I have been waiting for this book for some time. The release date was last April 27 but I was only able to obtain a copy from Powerbooks early this week. I’ve seen Mistwood recommended for fans of Megan Whalen Turner, Kristin Cashore and Tamora Pierce. Since I’m a fan of all three authors, I was really excited to read this. Here’s what MWT said about Mistwood:
“Cypess’s spare but evocative language built a world that stayed with me long after I finished her story.”
– Megan Whalen Turner, author of New York Times bestseller A Conspiracy of Kings
Doesn’t that make you want to read the book more? I’m always curious about books likened to MWT’s work and any book that MWT recommends. Here’s the summary from Leah Cypess’ website:
Everyone tells Isabel that she is the Shifter – the ancient shape-shifting creature who has protected the kings of Samorna for centuries. They need her to be the Shifter. Prince Rokan risked everything when he rode into the Mistwood to summon her to his side; Ven, the magician’s apprentice, has devoted his life to studying her legend; and even Princess Clarisse, who fears and hates her, depends on Isabel’s powers to further her own plans.
But Isabel doesn’t feel like the Shifter. She feels like a lonely human girl, beset by flashes of memory that do more to confuse than to help her. If she is the Shifter, why can’t she change her shape? Why doesn’t she remember what made her flee the castle so many years ago? As she is drawn deeper into a web of magic and assassination, Isabel will have no choice but to look for answers. But her search will lead her to the one question the Shifter hasn’t faced in a thousand years: where does she come from, and what does she really want?
You can even read the first three chapters here. Okay, before I get to anything else. I would like to apologize to Ms. Cypess because for some reason, I used to spell her name as Cypress. I don’t think I’m the only one who did this because even our local bookstore has Leah Cypress in their database and when I use Google to search for Leah Cypress, a couple of results show up. So I just want to bring this up in case other people have made the same mistake. It’s CYPESS and not Cypress. 🙂
Isabel is the Shifter, a creature of legend bound to protect the kings of Samorna but when Prince Rokan came to the Mistwood to summon her, Isabel doesn’t remember anything. She doesn’t remember her centuries of being the Shifter or why she left the palace so suddenly, she only remembers living in the Mistwood. It is said that whenever the Shifter comes back to the Mistwood, she forgets her court life but gains back her memories when she needs them again. As Isabel slowly adjusts to the palace and everyone in it, some of her memories come back to her and she learns how to live around people she knows she can’t trust. Here’s one of my favorite scenes early in the book. This happened when Isabel was still new to the palace and Princess Clarisse came to visit her for no apparent reason:
She came, Isabel thought with a flash of clarity, to see me. To decide what she thought of me, and what she could get out of me.
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.
With that passage alone, you already have an idea of why this book is recommended for MWT fans. There’s a lot of political and court intrigue involved in this book. The reader is always kept guessing, with no idea what’s going to happen next or what the characters are thinking. Every person is suspicious of everyone else because they all know that they all have their court masks in place. You never know if someone’s plotting against someone else. This reminds me more strongly of Sherwood Smith’s work rather than MWT. The Kristin Cashore and Tamora Pierce comparisons come from having a strong female protagonist, capable of fighting her own battles with words or with physical strength.
I enjoyed reading Mistwood and I second the recommendation for the three authors already mentioned and Sherwood Smith fans might also be curious about this one. I know that whenever I like a book, I always mention the characters but I can’t help it. Any book that has a well-written, character-driven plot packed with intrigue and set in a beautiful, magical world will always get to me. I liked Isabel and how she adapts to a life that she can’t remember anything about. At the start of the book, she’s lost and confused but she gains her strength as she uncovers more truths about herself, the kingdom and the major players in court. Other notable characters are Prince Rokan, the reluctant king-to-be who cares too much about everything and Princess Clarisse, beautiful and seemingly cold-hearted with no concrete allegiance to anyone.
When I got a copy of Mistwood, I put the book that I was reading on hold so I can go ahead and read this one. Now that I’ve finished, I don’t want to go back to that other book because I want to keep myself immsersed in Mistwood’s world. I’m definitely going to watch out for Leah Cypess’ future releases.