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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tired of Helpless Heroines? Then, Mistwood's the Book For You.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Is anyone else growing tired of the helpless "heroines" who seem to populate every paranormal romance? You know, those beautiful, clueless girls who get themselves into all kinds of scrapes just so they can be rescued by some hunky half-man/half-some-kind-of-mystical creature? Do you ever wish for female leads who contribute more to the story than just a pretty face? Well, you're in luck. Mistwood, a debut novel by Leah Cypress, stars a woman who's tough, smart, and, oh yeah, did I mention she's the king's bodyguard? See, I told you you were going to like this one ...

Isabel knows she's a shape shifter, a creature who lives only to serve the king she's sworn to protect. Human weaknesses, petty emotions, silly courting games - none of these things penetrate the heart of the Shifter. She's focused, determined, and so attuned to her master that she recognizes a threat almost before it materializes. At least that's how it's supposed to work.

As soon as Prince Rokan rides into the mystical woods, Isabel knows her duty - she must guard his life with every fiber of her being. Still, something about the would-be king troubles her. Confused images flash into her battered memory, but she can make no sense of them. Something happened long ago to make her wary, to tamp down her powers, to cripple her confidence. What was it? None of it matters as much as protecting Rokan, except that she's having trouble even doing that. As much as Isabel longs to change herself into a wolf, an eagle, or a sly cat - bodies she remembers inhabiting - she can't. Fear she shouldn't feel haunts her every move. As fuzzy as her memory is, she knows she's failed before. She can't let Rokan down, can't let another king die because of her.

Piecing together clues about herself leads Isabel to some startling discovers about who she is, what she is and why she is. What it doesn't tell her is how to deal with everything she's suddenly feeling - fear, jealousy, envy, love. The Shifter has no right to experience anything that will distract her from duty, or does she?

If you haven't guessed already, I loved everything about Mistwood. It's a fast-paced story filled with adventure, mystery, and plenty of courtly intrigue. Isabel's character captured me - she's tough without being hard, vulnerable without being weak, and cool without being arrogant. The minor characters could have used some fleshing out, as I didn't care about any of them nearly as much as I did Isabel.

Now, I know you're thinking, "This chick never loves everything about a book," and you're right. If pressed, I'd have to admit that Mistwood gets a little predictable. Not enough to be bothersome, but enough that the big reveals aren't that big. Still, Mistwood provides the kind of fun, exciting - and clean - adventure that I'm always thrilled to find in a YA novel. It's not perfect, but it will do. Very, very nicely.

(Readalikes: Reminded me a little of The Bayern series by Shannon Hale; the back of the book compares it to Kristin Cashore's Graceling and Fire and Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia books)

Grade: B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for very mild language and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love: I received this book from the generous folks at HarperTeen. Thank you!


  1. I've seen a few reviews of this book around. I like the sound of it and have put it on my wishlist. Always nice to hear your thoughts on books, Susan!

  2. A comparison to Hale's Bayern books is enough for me. But I'll have to cover up those eyes!

  3. I like the idea of a fantasy novel with a shape shifter, especially with a strong, competent heroine. Thanks for the great review, Susan.

  4. Sounds like my kind of book--I've already put it on hold at the library (they have it on order).

    Why do you have to live so far away? So many good books just sitting on your shelves....

  5. This is my first visit to your blog. I am SO happy to find another LDS Mom that loves to read and write! ;)

    I'm going to bookmark you so I can browse at a more leisurely pace than I can at the moment. Have a beautiful day!

  6. Awesome review. I especially love your subject line/post title :)

  7. Oooh! This one sounds good to me!


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