Book Recommendation: Mistwood

19 Jun

by Savannah J. Foley and Jennifer Fitzgerald

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Mistwood is our book of the month for June, and we thought we’d give you a little insight as to why! And in case you missed it, you can read the interview we did with the author of Mistwood, Leah Cypess, here!

Description from Mistwood’s Amazon page:

For centuries, the kings of Samorna have depended upon the immortal Shifter for protection. When the Crown Prince Rokan ventures into the Mistwood to find the Shifter, she again allows herself to be caught, to be tamed, and to be tangled into the deception and danger of the human court.

The Shifter is uneasy, though. First she woke with no distinct memory of the past and now she finds that she is unable to change shape. As she adapts to palace life and painstakingly hides her inability to embrace her past abilities fully, she seems to become more the Lady Isabel as she is known in court, unwittingly displaying human emotions and hesitating in her bound duties to the crown.

As Rokan becomes king, he is thrust into danger, seemingly from all sides. Isabel learns much more than she bargained for as she hunts among courtiers for conspirators and finds her loyalties divided. This story unfolds gracefully, mirroring the slow path Isabel must travel to begin understanding herself and her place in the world. Her journey in self-acceptance takes place within a country in turmoil.

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The aspect I loved most about Mistwood was the same part that gave many readers pause: The constant shifts in plot and purpose, mirroring Isabel’s role as the Shifter.

When Isabel re-joins the human world she knows as much about being the Shifter as the reader. All the other characters have expectations for her abilities and ‘powers’  that she flat out doesn’t remember how to even use. All she (and we) know is that she is responsible for protecting the life of Prince Rokan, who is currently in the midst of the boring, month-long ceremonies required to officially take his place as King.

As Isabel gets re-acquainted with life in a castle, parts of her memory seem to come back to her; clothing, customs, and sometimes even rooms all seem familiar. Which makes sense… she was the Shifter once, right? So why isn’t it ALL coming back? Why exactly did she leave the castle in the first place? Isabel discovers that she ran off years ago after ‘failing’… but what had she failed at?

At this point I loved how the court system and even the magic system of this world were gracefully explained through a friendship with the current Magician’s Assistant. Isabel’s ignorance is the reader’s ignorance; and she asks questions that I would ask. Pieces of knowledge are revealed slowly, allowing both readers and Isabelt to draw connections that advance the plot and clarify the previous actions of courtiers.

There was also a journey of emotional growth here, as Isabel learns who makes her happy and who makes her want to smash things. Prince Rokan is a great character; initially a stereotypical prince (charming, handsome, smart, etc.), he develops into a man haunted by the actions of his father, trying to heal the region and do the right thing by his people, even if the rest of the court does not approve.

Multiple attempts on Prince Rokan’s life are made, and as Isabel’s influence over the castle grows her awareness of all sub-plots increase, but even she can’t predict the betrayals her Prince suffers. Soon Isabel can’t trust anyone, not even Prince Rokan or herself, and the sudden appearance of yet another assassin brings out the truth of what happened those many years ago, and puts Isabel into a terrible predicament: as the Shifter, she is bound to protect the royal family. But what if the royal family is in the wrong? What if the person she loves -despite the fact that the Shifter should feel no human emotion- is the person she is meant to destroy?

Each chapter of Mistwood offers a new twist and peels back the layers of these initially flat characters. By the end of the book I was amazed by the complicated motives of the players involved, and how it all fit together so well. Mistwood uses the concept of ‘unreliable narrator’ very well, and the ending is not something I would have expected.

I also love how this book ended on a positive note that didn’t get sappy. I didn’t feel that Mistwood ended ‘happy’ because the writer wanted it to be; the plot really resolved itself and the opportunity was there for Isabel to try and live the life she wanted.

I read Mistwood on my Nook when I was on vacation, and it made the miserable time on the airplane fly by. Whenever the flight attendants came by to check on our electronic devices I hid the Nook in my purse because I couldn’t wait to get back to the story. I thought about Mistwood when I wasn’t reading it, and long after it was over, and will probably be ready to read it again in a month or so. That’s the mark of a good book 🙂

I would definitely recommend this book to other readers.

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Mistwood’s opening page completely hooked me. I was going through the YA section looking for books ‘for my little sister’ and the voice and atmosphere created in the first few lines pulled me right in to Isabel’s world. The setting of the Mistwood was delightfully eerie and the castle’s numerous winding hallways and towers were the perfect place for scheming and intrigue.

The twists and surprises throughout the book were great. They felt like the natural unwinding of so many people’s little plots, overlapping and interfering with each other. It also kept me on my toes, trying to figure out who was really loyal to which person, who were the double and triple crossers, and who was just feeding the fire to watch it burn. I love books that keep throwing my curveballs as long as they don’t come out of left field, and trying to figure out what was going on kept me reading for the six hours it took me to finish. I only stopped for dinner and that was because my family insisted.

Isabel’s frustration and confusion was palpable throughout as was Rokan’s fascination with her and the concerns weighing on him. The shifts in perspective were very well done and the use of third person meant the reader gets insight into what Isabel and Rokan are thinking without a change in narrators or any interruption. Rokan’s drive to be as good as he can in spite of his harsh father’s training makes him likeable and the kind of guy you want to be in charge. In fact, he’s pretty impossible to dislike, even when you discover the reasons behind the Shifter’s previous departure from the castle and Rokan’s current danger.

I am a sucker for happy endings. Not gooey, sparkly endings (though I sometimes like those too), but Mistwood’s ending wasn’t neatly packaged and sterilized like a Disney movie. It wasn’t all happy and it wasn’t morally clear, which made it all the more real. So, even if I was sad not everybody ended up with the love of their life and a pony, it worked well, and Isabel finally got to make her own decision about the course of her life.

I wish Mistwood had been twice as long. Well, maybe not twice as long, but at least another 30k words. Mostly because Leah Cypress does such an excellent job skipping scenes that aren’t crucial to the plot and summarizing them in the character’s dialogue or the narration that it makes me wish we could see those scenes too. These parts don’t feel like a brief summary to get the author out of having to write something, I had the impression that Leah Cypress knew exactly how each conversation went and I wanted to know too! At least I have a sequel or companion book to look forward to!

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14 Responses to “Book Recommendation: Mistwood”

  1. TymCon June 19, 2010 at 7:17 AM #

    Sounds nice. I’ll probably add it to the growing list of books i have to buy:S I like books that have happy endings. It depends on how the book ends i guess. Um, when i read a bad ending in a series then i’m either like: Oh my god i have to get the next book. NOW.
    But i was reading A clash of Kings and oh my god that left a bad feeling. I think it’s probably becuase the first book ended unhappily so I was a bit: Damn you. You killed of a few of my favourite characters.
    So usually i like hapy endings at the end of series, or in the first book or third e.t.c.
    Yeah this post didn’t ask a question…I still answered an imaginary one!

    • jenn fitzgerald June 19, 2010 at 11:37 AM #

      I hate when my favorite characters get killed, it either puts me in denial or I stop reading/watching. That happened with Lost, after they killed a couple people I really liked I was done. I hate really unhappy endings too, unless it’s like a Shakespeare play where I can laugh. I definitely laughed at the end of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.

      • TymCon June 19, 2010 at 7:56 PM #

        Yeah i did actually find the ending of Hamlet funny. Not in a hahah way but more of a “Okay…” way. If someone wrote that now they’d be called lazy. Just my opinion.

    • Vanessa June 19, 2010 at 2:37 PM #

      I actually like unhappy endings. Okay, that makes me sound like a TERRIBLE person. I don’t ALWAYS; but I’ve always believed that the best books will kill off a character that you’ve become emotionally attached to. It gives the reader more reason to invest in the hero/heroine, to avenge their death.

      I hate when fave characters get killed off, but I suppose I understand why the writer is doing it. It isn’t realstic for everyone to survive and be happy happy in the end.

      Some books end in ways that make me furious, because even if it’s a sad ending, I still need to feel some sort of closure. I remember I read this fantasy book YEARS ago (I wish I could remember the name!), where at the end, the protagonist dies of a sickness (having risked himself to save others). I bawled my eyes out. I knew, though, that if he hadn’t done it, everyone else would have died. So while I was upset, I understood that the story couldn’t have ended with sunshines and rainbows. And to this day, I’ve never forgotten how much it impacted me. I really wish I had bought it, so that I could reread it.

      • svonnah June 19, 2010 at 3:56 PM #

        I love unhappy endings, too! I try to kill off at least one character in my stories… that said, I liked the ending of Mistwood. It felt realistic.

        • Sarah J. Maas June 19, 2010 at 4:07 PM #

          No offense, but…don’t you think intentionally killing off characters is just as unrealistic and sterilized as a forced happy ending? I feel like you should write the ending based on how it SHOULD end–whether or not that means a happily ever after or someone dying. Forcing yourself to kill a character JUST to avoid a perfectly happy ending seems just as bad as a sappy ending.

          • TymCon June 19, 2010 at 8:06 PM #

            Yup kind of agree. Once or twice i’ve tried to write a story where i knew one of my characters were going to die. Like I set up a specific character to ger murdered. Usually by a family member, don’t ask me why i don’t actually know. Anyway that changes all interaction whit that character. Maybe it’s just me but i lose all intrest in the character’s quirks, beginning and stuff.
            I’m not entirely sure if i made my point since i was watching cold case and got completly distracted.

      • jenn fitzgerald June 19, 2010 at 5:36 PM #

        Sometimes unhappy endings can be kind of satisfying or the way things had to work out, given the set-up, and those I understand and appreciate if not like, but I absolutely hate gratuitous character murder. It always strikes me as unnecessary and a cheap shot. Like killing Tonks AND Lupin in the 7th Harry Potter. It wasn’t even an onscreen death which would have made it meaningful. That bothered me whereas I would have understood if she’d killed Harry.

      • Sandra June 23, 2010 at 11:52 AM #

        “I’ve always believed that the best books will kill off a character that you’ve become emotionally attached to. It gives the reader more reason to invest in the hero/heroine, to avenge their death.”

        Sirius in Harry Potter and
        Mufasa in The Lion King.
        The small part of me that has accepted their deaths completely agrees with you. It hurts, but as The Last Unicorn reminds us: “Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their greatness goes unnoticed.”

  2. Vanessa June 19, 2010 at 2:40 PM #

    I LOVED Mistwood. There were countless twists and turns, and that ENDING! I did not see it coming! I love endings that aren’t perfect and happy, and Leah Cypess did an amazing job. And best of all, I was still satsified after I finished. Sometimes, sad endings can be unsatisfying; but it is always a pleasure to read a sad ending that is.

    This was a great review! There is nothing I can add at all, except that I really did enjoy it.

    I would definitely recommend it as well!

  3. Sarah J. Maas June 19, 2010 at 4:04 PM #

    Gaahhhh! Reading these reviews makes me want to skip all of the required reading I have to do (“required” in the sense of personal obligations) and read MISTWOOD ASAP! I already have it on my Kindle, so it’s just a matter of getting through the long list of books I have to read before it.

    • jenn fitzgerald June 19, 2010 at 5:36 PM #

      Do it!!!

  4. Sandra June 23, 2010 at 12:22 PM #

    Mistwood…After a couple of chapters I was forced to postpone finishing it (nothing less would have stopped me). When I was finally free at around 1 in the morning I couldn’t resist picking it up and even though I had to get up early I ended up finishing the novel that night/morning, telling myself “just one more chapter” the whole time.

    There were so many twists and the desire to find out the truth kept me turning pages. I lost myself in the intricate plot and the remarkable characters so easily, so completely, that my thoughts were fixed on the novel for hours afterward.

    I loved the ending most of all- I definitely thought it ended when she smiled (SPOILER-ish: I loved that last encounter between them and I was ridiculously happy and pleased that it was just that and not something more intimate physically as this was realistic and beautiful)

    I *highly* recommend this book.

  5. abby December 17, 2012 at 9:18 PM #

    THIS BOOK IS AMAZING!!!… i have it on my nook and i am obsessed with it!
    Im doing a book report on it for school

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