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Blogger Book Review: Mistwood by Leah Cypess

Posted by cat eyes & skinny jeans on February 20, 2011

Happy lazy Sunday, inkpoppers! This morning we bring you a review of Leah Cypess Mistwood straight from Danya of the book-devoted blog A Tapestry of Words.

Danya says of her reading tastes, “I enjoy the genres of fantasy, realistic fiction, dystopian, historical fiction, and sometimes mysteries.” So it’s no surprise that she is eager to share her thoughts about the fantastical Mistwood. Read more reviews from Danya at A Tapestry of Words; for now, feast on Mistwood.

One sentence sum-up: a tale of magic, past wrongs, revenge, and what it means to be human.

My reaction: I’d heard about this book for a while before I actually ordered it from the library, mostly because I thought it looked like a fairly standard traditional YA fantasy read, nothing too out of the ordinary. But then I kept seeing really positive reviews so I put it on hold.

And I’m so glad I did! Yes, Mistwood is in the style of traditional fantasy, but it reminded me of exactly why I love this genre so much. A strong but complex female protagonist? Check. A castle full of secrets? Check. A prince trying to hide the past? Check. Assassination attempts? Check. All combining to make one extremely impressive debut novel.

It did take me a few chapters to connect with both the main character Isabel and the story. The beginning is confusing, as Isabel’s memories are clouded and so too is the reader’s understanding. This, coupled with Isabel’s tendency to lie (sometimes without the reader being informed she is doing so) results in something similar to the ‘unreliable narrator’ effect, though it is written in third-person. However, soon enough I was swept up in all of the drama and I began to care about Isabel and Rokan; indeed, I gobbled this book up in a single evening, staying up late at night to finish! The plot had me flipping the pages eagerly, and I appreciated the obvious attention to detail, as everything ties up very nicely with few (if any) loose ends.

Best aspect: The mystery surrounding Isabel’s history. Cypess keeps the reader guessing as Isabel gains piece after piece of a complicated puzzle. There are several revelations along the way, many of which I did not see coming (including the climactic one, at which point I went, ‘Duh! How could I not have guessed that?’ in my head). Much as I loved the gripping intrigue and action-filled scenes (and this book is chock-full of that, since no one trusts anyone else), perhaps even more enjoyable was seeing the more personal side of the story, as Isabel learns about who she truly is and what life she desires to lead. She starts out being cool, distancing, and clinical in a way, and then as the novel progresses she begins to experience human emotions she doesn’t understand. Isabel is not the most sympathetic heroine from the get-go, but she won me over as she struggled with self-doubt and came to better understand her abilities and limitations.

If I could change something… I would have liked to see a bit more of the romance that develops, and also a clearer portrayal of Isabel’s need to protect Samornian royalty. Spoiler, highlight to read: Because of Isabel’s Shifter nature, she does not show or share emotions often. Her relationship with Rokan is subtle and develops very gradually, and while I was certainly cheering them on to get together, a bit more chemistry between them would have been welcome. I must say I didn’t ever feel the bond between Isabel and Kaer, despite the fact we get told about their connection and her duty to protect him. This may have been deliberate, however, both as a means of showing that Isabel herself wasn’t convinced and also to encourage the reader to dislike Kaer.

The out-and-out villains were not terribly complex, unfortunately, and I would have enjoyed seeing some more layers to their personalities and motives. However, there was one character (not saying who!) that was very tricky and continually surprised me, which added to the unpredictability of the storyline.

In five words or less: captivating, mystical and thoroughly enchanting.

Quote: ‘She had learned to pay attention to the variations in Rokan’s smiles. There was the sideways half-smile when he found something amusing; the slow, contented smile that appeared only rarely these days; and the wide, dazzling, unrestrained smile she had so far seen only twice, when he first came for her in the Mistwood and when they watched the hawk soar against the sky. And then there was this one, the reason for her watchfulness: the impish grin that meant he wanted to do something he knew was stupid and was going to do it anyhow.’

Read if you liked: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn, The Seer and the Sword by Victoria Hanley.

Final verdict: 4.5 shooting stars.

Thank you to Danya from A Tapestry of Words for talking to us about Mistwood.

Over to you…have you read Mistwood? If so, what did you think of it? If not, will you be picking this book up during your next trip to the bookstore and/or library?

Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Erika (aka inkpoperika)

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