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Mistwood by Leah Cypess

Mistwood has been on my radar for close to a year now, if you can believe it. I've been monitoring its status updates on Amazon and GoodReads and checking Leah Cypess' site regularly for any news. There have been tantalizingly few details about this book floating around the verse. I knew it was YA fantasy. I knew it was about a girl who was a shifter. And I knew it took place in a kingdom in trouble. The back cover copy proclaims it:
For fans of Kristin Cashore's Graceling and Fire, Tamora Pierce, and Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia books
Ahem. That combination right there is only like the holy triumvirate of YA fantasy awesome. And so it was with unmitigated glee that I pulled my ARC out of its box a few days ago. I started reading it that night.

She has no memory. No concept of an existence before the moment they came riding into the Mistwood to drag her back to a castle full of high walls, dark secrets, and the suffocating need of its prince. They call her Isabel. The Shifter. The mythical being who can take any form at a moment's notice, who is faster and stronger than any human, whose entire reason for existing is to protect the rulers of Samorna. From harm. From death. With her own life if necessary. And though she answers the insistent pull to protect Prince Rokan, Isabel cannot reconcile who she might be and what she might have been with who they expect her to be. Set apart by her uncertain status and the legend of her origins, she struggles to harness her abilities and come to grips with human emotions and motivations. Amid a swirl of court politics, scheming factions, and doubtful loyalties, the Shifter must race against time to save the man who would be king. A man she is bound to. A man she distrusts. A man she has come to call her friend.

First things first. The cover copy does not lie. Fans of Kristin CashoreTamora Pierce, and Megan Whalen Turner will definitely find much to delight among Mistwood's pages. Leah Cypess' debut novel is tense, intricately woven, and filled with an almost palpable sense of mystery and foreboding. The entire time I was reading it, I kept thinking to myself--anything could happen. I had no idea how things were going to play out. And I loved that about it. You literally have no idea who to trust. There are those you want to trust so badly, but are afraid to for fear of how much it will hurt if they betray you. And there are those you wouldn't put anything past, so devious do they appear. But all of them surprise you at one point or another. And at the heart of it all is a girl who is neither one thing nor another. Ms. Cypess does an excellent job of endearing Isabel to her readers, no mean feat when she is a supernatural being, a creature purportedly without feeling or even the basic understanding of human emotions. Despite this, I felt Isabel's emotions. With her I felt trapped. I felt confusion, longing, and a desperate drive to understand and to fulfill the measure of my existence.

A favorite passage early on (taken from my uncorrected ARC):

Rokan took a deep breath. The directness of his gaze strengthened his resemblance to the man in the painting, though there was nothing cold or judgmental in his eyes. He was trying to appear as regal as he could, but uncertainty was written all over him, and his face was flushed from his argument with Clarisse.
"I wasn't able to wake you earlier, or I would have warned you. Nobody knows I went to the Mistwood. We think it would be best to keep your true identity a secret for now. I hope you're not offended."
"Of course not," said Isabel, who had no idea what her true identity was. "That seems wise."
"Rokan ran his hand over his hair and clutched the back of his neck. "Oh. Good." He hesitated again, then blurted, "I don't actually know that much about the Shifter."
Then you know more than I do, Isabel thought, and saw an opportunity. She gave him her most enigmatic smile and said, "Tell me what you do know."
"Most of it is legend. An immortal creature who protects the kings of Samorna with her wisdom and magic." He massaged the back of his neck. "When the realm is peaceful, the Shifter sometimes leaves the castle and goes to the Mistwood. Then there may be no Shifter for twenty, fifty, once even a hundred years. But when she is needed, she always comes."
"There's even a song about you," Clarisse put in. "It's very pretty, if you like the high notes."
Isabel ignored her. Based on her brief experience, that already seemed like the best way to deal with Clarisse. She stepped closer to the door and turned sideways, so that she could be closer to Rokan without allowing Clarisse or Will out of her line of sight.
Rokan dropped his hand to his side and continued. "You left ten years ago, and at the time you were called Isabel. I was a child then, but . . ." He faltered and glanced at his sister. "We weren't sure you would come back. When you left . . . there were circumstances."
Running through the snow, blood trailing behind her. Tears falling, not leaving a mark like the blood, and that seemed wrong. Pain. Terrible, terrible pain . . .
"Yes," Isabel said without thinking, "there were."
Rokan straightened, pulling away from the wall. He, Will, and Clarisse looked at one another. They were afraid. Rokan and Clarisse both hid it almost well enough, but Will's face was near white.
Rokan recovered first, leaning back gingerly against the wall, trying to act casual. "So why did you leave?"
Isabel lifted her eyebrows. "I am not going to tell you that, Your Highness."
Rokan's hand tightened against his leg, but all he said was, "I understand."
Isabel highly doubted it.
I was glued to the page with this one, guys. Cypess' writing is quiet, yet gripping. The world itself felt truly unique and, as is the case with my very favorite fantasies, as though it possessed a long and winding history that precedes and encompasses this time and these people. By the time I reached the point of no return, I had abandoned all hope of guessing the outcome and simply devoured the final emotionally charged pages. With a cast of conflicted, compelling characters and a mystery so serpentine your mind is left spinning with explanations and implications, Mistwood is a bewitching and beguiling debut. I loved it and cannot wait to watch the reviews roll in. 


Mistwood is due out April 27th.

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Comments

  1. I heard about this one early on, too. Glad to hear it will be worth the wait!

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  2. ahhhh... interesting... placing this on my tbr's top pick for april.
    Thanks for reviewing.

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  3. OHH this sounds so awesome WOW!!!

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  4. Rachel, definitely worth it!

    Pat, awesome. It deserves top spot.

    Jenn, lol, then I characterized it accurately. It's totally awesome.

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  5. Great review, you make me want the book now! It's definitely going on my to buy list.

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  6. Anonymous12:16 PM

    I'm so happy you reviewed this early! I was writing down my most anticipated 2010 reads the other night and Mistwood is #8. Having only the description to go on, the book took a place before The Hunger Games 3. Obviously, I can't wait to read it. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    KarenS

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  7. Anything likened to MWT's Attolia series is a must buy for me. MISTWOOD also sounds very interesting, and Isabel an intriguing character.

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  8. Sounds good! And that cover is gorgeous!

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  9. I'm dying to read this book since it just sounds so fantastic. Great reveiw! :)

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  10. Hi :)
    Thank you very much for introducing me to Leah Cyprus. MISTWOOD sounds like a great read & you've put Leah & her novel on my ToBeRead list.
    All the best,
    RKCharron

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  11. Goodness Angie, this one sounds like it is just about near perfect.

    "Ahem. That combination right there is only like the holy triumvirate of YA fantasy awesome." -- this line alone about made my day ;)

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  12. Thanks for doing a review of this! MWT, Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore are three of my favorite authors and now I'm looking forward to reading Mistwood. :)

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  13. Goodness--I have this one in my pile, and now it's moved way way up in line (thanks especially to the MWT comparison...)

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  14. Ooo! You just made me feel even more lucky for having an ARC sitting in the next room. Can't wait to start it!

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  15. Good GOD, Angie, I think my head just exploded!!!!

    Must. Have. NOW. I cannot wait to get my grubby paws on this title!

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  16. I'm so so so excited about this book and now I WANT IT SO MUCH MORE!! Your review is going to drive me nuts!! Thanks for posting.

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  17. Glad to hear you liked it. That back cover quote seemed like quite a bit of hype to live up to, but I'm definitely on board.

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  18. I have an ARC of this... I will have to move it up in my reading pile.

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  19. Brie, I'm glad. I think you'll enjoy it.

    Karen, that's a pretty sweet spot it held all on its own. :)

    Sandy, that's what I was thinking as well. And Isabel is certainly unique and intriguing.

    Britt, I love the castle and the font.

    Lauren, thanks! Here's hoping April arrives soon. ;)

    RK, I'm glad she's on your list now. I love finding new debut authors.

    Michelle, high praise, isn't it? And yet it's completely different from all three of those authors. There are similarities fans of those 3 will love, but it's a unique setup Leah creates and I enjoyed trying to work my way through it.

    chachic, they're mine as well. I'll be interested to hear what you think of MISTWOOD once it's out.

    Charlotte, that one's always the clincher isn't it? hehe

    Chelle, I was thinking of you while I read it.

    Thea, LOL. I'm sure a copy will find its way into those grubby little hands shortly. I'm really keen to hear what you think of it. I thought it was going along nicely and then it built up to a really sweet climax and that's what sealed the deal for me.

    Sara, hehe, sorry! For what it's worth, I think you'll love it.

    Samantha, I agree. That quote was really throwing down the gauntlet, so to speak. And there are certainly elements reminiscent of all three of those authors for sure. But MISTWOOD is it's own thing and I'm interested to hear how fans of each to those authors respond to it.

    Rebecca, ooh, you are lucky! Hope you get to it soon. :)

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  20. Tamora Pierce, say what?! Fantasy novel (check), YA (check), supernatural/fantasy based (check), strong female character (check) --SOLD. *sighs as her TBR list grows another 3 feet tall*

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  21. You had me at... the cover copy? When did this person crawl inside my head and make a book just for meeeeeee? Thanks so much for a great rec to slaver over!

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  22. I'm convinced! Can't wait to open Mistwood.

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  23. If I hadn't been intrigued by the cover, the back copy would have sold me. I'm a huge Tamora Pierce fan, and your review just confirms my opinion that it sounds like a great read.

    I can't wait until April!

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  24. Lan, lol, I know. That was my reaction as well.

    dreadfulpenny, ha! Isn't it the truth? Sometimes they do seem to have had us in mind from the get-go.

    Bonnie, excellent!

    Lana, comparisons to Tamora Pierce are like candy for me. Oh, really? I'll have two, plzthx.

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  25. this post has excellent information.

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