Sunday, May 29, 2011

Nightspell by Leah Cypess

Release Date: May 31st, 2011
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Source: The {Teen} Book Scene

When Darri rides into Ghostland, a country where the living walk with the dead, she has only one goal: to rescue her younger sister Callie, who was sent to Ghostland as a hostage four years ago. But Callie has changed in those four years, and now has secrets of her own. In her quest to save her sister from herself, Darri will be forced to outmaneuver a handsome ghost prince, an ancient sorcerer, and a manipulative tribal warrior (who happens to be her brother).

When Darri discovers the source of the spell that has kept the dead in Ghostland chained to this earth, she faces a decision that will force her to reexamine beliefs she has never before questioned - and lead her into the heart of a conspiracy that threatens the very balance of power between the living and the dead. [from goodreads]

Just as she did in Mistwood, Leah Cypess has written a riveting, complex story with many twists and turns that the reader won't be able to piece everything together until the ending. (Even the characters are so changeable that one won't be able to clearly decipher what their true motives are!)

This is my second time reading Cypess' work and it's clear now that her talent lies in world-building and the creation of extremely layered characters. Cypess also has this excellent way of describing the mysteries and double-crossing that occur daily in many of history's royal courts and Ghostland is no exception: the reader is never really certain who or what is going to cause an upheavel at court. Suspicion is literally at every corner of this haunted land.

The characters of Nightspell are also suspect many times throughout the story: Darri's intentions to save her sister and return to her homeland are made clear from the beginning but her siblings' actions make her plans more difficult. Callie is no longer a barbarian princess like her elder sister and has become accostumed to Ghostland's ways; she still loves her sister but with cannot see herself ever returning home. The years at Ghostland's court has irreversibly changed Callie and this doesn't help to assuage Darri's guilt for leaving her sister to face Ghostland alone. Varis, their older brother, was much more trickier to understand. His motivations appear easy to comprehend but he surprises the reader occasionally by saying or doing something that might seem out of character but instead shows where his true loyalties lie.

And then there's Clarisse. She makes her surprise appearance in this story and her ruthless, cunning ways have not changed at all since Mistwood; in fact, they've only intensified. She was perhaps the most attention-grabbing character as Nightspell unfolded and her interactions alternated between coy and malicious (they were very fun to read read). The mystery surrounding Clarisse's character and her intentions was one of the main driving forces for me to continue reading and Cypess did not disappoint when she revealed exactly what was going on.

Those who have read Mistwood will be shocked and delighted to see how Clarisse has changed and will appreciate her even more as they discover new insight into her character; as for new readers, they can read either of Cypess' novels first. The two sets of characters in Nightspell and Mistwood are completely different and their storylines do not intefere with either side. Clarisse is the only connection between both novels but Cypess skillfully maneuvers her character so that no matter which novel you read first, you'll come to fully understand her (and love or loathe her; she's one of those murky characters that toe the line often!).

Full of intriguing plot twists, deceptive characters and beautifully descriptive writing showcasing Leah Cypess' quiet but powerful style, Nightspell is a worthy companion novel to Mistwood. It has the same brilliance that underlies Mistwood only Cypess has twisted the story and her characters into a newer, darker direction where not everything ends happily ever after but where everything comes full circle.

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