Mistwood by Leah Cypess

Deep in the magical forest known as the Mistwood lives a creature known as the Shifter. Blessed with the ability to shift into any shape she pleases, the shifter has one purpose: to serve and protect the kings of Samorna. But no one has seen the Shifter for many years until Prince Rokan dares to enter the dangerous Mistwood in search of this almost-mythical creature, hoping that she will be able to keep him safe. Feeling an inexplicable urge to follow and protect Rokan, the Shifter Isabel follows him out of the forest and into a castle shrouded in danger, lies, and half-truths. Isabel herself has no memory of her existence before the Prince found her but understands deep within herself that her one duty is to protect Rokan from the threat he refuses to explain. A little at a time, Isabel begins to regain her memories of palace life and the past; clues that do more to confuse than to help Isable unravel the secrets surrounding Prince Rokan's court. Surrounded by those she cannot trust - including the Prince himself - and beset by personal doubts, Isabel strives to protect Rokan, someone she is bound to serve yet who she is also coming to see as something more.

There are so many wonderful things I would like to say about Leah Cypess' lovely debut Mistwood. First off the cover. Holy cow it is ever gorgeous! And I'm happy to report that the insides are just as pretty. Leah Cypess has crafted a compelling world with characters who utterly refuse to be pigeon-holed into any specific category. No one is completely good or evil, trust-worthy or disloyal - all of which makes Isabel's task of uncovering those seeking to harm the Prince that much more difficult. Isabel herself is even a bit of a contradiction. Although non-human, she is continually disturbed by the all-too human emotions of fear and worry and confusion. Emotions which she keeps tightly controlled, even thought it seemed as if on every page she was this close to erupting.

Then there is the cunning and devious Clarisse, Rokan's sister, who Isabel is wary of on sight. Clarisse is a strong female with brains to spare and Isabel is right to be suspicious of her since the reader never truly understands where her sympathies lie - even at the end of the book! I have a sneaking suspicion she is one of those people who end up on the winning side of any conflict, immaterial of the side she began on. She's a puzzle and I was glued to page every time she and Isabel would spar. Like this early scene (even though Clarisse doesn't really say anything), when Clarisse pays Isabel an unexpected visit for the first time.
She turned and walked away without waiting for a response, and Isabel watched her go with narrowed eyes. She did not like that smile. It was too smug. Clarisse had come here for a specific purpose and had accomplished it.

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.
And that's just the beginning. There is absolutely nothing predictable about the stunningly mysterious Mistwood. I was right there along with Isabel as she regained her memory piece by piece, constantly plagued by a nagging sensation that something important lay yet just out of her reach. I can only hope that Ms. Cypess has plans to return to the excellent world of Mistwood and Isabel and Rokan and Clarisse, as her creative and compelling characters made quite the impression on this reader.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
The Book Smugglers review 
Chachic's Book Nook review
Library Lounge Lizard review
Steph Su Reads review
The Story Siren review

book source: review copy from the publisher


Chachic said...

I love that passage that quoted, I also put it up in my review. :) So glad you liked this one! I enjoyed reading it as well and I think Angie mentioned that Leah Cypess is working on a companion novel for this.

Charlotte said...

I second what Chachic said--it's so nice to see others loving the books one loved oneself!

Holly said...

This was lovely, wasn't it? I loved how windy the plot was and how you didn't known where anyone's sympathies lied until the end.

Angiegirl said...

It really is amazing what she did with this one. How we end up completely on Isabel's side, even when we're not sure of her in the beginning. And the writing was just right.

Michelle said...

Chachic - So happy to hear that Ms. Cypess will be writing another book. She is truly talented!

Charlotte - Yup. One of my favorite parts about being involved in the book review community actually!

Holly - It was all so twisty turny and entirely unexpected. Loved it!

Angie - I loved and adored Isabel by the end (for basically all of the book actually). There was so much going on but all was so tightly controlled that I couldn't help but love it! Thanks for recommending it!