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The Shifter is an immortal creature bound by an ancient spell to protect the kings of Samorna. When the realm is peaceful, she retreats to the Mistwood.

But when she is needed she always comes.

Isabel remembers nothing. Nothing before the prince rode into her forest to take her back to the castle. Nothing about who she is supposed to be, or the powers she is supposed to have.

Prince Rokan needs Isabel to be his Shifter. He needs her ability to shift to animal form, to wind, to mist. He needs her lethal speed and superhuman strength. And he needs her loyalty—because without it, she may be his greatest threat.

Isabel knows that her prince is lying to her, but she can't help wanting to protect him from the dangers and intrigues of the court . . . until a deadly truth shatters the bond between them.

Now Isabel faces a choice that threatens her loyalty, her heart . . . and everything she thought she knew.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published July 14, 2009

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About the author

Leah Cypess

54 books792 followers
I wrote my first story in first grade. The narrator was an ice-cream cone in the process of being eaten. In fourth grade, I wrote my first book, about a girl who gets shipwrecked on a desert island with her faithful and heroic dog (a rip-off of both The Black Stallion and all the Lassie movies, very impressive).

However, I took a few detours along the way to becoming a full-time writer. After selling my first story (Temple of Stone) while in high school, I gave in to my mother's importuning to be practical and majored in biology at Brooklyn College. I then went to Columbia Law School and practiced law for almost two years at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, a large law firm in New York City. I kept writing and submitting in my spare time, and finally, a mere 15 years after my first short story acceptance, I am going to be a published novelist. I am very excited about this!

I currently (as of the time of my writing this) have four published YA fantasy novels: Mistwood, Nightspell, Death Sworn, and Death Marked. I live in the DC area with my husband Aaron, and our children.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 788 reviews
Profile Image for Kristi.
1,193 reviews2,902 followers
July 24, 2010
Mistwood was such a beautifully written novel. If there was one thing that really blew me away it was the writing. It was exquisite, it really was. That alone will keep me seeking out more novels by Cypress.

However, I found the other elements of the story lacking. The plot was one big mystery. Both the reader and Isabel are in the dark for almost all of the novel. If I had to describe the plot in one word, I'd say confusing. I found that when you start a novel that takes place in a different world, you have to get in a few chapters before you really 'know' what's going on. Does that make sense? Well, that is what I was expecting to happen this time around, but I just found myself waiting for that moment of understanding or at least a smidgen of clarity.... I did finally get it, but it didn't come until the last few pages of the novel. I think that made the plot seem a little slow for me as well, because I had a hard time becoming invested in the story.

The characters were all a little to flat and two dimensional for my tastes. The one character that I did start to enjoy, was killed off! So much for that..... Isabel, despite her flaws, was a very perplexing character, but by the time I really understood her, I didn't care anymore. I wasn't particularly impressed with any of the characters even though I wanted to be.

Somehow I knew that two of the characters were going to fall for each other, but I didn't really see it happening, I just had this hankering. Um, yes, I did just say hankering. But once the proclamation of love is made.... it just seemed so insincere! Something was missing. Perhaps that was just me though. I do love reading a good love story and maybe that's what I was wanting to see from those two characters and it's completely possible that I just missed some of the foreshadowing on that...? Am I alone in that revelation?

The ending, while it was the one thing I think I enjoyed the most about the novel, just sort of ended. This huge bombshell is dropped on the reader and you don't even have a chance to digest it, and neither do the characters. It's just kind of put out there and then... the END.

I'm hoping possibly that this is part of a series...? I would be interested in reading more about this story and know that it could be something magnificent.

Overall, Miswood was beautifully written, but just lacked some of the qualities that I like to see in a great novel.
Profile Image for Angie.
645 reviews1,013 followers
January 26, 2010
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 the 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 Cashore, Tamora 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.
Profile Image for Sabrina .
219 reviews126 followers
March 5, 2012

Ummm ... am I just dense or was this book super confusing? Is this just me? I ... have absolutely no idea what to say.

The plot was rather confusing. At times (like every single page of the book) I was just reading and it would be like the words went through one ear and out the other one. I have no idea how I got through the entire novel, I had absolutely no clue what was going on most of the time.

Even now, I am still pretty confused with what happened. It's a huge mystery and for once, I wasn't one step ahead. Sometimes, some mystery is good. It keeps the reader hooked and wanting to know the answer, the solution. Not in this case. This time I was too confused to even know what answer I was looking for. It wasn't until the final pages was the mystery solved, and because of this, I felt the plot was confusing, long and tedious.

I couldn't get into the story. Once it begins, we're already in this other world and the readers are left to discover it for themselves. Imagine you're watching T.V and all of a sudden it swtiches the channel and you're watching it again, finally getting some sort of understanding and then it switches again. That's what this book was like. When I am just about to understand what is happening, a twist happens and I am left sitting there like an idiot.

I didn't like Isabel. And that's a major thing for me. I couldn't bring myself to like this strong, seemingly emotionless girl. She just seemed so - ugh! I didn't like her one bit and when I don't like a main character, I won't like the novel. But she wasn't the main reason I didn't like this book, the main reason was I didn't know what this book was about.

As for the rest of the characters, I didn't care for them that much. I mean, they weren't bad but I was just expecting more. And was it just me but did anyone else think Isabel's and Rokan's 'love' was jsut a bit rushed? Forced? Untrue?

I know I did. I mean, I had a feeling they would hook up, almost all main characters do. But I didn't feel like their relationship had the progress it needed. Again, I was confused (wow, I seem to be getting dumber by this book). I just didn't feel that spark I like to feel when I read about 2 people falling in love. Being a hopeless romantic, this book didn't give me what I wanted. I felt like the book was missing some needed chapters, or at least pages, for the build-up of their supposed love.

On the brighter side ... like I said before, the ending did finally reveal the solution to the mystery. I was happy about that. I wasn't happy that then the book ended. It's just like, the author took me on this confusing journey that I only stayed on so I would get some answers and when I finally do, BOOM! The book is over. And I'm just like "What???"

The writing itself was amazing. I'll give her that. Does that make sense? That I enjoyed the writing so much to give it that extra star but I didn't get the plot? No matter, it does to me.

Overall, it was an okay-ish book. I had bigger expectations that were fallen short of but I do think that if you enjoy mysteries, have actual patience and don't read this in a sleep-deprived state, you might actually understand some of it. For now, my rating is 2 stars but I will give it another try sometime.


I feel dumb now :(
September 1, 2016
This book was a nice surprise. I think I found a new favorite author. Its nice that the story isn't dragged out as a trilogy but with this and the author's other series, its more of a 2 parter. I'm okay with that.

Anyway Mistwood is one of those books that I've been wanting to read for a while now. I see it sometimes as a suggestion but hadn't gotten around to reading it until after reading Death Sworn and Death Marked.

With Mistwood I went in knowing nothing, my expectations low. I found this to be a really good book. What I like about Cypess's books so far are that the pacing isn't slow well sometimes but you don't really mind it. That and the writing makes up for it. The descriptions of what goes through the main characters head and what they think of their situation and etc, is really well done.

I also like the character of Isabel/Shifter. One of my new favorite characters who actually does something isn't just pondering what she'll do. But she shows she does have flaws and isn't sure of everything and I like Plus her scenes with Rokan. It was nice that it started off not as a romance but they merely talk and get to know one another. All the while question what they think they know about the other, etc and I like that.

Nice of change of pace than the usual having the two characters fall each other right off the bat or just stare at each other or something.

Just when I think something will turn out one way it turns out the other so I appreciate that the book tries to take the story and characters in a direction even if you can kind of tell how it will end. But at the same time I don't mind that and like the book even more for it. Overall, loved it and looking forward to the author's next series.
Profile Image for Anna Marie.
1,151 reviews2 followers
August 13, 2016
Very convoluted, over-written fantasy about a girl who may or may not be a shifter who spends the entire book having internal monologues about how she may or may not be a shifter. And when she isn't doing that, she's considering how she has no emotions as a shifter and can't understand people's emotions, but she's emotional about it. And anyhow, the shifter is supposed to weed out potential threats to the king who summons her, but how is she supposed to do that if she doesn't understand people's emotions.

It was a mess. Seriously. All mind games, the entire book, and the reader is left to either feel stupid or be confused, or just let go and hope that somebody SOMEDAY explains some of it.

The shifter is a personality-less, completely uninteresting version of Kirsten Stewart. Which... right there, it's over. But put Kirsten Stewart in a story slower and less interesting than 'Twilight'? It's a total snore.

And the romance isn't romantic, the action is so rushed it feels like an indiscernible blur, the evil people aren't evil, the good guy isn't a good guy, the shape shifter can't shape-shift... after a while you think, "What is the POINT of this crap? Other than to be a MESS?!"

And then finally at the end, you find out that the shifter isn't a shifter, it's a girl that the shifter went into and kind of fell apart in, and that's why she can shift her hair and eyes and has super-speed, but can't change shape. Which... doesn't really make anything any better. And you find out that the mouthy-but-useless princess is really a princess with magical powers AND a mouth, which doesn't really make anything any worse. And the prince that's legit is the bad guy, and the usurper did it to save the kingdom, so he's really the good guy. And he, of course, loves the shifter, who is the real prince's sister with a shifter inside of her, mostly but sorta not.

Convoluted, over-written, too many mind games, and leaves you feeling very (((O_o)))
Profile Image for snowplum.
161 reviews28 followers
January 7, 2015
I think the GR average for this book -- currently 3.53 -- is probably more accurate than any of the extreme raves or pans that have resulted in this rather lukewarm number. (Though I'm going to leave off the .53 and just give it a 3.) I would say this is a book comprised of some interesting ideas and surprises, good-but-not-great prose, and weak-but-not-terrible storytelling. You know how every once in a while a TV show or movie will have one credit for "Story By" and another for "Written By?" Mistwood would have benefited from having a similar separation of responsibilities. Leah Cypress came up with a story worth exploring but needed, at the very least, a much more aggressive editor to demand substantive changes and additions to the text.

It will be very difficult to give you a clear picture of the problems without including serious spoilers in my review, but I'll give it a try with something sort of silly. Imagine that Harry Potter was still a seven book series, and Rowling had decided to introduce, in book 7, that Harry was not only a wizard, but also a werewolf, because James was infertile and had asked Lupin to be a donor to help him and Lily conceive a child, so Harry has wolf shifter DNA and it manifests itself as werewolfism because when Voldemort tried to kill him, it activated a curse on his wolf half that transformed it from animal to demon... but in a strange twist of fate, Voldemort is highly susceptible to werewolf venom, so instead of defeating him in a duel with wands, Harry bites him in werewolf form because Voldemort tries to abduct Ginny on the night of a full moon when he thinks Harry has voluntarily chained himself in a cage so she's unprotected, but Harry is able to escape and come after them, and the thought of Ginny being violated by Volemort causes him to rage out and attack without remorse. Oh, and for good measure, Ginny is a vampire.

Mistwood is kinda like that. There are some big, cool, interesting ideas through the first six-sevenths of the book, and then suddenly when it's climax time, Cypress introduces some other big and interesting ideas that have way too much significance on the outcome of the story relative to how little (and by little, i mean basically zero) time she's spent building them up. There's no component of this plot that couldn't be worthwhile, but several that really don't work as written.

There are also a few things that I don't like that fall into the realm of characterization. For example, without spoiling the specifics, imagine you have a character who finds out that someone murdered an innocent person. Your character says to the murderer, "I don't like the fact that you murdered an innocent person, who happened to be my friend. But I'm not going to do anything about it other than tell you that I don't like it and suggest with the tone of a threat that you leave town." (Already losing me because I think that's strangely lenient and not particularly intense about your murdered friend.) In response to which, the murderer says, "Nah. I don't think I will." And proceeds not to leave town (because nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah) and then the book ends. Not cool.

I feel like that's a problem that occurs in many variations throughout the book -- these characters live in a world of enormous stakes, where everything is (or should be) potentially deadly or have the highest consequences, but then there are multiple times when a someone ends up experiencing very few consequences for quite drastic choices. This doesn't occur all the time, as there are multiple deaths -- but there are also a significant number of characters who don't get what's coming to them at all, and, even worse, a number of characters who seem frustratingly laissez faire about it.

But in the end, I'm not going to say this is a bad book, because I don't want to discourage authors from trying different things -- both plot ideas and character psychologies that aren't just common and overused. Cypress has some especially good (and, I think, intelligent) ideas about the morality (or amorality) of minor gods (if one can call an all-power immortal a minor god, which I think is accurate), and is willing to populate her story with a number of characters who have hidden agendas and whose choices can't be reduced easily to black or white. She's even willing to present this massive and major concept of The Shifter (who is the aforementioned minor god) without giving you a neat and clean explanation of what she is or how she works, which I think is one of the most exciting concepts or techniques she employs as a writer... yet I think she could have done that basic thing much better, with a little more editing and fine tuning the difference between things she doesn't tell you because they're fundamentally unknowable to human minds and things she doesn't tell you because she's creating a mystery in the context of a work of fiction, which she then plans to solve or give you the pieces to solve yourself.

Profile Image for Jennifer Wardrip.
Author 5 books489 followers
November 8, 2012
Reviewed by Ashley B for TeensReadToo.com

Isabel is the Shifter. She is bound to protect the kings of Samorna at all costs. When she is not needed, she resides in her forest, Mistwood. When they need her, she goes to the castle.

When Prince Rokan comes for her in Mistwood, she does not remember why she had left Samorna many years ago. She also doesn't remember how to change forms. Isabel knows the prince needs her to be the Shifter. But she also knows that he is lying to her. The truth can change everything, and Isabel must make a choice.

MISTWOOD is a beautifully written debut novel. Isabel is a confused character who in the end figures everything out. I'm not that big on reading fantasy, but I loved this storyline. I thought the idea of a Shifter was really cool, and the twists and turns in the plot kept me guessing on what was going to happen in the end. I didn't see the *almost* end coming, which always makes a good book even better.

My only problem with the novel was the actual ending. I didn't care for it because it was very abrupt, and it left a cliffhanger. I really wanted to know how things were going to happen, but the story just ends. But other than that, as I said, this was a wonderful book, and I look forward to reading more by Ms. Cypess!
Profile Image for ~Tina~.
1,092 reviews159 followers
May 5, 2010

I really enjoyed this one!
Mistwood is an exciting twist that combines high fantasy with Immortal Shifter lore, which made this fascinating and provided solid entertainment.
I love my fantasy, but I don't think this is for everyone. While other books like Graceling and Brightly Woven are driven to grip you, the pace of this book is intentionally slow moving at first as we are made to learn with Isabel through her memories, which she has forgotten.
The Plot is thick and rich with mystery and secret, a lot of twist that I didn't see coming. The atmosphere is vividly written, almost overly descriptive at times but that's what I enjoyed about this book as I like a certain amount of vision in my escape.
Isabel and Rokan have quite a remarkable story to tell and I liked the strength they held.
All in all, I thought that Mistwood was a wondrous tale about love, loyalty, magic and mayhem that is completely intriguing and fresh.
An amazing debut, and I only hope we get more!
Profile Image for Jo.
1,138 reviews60 followers
April 7, 2018
What a fantastic book! This was so well done on all levels that I don't even have the words to express it. I loved all of the political maneuverings and intrigue. But the best part of all were the characters. They were flawed and imperfect, but so easy to fall in love with. The world that Cypess created was expertly drawn. The dialogue flowed and caught you by surprise with the ease that Cypess creates layered conversations. The twists and turns were many, but entirely believable once revealed. Truly the best part of all was the beauty of Cypess's writing. Her writing is lyrical and descriptive without being overly flowery (which I hate). I would and will recommend this book without hesitation to anyone looking for an exquisite read. Well done, Ms. Cypess!
Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 6 books1,238 followers
January 1, 2011
This book was an unexpected surprise though a very welcome one. I had seen it on the shelves of my libraries for quite a while and had been resisting its siren call when suddenly, I thought, well, why not?

I can understand that a lot of readers will have problems with the main character, the female protagonist but to me, it is the portrayal of the female character that wins me over entirely. I hadn’t even realized that the story was going to be a historical one so when I turned the page and started reading, I was surprised.

Now, the fundamental question is, how do you write a character who is not human? Oh I don’t mean the elves, vampires, all other supernatural races who often grace the pages of beloved YA novels – those who could be human if they didn’t have the supernatural powers. Ms. Cypess writes a character who is intrinsically inhuman and she is true to it. She makes an attempt to portray Isabel in a manner that makes the reader realize from the get-go that the “person” speaking to them is not, in fact, a person. And that is where many readers will be troubled.

Isabel doesn’t behave in a way that is common or familiar to other heroines (who are people, powers or not) do. I applaud that. She doesn’t react in the same way people do to situations or emotions because that is not who (what?) she is. And I find this whole thing complex and fascinating and perhaps one of the rare times that an author manages to make a supernatural element mean more than just a titillation of the senses.

(How do you, being human, write a non-human character?)

Moving on from what I could talk about for a long time, let’s discuss (where I talk and you…read?) the other characters. The story is set in the midst of (and in anticipation of) political upheaval. The narrative and characters set against courtly intrigue, where what the characters say is almost certainly not what they mean. Rokan is an interesting character. For a hero, he is flawed. And I don’t just mean “trauma in his past so he require TLC from the main character to make him better.” I mean, that his choices, actions and words do not always illuminate him in a good light. But you are asked to look beyond that and into him. Perhaps not to understand him but to accept him.

His sister makes a much more intriguing character and after Isabel, she is my favourite character. You’ll understand why if/when you read the story.

All the other side characters are crafted with care and that won me over. Though they were shadowed by the enigma that is Isabel, they were still interesting to read.

Isabel’s gradual return to humanity, her growth in increments into a humanity she didn’t know she possessed is fascinating. Her reactions and her puzzlement is very reminiscent to that of a cat but it is all executed with an elegance that makes Mistwood a very fun and interesting read. I recommend it to anyone who likes good writing, an interesting plot and a challenge.
Profile Image for Hirondelle.
954 reviews208 followers
June 6, 2011
In all I liked this very much, a nice surprise (thank you Isa!). Nicely written, with a not-quite human amnesiac character trying to piece together her own history in relation to current court politics. Lots of twists and turns, and just very readable. Though, as usual, I got a few quibbles. The plot is purposefully opaque, in other to have twists and turns, and that opaqueness makes it is sometimes details around the edges are not too believable and even worse for me, the emotions of the characters were a bit remote for me - I am speaking of the major romance, where the chemistry did not quite work for this reader, but also for some decisions the main character has to make. I know this description does not make much sense, and I do not know how to explain this better, it was the thought-emotional A-to-B-to-eventually-Z of the character´s motivations which I did not follow automatically all the time!

But in all very nice, looking forward to reading more by this author.
Profile Image for Mizuki.
3,000 reviews1,207 followers
December 7, 2015
What a satisfying read! Ms. Cypess had created a world of mystery, magic and supernatural creatures with a middle age settling. She also gave us a lot of nice twists and turns, more still most of the mysteries she had created are also neatly solved in the end, not many YA novelists can do that so nicely.

There's a romance but the romance isn't being thrown in readers' faces the same like so many other YA novels. I like how Isabel slowly gains understanding of herself as the story progresses, the male lead Rokan on the other hand is a bit too impulsive for a prince. Still I like how Ms. Cypess handled the relationships and conflicts among characters. In her story, loyalty is a shifting matter and even siblings or friends could not always be trusted whenever power and the throne was concerned; adding a nice touch to this YA adventure themed novel. I'm looking forward for Ms. Cypess's other novels.
Profile Image for Liane.
17 reviews8 followers
April 26, 2015
This book has been on my TBR list for ages, but I finally got around to reading it. I was especially curious to read it since I had finished reading Death Sworn/Marked, and even though there were many things about those novels I would've liked seeing fixed or addressed, I thought they were good enough books that I would keep an eye out for anything else Cypess published.

The writing in this novel is exquisite. Cypess' writing style is short and concise, but really powerful with emotion. This is the type of writing I love; it's the type of writing I strive to achieve. I read so many books with verbose writing that try so hard to make you picture everything the author wants, but it's my preference that you let the reader have some imagination. And Cypess does a wonder job of that.

I loved the atmosphere in this book. It was filled with suspense, and mystery, much like the mist filled magical woods where the main character Isabel is from. The descriptions of the Mistwood felt tangible, and I could picture myself being there.

Isabel is a wonderful departure from your typical YA heroines. She isn't looking for romance. She doesn't even want friends. Her one goal is to protect her prince, which she does with a single focused determination. Hell, she doesn't even care if she's killed in the process. I loved how she's smart and resourceful, and knows how to manipulate the crafty nobles in the court, how to hear all the gossip and try and find as much information as she can to protect her prince. You go girl!

Isabel is left in the dark about who she is, and what her role in everything is for a good chunk of this novel. She's the Shifter, a creature of legend who is immortal, can't be physically hurt, and doesn't feel emotions. Her only concern is protecting the true King of Samornia with her life. But as Isabel finds out, she doesn't fit the description of the legend that she hears so much about in the Kingdom of Samornia at all. Should she tell her prince? Who can she trust in the castle, full of court intrigue and people who are suspicious of prince Rokan and planning on assassinating him?

I love that Cypess writes novels that challenge readers to think, and there's some strong themes about discovering your identity, and what qualities make a good king. Should Rokan, who is compassionate and lets his feelings get the best of him be king? Or would he just set himself up for failure, and destroy the kingdom?

My favorite character is Ven, the high sorcerer's apprentice. He came all the way to Samornia to study about the Shifter, and is basically a huge fanboy around Isabel. He was also her one true friend that she confided in, and it made me shippy heart happy. :)

I hated Clarisse, but I do appreciate her as a villain. She's sly and manipulative, and you're never sure where her true allegiance is and what she's up to.

As for things I didn't like, I didn't much care for Rokan. I didn't hate him or anything; I simply just didn't connect with him. He struck me as naive and weak willed, and stupid as hell. I had trouble seeing things from his perspective, and agreed with Isabel for being impatient and frustrated with him.

What the hell was the point of Will? I think Cypess actually forgot about him at the end of the novel. No seriously, I think she did. I actually went back and checked and he's just not there after a certain event happens. I wanted to know more about this third sibling in the royal family that hero worshiped Rokan.

I did not like the ending though. Not one bit.

Despite the ending, I did enjoy the novel quite a bit, and I can see myself giving this a re-read many times. Would recommend to YA fantasy lovers who love court intrigue and shape shifter stories.

Profile Image for Vadie.
66 reviews2 followers
May 19, 2017
Okay, now, I tried really hard to like this book. The premise raised a small, red flag in me -- I love shape-shifters, when they're done right. Here, they weren't.

This whole book, to sum it up, is vapid and shallow. It read like a romance novel without the romance: the same flat, hollow stereotyped characters we know and hate in some political intrigue that really was just a mass of confusion and frustration. No matter what happened, I didn't care about anyone in the story. There was no characterization (except for a prince who likes horseback riding to feel free. Oh, come on.) And then romance (believe it or not, there was romance!) turned and reared its ugly head only on the last few pages of the story. If that was supposed to seem natural, or suspenseful, it failed miserably. It felt fake, staged, and unnecessary -- much like the rest of the story.

Character wise, the only one I liked throughout the whole thing was Ven, even if he was a stereotype himself. His curiosity for the Shifter felt far more real and believable than anyone else in the story. Though, he too suffered from characterization based upon his stereotype of being a sorcerer -- Shifter research, books, spells; that's all really. Oh, and his name is pretty cool.

The rest of the characters felt shallow and felt like placeholders, not real people. I'm supposed to be reading about some character's story, not this blundering mess of a thing called characters that should represent some horrible, yet somewhat realistic mirrored image of royalty, yet in the end was nothing of the sort.

Even Isabel, the main character, constantly only dwelled on pointless things. Every one of her emotions didn't compute with me (yes, I am a computer ^^). Staged and shallow. Those words fit her fine. But, at least her Shifter abilities, her fights (which were poorly written to boot), and her forest -- the Mistwood -- pleased me. I smiled. Only the Mistwood really made me happy. The idea of a creature born of mist and fog intrigued me.

That's it.

The concept of the Shifter, though interesting in how Cypress altered the idea of a shape-shifter, was overused far too many times as the main conflict. It was the center of Isabel's world (understandably) but so too was it the center of our (the readers') world. It was used too often to drive the plot forward, or back.

The writing ticked me off. The constant use of passive tense, "was this, was that", irked me to no end. Eventually, I started to reword the sentences to exclude the "was"s, and though it took me longer to read, it made it far more tolerable.
Also, the flow of it was very choppy. The energy of the piece, which should always be an upward rise to the Climax and then a downward nosedive to the Resolution, was all over the place. Suddenly we were at one place. Then, the next. No transition whatsoever. I realize this is third person, but transition is a must. It's not an excuse to just jump around every which way.

There was nothing notable analytically-wise, which left me seething, but shouldn't be much of a problem unless you like things I like (which is rare).

Overall: Okay, so, this story didn't do anything for me. I read it to read it, but got nothing from it. With stereotyped characters and a horribly overused concept that was always used to drive the plot forward, yet with a slightly intriguing premise, I will give Miswood two stars. It's not worth buying; get it from the library or just don't waste your time.
Profile Image for Kogiopsis.
772 reviews1,498 followers
July 11, 2022
Reread as part of my ongoing shelf audit. Verdict: I liked it, but as I somehow forgot I'd ever read it before until I went to write this review, I don't think it's a keeper.

Original 2014 review:

I'm... sort of conflicted on this book. Not because I don't know how I feel about it - I quite liked it! - but because I feel like I shouldn't have enjoyed it as much as I did. In a lot of ways, this book felt like it was still rough around the edges, which I usually find distracting while reading but here... it just didn't bother me much at all. The only thing that really bugged me was a lack of development in one of the most important relationships, particularly as the conclusion rested on it.

I suspect a big part of what kept me engaged and enjoying this book was that the concepts, if tritely named (I got really tired of seeing the word 'shifter' capitalized) are really interesting. In particular, the idea of an immortal inhuman creature bound to serve humans trying to sort out their loyalties had a lot of potential, and while the plot wasn't focused on that, Cypess did touch on it several times in a way I found very intriguing. I'd have loved to see it explored more - if there's ever another book set in Samorna exploring the Shifter to a greater degree I'll definitely pick it up.

Isabel, the protagonist, was also a great draw - she was a fascinating mix of competent and confused, and her struggle to define herself in the absence of her own memories was compelling and well-written. While I agree with other reviewers that the resolution of that question came too quickly for any of the characters (or the reader) to react to it, for the majority of the book I really liked how it was handled.

I'm not sure if I would recommend this book, as I feel its appeal to me came largely from interest in the concept and a desire for something light to read - but I guess, if that's what you're looking for too, then this would be a good pick. (and personally - while I haven't read Nightspell yet, I expect it to be much more solid; a lot of the under-development in Mistwood struck me as the result of Cypess being a new writer, and I'm betting she'll get much better as her career goes on.)

2022 update:

The above pretty much holds true, especially the part about wishing the book focused more on the concept of the Shifter than it did. There's a romantic subplot which felt underdeveloped and unnecessary, though to Cypess's credit it's actually not as all-consuming as romance in many of this book's YA contemporaries tended to be, and I appreciate the choice of a somewhat nuanced resolution.

I was surprised to realize how completely I'd forgotten this book, including the major twist/reveal at the end, which... still felt rushed. I wish that information had come to light sooner so that it could have more thoroughly informed characters' choices and motivations. There are some interesting moral quandaries in this book which don't really get explored as fully as they could have been, and I think that spending more page time with those questions would have made the story as a whole more emotionally compelling.
Profile Image for Isa Lavinia.
604 reviews303 followers
July 20, 2017

I've re-read this book more times than I count and it's still amazing every time I read it.

The tricky unreliable narrator is written beautifully. Honestly, it must be so difficult to write a character with no memory of who she was, with a less than stellar personality, and a stunning lack of empathy, but still make the reader want her to succeed! And to write a character with enough powers to label her a Mary-Sue but always avoid her becoming a Mary-Sue? I'd say that's near impossible, and for the life of me I can't figure out how the author did it - hence the re-readings. Well done, Leah Cypess!

Prince Rokan is about to be crowned as King, but even if he makes it to the day of his coronation without being assassinated, the days afterwards will be far from peaceful. Not everyone wants him, or any of his family on the throne.

It's time to look for the Shifter, an immortal creature who watches over the ruling family of Samorna.
Deep in the Shifter's Mistwood Rokan finds her and binds her to his line with an enchanted bracelet - though not before the Shifter, Isabel, manages to scratch his face. And that, in itself, is weird... the Shifter should not be able to so much as think to cause harm to a member of the royal family...

Rokan is lying to Isabel, she can tell he is, she can tell there is something the entire royal family is keeping her from finding out. But Isabel has secrets of her own - for though she is the shifter she finds herself unable to do any significant shifting. She can change her hair and she can make herself impervious to blades or quickly heal wounds she's sustained protecting the Prince. But she can't change herself into a cat, she can't change herself into an eagle. What good is a Shifter who cannot shift?

Then events come to light and Isabel's allegiance, something that should be set in stone for the Shifter is a creature with a single purpose, starts wavering.

Rokan was a delightful character! He is not one of those boring alpha male warriors we so often encounter in the fantasy genre. He doubts himself, he's unsure if he'll make a good king, he loves and trusts too easily, he is betrayed, he's too much of a romantic in love with legends and too little of the ruthless ruler he's supposed to be.

His sister, Clarisse, seems more suited to rule but she finds her ruling ambitions thwarted because she was not born a man. This doesn't stop her from delving deeply into political intrigue and playing everyone to the point where the reader isn't even sure where her loyalties lie.

And then, of course, there is Isabel who, as I wrote, has everything to be a Mary-Sue but never becomes one, who is off-putting, and has no patience for anyone. Who is not nice and finds no problem with this. Who is more than she seems...
Profile Image for Holly.
529 reviews64 followers
March 17, 2010
Isabel is a shifter. Not just any shifter, but the shape-shifter of legend who is supposed to protect the king. In times of peace she lives in the Mistwood, taking the forms of cat, deer, dew, and mist. Blissfully unaware of time passing and seasons turning, Isabel barely remembers her name or how to speak when two princes come looking for her on horseback. That future king Rokan requires her protection is enough to persuade her to return with him to the castle. But answering the call of allegiance to the king is a simple and almost primeval instinct for Isabel to follow. What isn't so straightforward is Rokan's sister Clarisse, the sorcerer Albin, his apprentice Ven, and the scheming royal court. Rokan is not all ears and is withholding information that she needs to protect his life. Clarisse appears ambivalent to her presence. Worst of all, now that Isabel is out of the forest she can't remember how to shift, recall the mysterious circumstances surrounding her flight from the last king, or know if she will stay loyal. In fact she's having a difficult time remembering anything, including the human emotions she seems to have now. Amidst all the confusion and misplacement, how will Isabel be the shifter she's supposed to be and unravel the plot endangering Rokan's life?

This read was an interesting experience for me. Initially all the unknowns regarding the shifter and the characters of Rokan and Clarisse and the little we knew about anyone else sparked my curiosity rather effortlessly. Likewise the enchantingly mysterious atmosphere of the Mistwood forest and the creature of Isabel swiftly drew me into the story. My curiosity was still piqued after Isabel's arrival at the castle and her first meeting with Clarisse. It was when she'd been at the castle for several days and we were still no closer to knowing or understanding any of the characters around Isabel that I started to lose interest. Without really knowing who the shifter is and what her motivations were as well as any of the other characters made it difficult to form any kind of connection to them. Rokan was just a mold, and Clarisse, though contemptible and even suspicious was lackluster. As a result I couldn't nurture real care and concern for them, and this indifference was enough to put the book down. When I did pick it up again however, a few more pages was all it took throw me a few bones and commit me to the story. Once I embraced being in the dark and the slow but steady plot development, I enjoyed Isabel's self-discovery and the inconveniences of not being able to trust anyone - even the shifter herself. The winding unpredictability caught me off guard more than once and I contently accepted that all my guesses would be wrong. I was pleasantly surprised through to the ending, which left me sad to leave this world behind and already nostalgic for the Mistwood.
Profile Image for Cas | casreadz.
140 reviews48 followers
March 25, 2022
Isabel has no recollection of her many lives as the Shifter, protecting the kings of Samorna with everything she had. When the soon-to-be-king Rokan finds her in the Mistwood, she doesn't even know her own name. As she enters the palace and resumes her post at the prince's side, fragments of those past lives begin to return in disorienting waves. Yet, it's enough for Isabel to realize that something went deadly wrong the last time she lived in the palace -- unfortunately, no one is willing to talk about it. But the lies and the intrigues are the least of her worries: the Shifter has lost more than her memories; she's lost her powers -- and without them, she has no purpose and nothing to bind her to the mortal realm. If she doesn't find answers soon, not only will her king die, but the Shifter may lose herself for good, returning to the wind and mist that brought her to life.

There is something irresistibly mystical about Leah Cypess's debut novel Mistwood. From the very first page, readers are drawn into the haunting, imaginative world of Samorna. The titular mist pervades almost every aspect of the story, shrouding everything in mystery -- from the truth behind the conspiracy, to the Shifter's own memories. The mythology of the novel is arresting, epic and original. I can truly say I've never read anything like Mistwood. Though I've never been interested in high fantasy, Cypess makes that type of epic flights readily accessible by giving the reader a prepossessing heroine who combines raw power and bitter doubt, simultaneously a legend and a flesh and blood girl. This is truly Isabel's story, so while her character is beautifully crafted, the secondary characters sometimes feel a little flat. The narrative style is elegant, subtly using imagery to build the mystical aura of the Mistwood, and reading like an adult fairy tale. Cypess does brilliant work in this novel, building a breathtaking new world and turning preconceived stereotypes on their heads. One of my favorite dynamics in the novel was that between Isabel and Rokan: Rokan is the passionate, reckless, emotional one, while Isabel is cold, calculating, and strong. The backstory of the court intrigues adds an extra layer of romanticism to the plot and sets the stage for the surprising twists along the way -- tragic twists that will leave readers heartbroken over the unimaginable choices Isabel must make. This old world epic fantasy will enthrall fans of every genre.
Profile Image for Krystle.
913 reviews335 followers
October 17, 2010
The first thing you notice about this book is how similar in tone, mood, and characterization it is with another popular physically strong female character story - Graceling. But just like that book I had a very hard time connecting to the main character because they're so amped up in strength that it's pretty obvious and even stated many times that there is no danger of them ever losing to another opponent. She's so powerful that it's hard to root for her and she comes off more as the dreaded Mary Sue than anything real.

Of course, there's a lot more complexity than can be found in Katsa. She, and I use that very loosely, constantly questions what her real origins and the truth of what the real circumstances were that brought her to this point in time. It's only logical to do that when your memories have been wiped clean. She tries to cope with the human emotions that grow inside of her the longer she's kept to her role as a protector. I like the fact that while she's physically powerful, she still worries about the real abilities that she should have access to, but doesn't. It gives her a lot more layers, rather than just having her be abrasively strong.

The plot is pretty twisted and there a lot of things that make you go "what just happened?". I had to read certain parts over again because I got lost, and I think that maybe she tried to do a bit too much in that department, but overall, it had me guessing to the end. A good thing I suppose if you want to have your readers engaged with the text.

Parts of her prose were rough and dry in areas, and there was a heavy reliance on the word suddenly to indicate abrupt actions, but there wasn't anything overly wrong with her writing style. If you're tired of ya books having a contrived romance where the girl has to somehow pair off with the guy, then you'll definitely enjoy this. No romance, pure fantasy, political intrigue, and action.

I don't know what opinion people have of its cover but it turned me off of this book for a very long time. No matter what anyone says to me, I think it's ugly. The whole face and background just looks really bleached, over exposed, and faded to me. I like my covers to be crisp with vibrant colors, and this feels more like a last minute job done in the wee hours of the night.

But not bad.
Profile Image for Angie.
1,099 reviews154 followers
August 17, 2011
When I read the summary for this book, I was interested in this new concept for a book. It sounded like something I had never read before so I decided to give it a read. I guess you can tell from my rating that it did not live up to my expectations, although the book wasn't necessarily bad.

I found the characters hard to connect with and sympathize for, especially the Shifter which is problematic since she was the main character. She was too distant and "expressionless" (this word is used to describe her countless times) for me to really care what happened to her or why she did what she did. She did become more human towards the end of the book but by then it was too late to really change my mind about her.

Roken was easier to connect with because he wasn't afraid to admit that he had flaws, while Kaer played the cold and indifferent king. Clarrise was the character we loved to hate, but I ended up loving her cunning in the end. Ven was the character I enjoyed reading the most because his childlike wonder and innocence was so infectious. However, this led me to be just as disappointed as he when the Shifter didn't live up to my expectations as well.

I thought the book would revolve more around what the Shifter could do (or what the legends say) rather than what she couldn't do, which I guess were one in the same. Either way, I'm glad I read this book so that it's off my list but I don't think I will read Cypess' next book. Her writing was sometimes hard to follow with different pieces of the plot coming together at random times, which sometimes worked and at other times just left me confused. At times, I was tempted to skip ahead because the action of the book was a little slow. Overall, I would recommend this book to those who like fantasy novels surrounding legend, probably best to read as a time filler when you're waiting for another book to come out.

Profile Image for Steph Su.
960 reviews450 followers
March 25, 2010
MISTWOOD is an exquisitely written, beautifully rendered high fantasy YA debut that will make it an instant favorite of fans of Kristin Cashore. The beauty and complexity of Isabel’s story literally took my breath away and left me begging for more.

Leah Cypess wastes no words in her writing. Instead, every sentence provides a wealth of material about the story: setting the scene, describing Isabel’s inhuman-like thoughts and her struggles. It is fascinating to watch Isabel change over the course of this novel. The change is subtle yet carefully crafted, and just when you thought you had things figured out, Cypess comes along and throws you for a loop that is unexpected but, on second thought, completely appropriate and wildly appreciated. As I’ve said in previous reviews, I like when books outsmart me, and I was delighted that all my predictions were blown out of the water in a totally plausible manner.

The secondary characters were not as well developed as Isabel, which can oftentimes lead to confusing conversations. Likewise, the plot can always get rather confusing at times: I found myself having to read slowly in order to fully understand the intricacies of particular scenes. Not that I didn’t enjoy doing it, however. All the enjoyable twists and turns—and yes, even the confusing bits—ensured that I didn’t want this book to end.

Overall, MISTWOOD was a book that started off strong and just got better by the ending. The publicity line for the book, comparing it to works by Kristin Cashore, Tamora Pierce, and Megan Whalen Turner, doesn’t lie. This is an incredible debut accomplishment, and I’m hoping for many more books written by Leah Cypess in the future.
February 21, 2010
*SPOILER FREE* WOW! Leah Cypress's debut book is an engrossing story for any fantasy reader. It's brilliantly written, suspenseful and a supernatural must read. I literally couldn't put Mistwood down until I was done. From page one, Leah had me hooked with the story of Isabel, a shape shifter taken from her home in the forrest known as Mistwood.

With little memory of her former life, Isabel knows her existence is for protecting the King. The court she's now sworn to protect is full of lies, traitors and scorers who hold the secrets to her former life. As the story unfolds, Isabel begins to learn the truth about herself, and about those she's sworn to protect. With her memory coming back, Isabel finds herself torn between love and loyalty.

Not only was I swept into this amazing story of magic and shape-shifters, but I fell in love with the characters. Isabel is a very strong, independent character, and one I adore. Rokan, the Prince who brought her back from Mistwood, and his sister Clarisse are strong characters, that add the perfect amount of zest to the story. Just as I thought I had them figured out, more characters are introduced that add to more of the story's suspense. Full of twists and turns, Mistwood will leave you wanting more!

This engaging book is a must read for fans of Kristine Cashore's Graceling, and Maria Snyder's The Posion Study series. This enthralling read is one I highly recommend pre-ordering now.
Profile Image for Mundie Moms & Mundie Kids.
1,952 reviews205 followers
December 1, 2010
*SPOILER FREE* WOW! Leah Cypress's debut book is an engrossing story for any fantasy reader. It's brilliantly written, suspenseful and a supernatural must read. I literally couldn't put Mistwood down until I was done. From page one, Leah had me hooked with the story of Isabel, a shape shifter taken from her home in the forrest known as Mistwood.

With little memory of her former life, Isabel knows her existence is for protecting the King. The court she's now sworn to protect is full of lies, traitors and scorers who hold the secrets to her former life. As the story unfolds, Isabel begins to learn the truth about herself, and about those she's sworn to protect. With her memory coming back, Isabel finds herself torn between love and loyalty.

Not only was I swept into this amazing story of magic and shape-shifters, but I fell in love with the characters. Isabel is a very strong, independent character, and one I adore. Rokan, the Prince who brought her back from Mistwood, and his sister Clarisse are strong characters, that add the perfect amount of zest to the story. Just as I thought I had them figured out, more characters are introduced that add to more of the story's suspense. Full of twists and turns, Mistwood will leave you wanting more!

This engaging book is a must read for fans of Kristine Cashore's Graceling, and Maria Snyder's The Posion Study series. This enthralling read is one I highly recommend pre-ordering now.
Profile Image for Paige (Arya).
47 reviews57 followers
February 17, 2010
Mistwood by Leah Cypess 5 of 5 stars.
To be released by HarperTeen May 2010.

Isabel is a shape-shifter. She knows--deep in her soul--that she exists only to protect the king. But she can't remember how. Thrust into the dangerous world of the court, Isabel must uncover her past, separate her heart's truth from her magic's legend, and, above all, keep the unbearably handsome new king safe. Even if protecting him means disaster for her. (From book)

Mistwood is the kind of story that takes your breath away. Original, intense, and supernaturally capable of showing human emotions for what they are, it is a story to remember. I couldn't help but fall in love with the characters. Rokan and his sister Clarisse above the others. Leah Cypess is an amazing author who brilliantly kept me in suspense from the first page all the way to the last. Isabel was such an interesting character. She was harsh and at the same time had an innocence to her that seemed almost impossible. This is a thoroughly engrossing story that I promise any fantasy lover, will cherish.

For fans of: Kristen Cashore, Graceling, Prophecy of the Sisters, Cry of the Icemark
Profile Image for Jamie.
1,203 reviews68 followers
January 2, 2011
I found this book to be dead boring and exactly why I hate fantasy books, generally. I read it less than a month ago and would be hard pressed to write a paragraph about it. Yawn.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,954 reviews1,292 followers
April 27, 2016
So many feelings, not sure how to put it into words. Mistwood started off like its title: hazy but somewhat enervating in all its potential; as it condensed, the story and plot started narrowing until it almost missed the mark. Even a few days later, I’m not sure whether I think this is a good book or not. I guess the truth is that I liked so many parts of this book, but in other respects Leah Cypress seemed to leave out or gloss over dimensions that might have made it even better.

The Shifter is a creature of legend, protector to the monarchy of Samorna. Isabel is the Shifter, freshly “recaptured” by the heir to the Samornan throne after she fled from the castle under mysterious circumstances decades ago. Her memory is full of gaps, however, and her powers are on the blink. She spends most of the novel attempting to rediscover who the Shifter is—who she is—even as she questions her supposedly unquestionably loyalty to the king and the throne. The theme, of course, is that these last two are not necessarily one and the same. Oh, and there are some romantic and sibling subplots that kind of dangle awkwardly until the end, where it sort-of-but-not-really gets resolved.

I loved the amnesia part of the plot. It reminds me of a story idea I have, which also involves someone returning to a fantasy court with amnesia (and there the similarities end), and Cypress exploits this trope very well. Isabel is at a great disadvantage, and she knows it, so she has to start making decisions and forming alliances. The characters seem one-dimensional at first, but you gradually get the feeling that even the most outspoken (like Clarisse) have hidden depths. Indeed, the revelation about Clarisse at the end might have been the best “twist” in the book. In contrast, the revelation about Isabel/the Shifter was a little ho-hum and predictable after what we learn about two thirds through.

And so it goes: great little moments amid otherwise unimpressive story elements. Dukes conspiring against a possibly illegitimate king? Yawn. The plotting and palace intrigue is all very pedestrian, with little enough to keep my interest. Similarly, Cypress doesn’t go very deeply into sorcery and why sorcerers seem like such dicks. She hints at things, at how difficult it is, how much it takes from you, but I would have liked to learn more.

Finally, while I enjoyed the revelation about Isabel’s nature, the rest of the book’s climax and conclusion felt too contrived for me. It wasn’t any one thing so much as a lack of good foundations: I didn’t really have any reason to care about one side of the conflict or the other. The true nature of Isabel’s loyalty to the crown is kept so vague for so much of the novel that when it finally matters, we don’t really have a good idea of whether she has actually made a choice, as she thought, or is just following a compulsion. In the end, because we never got to experience the Shifter as the Shifter, pre-Isabel, we lose out on a chance to understand the true impact of humanity’s touch.

You’ll notice I haven’t spent much time examining the themes or anything beyond the surface story. Don’t let this fool you: Mistwood has some profound moments. It might be labelled as YA by dint of Cypress’ sparing prose style and simplified intrigues, but it has all the hallmarks of a strong fantasy novel meant for all ages. Aside from the personal struggle that Isabel faces with finding an identity cruelly ripped from her, Mistwood is a good example of how arbitrary monarchical rule feels. “Legitimacy” is such a tenuous concept, both in our actual history and in fantasy worlds, and the definition of a “good” ruler is very debatable.

Unfortunately, most of these ideas don’t get the exploration they deserve. Mistwood is genuinely entertaining: I certainly wanted to keep reading it. And perhaps that is why my dissatisfaction is so keenly felt now. A lesser book would be easier to write off because it is just all-around disappointing, whereas this one has so many good qualities. It’s not essential reading, perhaps, but one you might pick up if you like “this sort of thing.”

Creative Commons BY-NC License
Profile Image for Jiayun Chen.
23 reviews17 followers
December 20, 2014
She was just suppose to be a rumor because when she is need it means that the king will be or in trouble. Isabel is the shifter, her job was suppose to protect the royal family to be more exact, the king of Samorna or the future king. I was just like the other times when Prince Rokan and his brother Will rode across Mistwood to find her. He needed her superhuman powers, the power to shift into mist, animal form and wind. (I truly love the fact that she could change her hair and eyes color whenever she love to.) Knowing that she might harm him because of this mysterious background he made this bracelet that had a spell that prevents her to harm him in the future. But the problem is why would a protector that would risk her life in protecting him hurt him and what was his unknown background?
This book was recommended to me by Goodreads and I loved this book. I would recommend this book to everyone else who love reading fantasy books. Hope you guys would like this book as much as I do.
Rokan VS Kaer:
Rokan is stubborn, he is weak but he will be a lovely and kind king- the kind that his father doesn't want him to become. He is the kind of prince everyone would want in their life, he is as kind as a puppy, that why he thinks her would be a weak king, but he's just generous which is the opposite of Kaer. Kaer is exactly the opposite of Rokan, he is tough, greedy, and revengeful. He is the kind of person who you don't want to be enemy with because he will spend time behind your back in planning revenge. Isabel was suppose to protect Rokan but when discovering his actual background and realize that her childhood lover, Kaer was actually the one she is suppose to protect she became confused. She wanted to warn Rokan about Kaer's mysterious existence, so she could hunt Kaer down. But then she realized how important she was to him:
"I should have told [Rokan]. She could still feel, like a fist around her heart, the fear in
her prince's voice. Her presence made him less afraid. She didn't want to take that away from him.
Even so. I should have told him" (Cypess 62). She became confuse of whether she should have tell Rokan, but at the end she decided not to. This would be her first move of betraying Rokan. How will Rokan react when he finds out that Isabel - the person (thing) that he trusted the most- had betrayed him?
Thinking that Kaer is easier to protect, she wanted him to become that king that needs her, but she soon realized that she was wrong. She realizes, "Either way, it would make protecting Rokan easier" (Cypess 63). With the problem from the last time she had left her homeland, she became a lot weaker. She wanted to become an actual human being, the ones that have emotions, feeling and human- her consequence was that in became challenging or even impossible for her to properly shift. Her role is to find who deserves the throne and who is the real king. Will she make the same mistakes as she did the last time, when trying her best to protect the royal family but fails? She remembered,
" A sudden memory shot through her like pain. Running though the snow. Blood falling. And all around her, through her, in her, the bitter knowledge of failure.
The euphoria vanished, and Isabel but her lip so hard she tasted blood. Failure" (Cypess 64). She hated the feeling that she could protect the previous king, Kaer's father. She doesn't want to feel that feeling again- she doesn't want the past to repeat itself. But with her new problem of shifting and her continuous confusion- Will the past repeat itself in their future? Will she just give up everything and go back home- where she belongs?
Profile Image for Danya.
395 reviews56 followers
January 1, 2015
The Shifter is a being of legend. Wild, powerful, and able to take on any shape it chooses... and its purpose is to protect Samornian royalty. But for years now the Shifter has been gone, vanished into the wilds of Mistwood, and some have begun to believe it was indeed only a creature of myth.

That is, until the Samornian prince Rokan brings her back with him to the castle. Isabel has few memories of anything before the here and now, but she knows that as the Shifter it is her duty to guard Rokan from attack. But he's hiding something from her, and the more Isabel unravels of the truth, the more she begins to wonder if she should be protecting him at all...

One sentence sum-up: a tale of magic, past wrongs, revenge, and what it means to be human.

My reaction: I'd heard about this book for a while before I actually ordered it from the library, mostly because I thought it looked like a fairly standard traditional YA fantasy read, nothing too out of the ordinary. But then I kept seeing really positive reviews so I put it on hold.

And I'm so glad I did! Yes, Mistwood is in the style of traditional fantasy, but it reminded me of exactly why I love this genre so much. A strong but complex female protagonist? Check. A castle full of secrets? Check. A prince trying to hide the past? Check. Assassination attempts? Check. All combining to make one extremely impressive debut novel.

It did take me a few chapters to connect with both the main character Isabel and the story. The beginning is confusing, as Isabel's memories are clouded and so too is the reader's understanding. This, coupled with Isabel's tendency to lie (sometimes without the reader being informed she is doing so) results in something similar to the 'unreliable narrator' effect, though it is written in third-person. However, soon enough I was swept up in all of the drama and I began to care about Isabel and Rokan; indeed, I gobbled this book up in a single evening, staying up late at night to finish! The plot had me flipping the pages eagerly, and I appreciated the obvious attention to detail, as everything ties up very nicely with few (if any) loose ends.

Best aspect: The mystery surrounding Isabel's history. Cypess keeps the reader guessing as Isabel gains piece after piece of a complicated puzzle. There are several revelations along the way, many of which I did not see coming (including the climactic one, at which point I went, 'Duh! How could I not have guessed that?' in my head). Much as I loved the gripping intrigue and action-filled scenes (and this book is chock-full of that, since no one trusts anyone else), perhaps even more enjoyable was seeing the more personal side of the story, as Isabel learns about who she truly is and what life she desires to lead. She starts out being cool, distancing, and clinical in a way, and then as the novel progresses she begins to experience human emotions she doesn't understand. Isabel is not the most sympathetic heroine from the get-go, but she won me over as she struggled with self-doubt and came to better understand her abilities and limitations.

In five words or less: captivating, mystical and thoroughly enchanting.

Final verdict: 4.5 stars.

For my full review, see my blog, A Tapestry of Words .
Profile Image for Emily Coleman.
201 reviews255 followers
June 18, 2010
First off, there is one thing about me that you should know. I have terrible reading retention. I read so quickly that I often forget the finer details about stories. Hence why this blog exists. Mostly as a reminder to me of the books I have read and how I felt about them. With that said, I should tell you that I had seen this book around on different blogs and for some reason kept thinking it was a paranormal romance. It is not. And every time I read the synopsis I thought, wow, this looks like a really good book.

And it was.

I have a checklist of questions to ask yourself to determine whether or not MISTWOOD is a good read for you:

* Do you like fantasy?
* Do you like strong female characters?
* Do you like romance in a book to be quietly in the background; giving flavor to the story like pepper on a very juicy steak?
* Do you like not knowing what's going to happen in a book until it hits you right at the very end?
* Do you like slower moving plots that set you up for a whirlwind ending?
* Do you like chocolate?

Okay, ignore the last question. But, if you answered yes to most of those questions, it is a pretty safe bet you are going to like Mistwood.

Believe me when I say that every character was interesting. I've mentioned before that sometimes characters will blend together for me and I can't keep people straight. That was not a problem in this book. I think part of it was that there were fewer characters to keep straight, and each character had a very defined voice. So many of the passages in this book were beautifully written, and the dialogue flowed very well.

The plot of this book wound around like a windy road up a mountainside. For most of the story I really could not figure out where it was going to end up. And right when I thought I had Isabel pegged, she did something completely unexepected. I was unable to pull out all the stops and give this a five-star rating because sometimes Isabel was just a bit too wooden and inaccessible for my taste.

I really enjoyed this debut novel by Leah Cypess. It was wonderfully written, and I am positive she has a wonderful writing future ahead of her. Also, I wanted to tell you how incredibly nice Leah is. She is probably the nicest person I've never met. Anytime I ask for anything on my blog, she sends me an email right away volunteering in some way or another. And after speaking with Angie the other day, she informs me that Leah is as nice in person as she seems through my computer.
Profile Image for Katelyn.
213 reviews42 followers
June 7, 2010
Talk about the author staying one step ahead of the reader until the very end! Leah Cypess is a mastermind in my opinion, she had me guessing until the very end. As her YA debut novel, Mistwood is sure to make an impression on readers everywhere.

This was a story of mystery, intrigue, romance and danger and although Cypess presents readers with clues and puzzle pieces throughout her tale, I didn't stand a chance at putting it all together until she was good and ready to tell me. I will say that at times I loved that I was no closer to solving the mystery that is at the center of Mistwood, but it also frustrated me to no end.

Her writing style and character development have set the stage for what I'm sure will be a fabulous future of upcoming releases from Cypess. The main characters in Mistwood were incredibly unique and fresh and my only complaint where they are concerned is that I would have liked to have been able to get to know them even better. Will there be a sequel? I think there's room for one and would definitely enjoy reading more about Isabel and the whole royal family.

The ending left me torn. On one hand the surprises blew me away, but on the other hand I did feel like it was all wrapped up very quickly. And after having a mystery like this one last throughout the entire book, I thought it was strange the the conclusion really only took up a few pages. I'm hoping Cypess just didn't want to drag out an ending that wasn't meant to be the final glimpse we get, if there's a sequel in the works than I'm slightly happier and more understanding as to why the ending wasn't stretched out with more detail.

With the paranormal genre being so popular at the moment and the repeated characters like vampires, werewolves, fairies, etc...being in just about everything it was a nice change of pace to see a completely new type of character. Isabel is completely unique and I for one do not want this to be the first and only time we see the shifter, more of the likes of Mistwood would be completely welcome!
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