The end of the book had an AMAZING twist I never would've guessed. It was poignant and well-written.  Honestly the more I read MISTWOOD, the more captivated I became by Cypess' writing and the more it all began to come together and make perfect sense.

MISTWOOD  is a novel where romance, political intrigue and danger lurk around every corner.  It is a complex, beautifully written debut novel with a decided Arthurian flair; one that starts off strong and just keeps on getting better. I agree with the back cover; fans of Tamora Pearce and Kristin Cashore are sure to enjoy this admirable YA fantasy debut.  Leah Cypess is an author to watch out for. It was definitely a great escape to jump into Cypess' intriguing world of magic and shapeshifting.

Author biography: Leah Cypess has been writing since the fourth grade, but before becoming a full-time writer, she earned her law degree from Columbia Law School. She worked for two years at a large New York City law firm, then moved to Brookline, near Boston, where she now lives with her husband and two young children.

Official Website


Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Awesome review! Your reviews have really kicked it up a notch :) LOVING it :)

brizmus said...

mist forest, political unrest - this sounds great!

Although my favorite thing about this kind of book tends to be world and character building, and since this book is lacking in that, well, I dunno. . .

salarsenッ said...

This sounds fabulous! I've heard others blogging about it. Great review!

Bere said...

Awesome review, Kim! I think this is the first review I've read on Mistwood and although I already had it on my wish list, I'm all the more excited to read it. I need to get it soon. Thank you for your wonderful review, Kim! =)

justpeachy36 said...

This sounds good. After reading your review, I'm putting this one on my wish list.

Great review! Very informative.

danya said...

I've seen this one floating around the blogosphere but never really knew what it was about. Your review definitely fleshed it out and it sounds promising - thanks for an awesome review!

Kristen said...

Thanks for the fantastic and honest review! I've been eying this one at the library and unsure whether to pick it up yet or not. :) Always great to read your reviews - I feel like I rarely get to stop by here anymore but you always read the genres I love and so it's great to know how you felt about a book. I think I'll grab this one asap.