Saturday, April 17, 2010
Review: Mistwood by Leah Cypess
Rating: 4 out of 5
Isabel knows she’s a Shifter, a mythical creature created from mist and wind, whose only purpose is to defend the life of the king. She’s been brought from her beloved Mistwood back to the Samornian king, the young Rokan. Magical and political conspiracy abound in the Samornian court, and it’s up to Isabel’s powerful Shifter senses to seek out danger to the king, even if it means risking her own safety and well-being.
Meanwhile, Isabel struggles to puzzle out her hazy memories of her previous lives as Shifter in the court, but when she uncovers a shocking conspiracy, Isabel learns things about Rokan—and herself—that she’s never had to deal with before.
MISTWOOD is an exquisitely written, beautifully rendered high fantasy YA debut that will make it an instant favorite of fans of Kristin Cashore. The beauty and complexity of Isabel’s story literally took my breath away and left me begging for more.
Leah Cypess wastes no words in her writing. Instead, every sentence provides a wealth of material about the story: setting the scene, describing Isabel’s inhuman-like thoughts and her struggles. It is fascinating to watch Isabel change over the course of this novel. The change is subtle yet carefully crafted, and just when you thought you had things figured out, Cypess comes along and throws you for a loop that is unexpected but, on second thought, completely appropriate and wildly appreciated. As I’ve said in previous reviews, I like when books outsmart me, and I was delighted that all my predictions were blown out of the water in a totally plausible manner.
The secondary characters were not as well developed as Isabel, which can oftentimes lead to confusing conversations. Likewise, the plot can always get rather confusing at times: I found myself having to read slowly in order to fully understand the intricacies of particular scenes. Not that I didn’t enjoy doing it, however. All the enjoyable twists and turns—and yes, even the confusing bits—ensured that I didn’t want this book to end.
Overall, MISTWOOD was a book that started off strong and just got better by the end. The publicity line for the book, comparing it to works by Kristin Cashore, Tamora Pierce, and Megan Whalen Turner, doesn’t lie. This is an incredible debut accomplishment, and I’m hoping for many more books written by Leah Cypess in the future.
Megan Whalen Turner
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Cover discussion: 2 out of 5 - I might be in the minority about this, but I'm not particularly inspired or intrigued. Indeed, I had passed on this book multiple times when it came up in my Goodreads dashboard, on account of the strangeness of the cover. The awkwardly positioned half-face with the discomforting eyes, floating atop a faraway view of a gloomy castle... Didn't work for me. The colors are gloomy, the composition feels forced, and the overall thing just repels me instead of attracts.
Greenwillow Books / April 27, 2010 / Hardcover / 320pp. / $16.99
ARC borrowed from Doylestown Bookshop's Advanced Reader Program.