Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cypess, Leah: Mistwood (Mistwood, #1)

April 27, 2010
Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins
YA Fantasy, 304 pages
Acquired and read: From public library; two hours (give or take)

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. But when she is needed she always comes.

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.

Now Isabel faces a choice that threatens her loyalty, her heart... and everything she thought she knew.

This is one of those sitting-the-fence reads that I'm really glad I took the chance on. Ever read a review by someone you really trust (ie. another book blogger) that wasn't really positive, but you REALLY like the way the book sounds? Yeah, that was my conundrum right there, and (with all due respect to the blogger, because she's awesome) I'm glad I didn't listen to her because I really would have missed out.

The cover evokes this Lord of the Ring-esque world in my mind, but in reality the story and its situation sounds more like a royal court intrigue from the medieval times - or maybe Henry IV. Nothing is as it seems. Isabel, famed Shifter, guardian of the line of kings, emerges from the forest at the behest of the man who should be her next protectee - but she doesn't remember anything about who she is, or her duties.

From the beginning, I was attached to Isabel. She's determined to stick to the role of the mythical protector, but in reality she's just as lost and worried about the resolution as the reader. To me, she felt the way that Katsa (Graceling, Kristen Cashore) should have turned out, without all the gratuitous "no need to get married, just run around and pray you don't get pregnant" trifle that was shoved in. I loved the fact that (for once) the protagonist's self-discovery wasn't just centered around the romantic plot and being dependent on a man.

Rokan was a bit of a harder sell. Honestly, at times he seemed like a bit of a milk sop. ("Oh Daria! She's so perfect. Wait, why are you here bossing me around? Oh right, you're my protector. Hey, you're kinda cute...") I was glad he grew a bit of a backbone at the end...a bit.

When I reached the end, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was relieved that it was a stand-alone book because - honestly, the endless series are becoming a bit much. On the other hand, GAH IT ENDS RIGHT THERE?! At least there's a companion novel, but that's little comfort considering that I'm pretty sure it won't be the same. Ah, well. I can't bash it before I try it.

Warnings: One instance of bad language that can be quickly passed over. Other than that, this is one of the cleaner YA books I've read this year.

Final verdict? Yes. A big, red-pen YES.


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