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Mistwood by Leah Cypess
Review by Lucy Schmeidler
Greenwillow Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061956997
Date: 01 May 2010 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Mistwood is a lovely YA fantasy, which this grandmother read with delight. So what makes Mistwood YA? Most obviously, it's a slim (304 page) volume from a children's publisher. Then, the protagonists, particularly Prince Rokan, Prince Willard, and Princess Clarisse, even when filling adult roles with adult responsibilities, are in their teens. But most importantly, Cypess handles the themes of love and loyalty, justice, and vengeance, with an honesty and directness rare in adult fiction.

The action takes place in the cstle of Samorna and in the nearby Mistwood, the Shifter's home when she is not called upon by the king. The main viewpoint is that of a shapeshifter, whose job is to protect the king of Samorna and his family from all dangers. But time spent in the Mistwood affects the Shifter's memory, so she has no knowledge of her past or of 17-year-old Prince Rokan, the soon-to-be crowned king, whom she has sworn to protect. Prince Rokan is in fear for his life, though he isn't more specific about where the danger may be coming from. She has sixty days to learn all she can about her prince's enemies and friends before his coronation, with almost no one she can trust with the secret of her ignorance.

Almost immediately she is under attack from an enemy of her own, and when she finds a friend she can trust, he is killed, magically, before her eyes. When she finally remembers who and what she really is, she develops a sense of self and discovers the ability to make her own choices, rather than blindly following what she is supposed to do.

Cypess shows a realistic relationship between siblings, who love each other, "even if [they] don't like each other very much sometimes." And she presents an interesting contrast between the magic of sorcerers, who "don't understand magic at all, [but] can only use it," putting a lot of effort into their spells, and that of the Shifter, who uses it naturally, being magic herself, possessing more than human strength and speed, able to change her appearance and the substance of her hands with a casual thought.

All in all, this first novel is a magnificent read, and suggests a magical future for its author.

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