cover image Mistwood


Leah Cypess, Greenwillow, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-195699-7

Sustained ignorance, hostility, and confusion are difficult narrative materials, and debut novelist Cypess does not always succeed in controlling them. Her heroine, Isabel, is the Shifter, a legendary shape-shifting protector of the king; she vanishes every generation or so and must be sought anew. Brought back to the court from her lair in the Mistwood, Isabel finds that her social skills rapidly return, but not her thousand-year-old memory. King Rokan claims to know from an oracle that he is in danger, but can't—or won't—reveal where the danger lies. Isabel must negotiate the intrigues of an adversarial court and glean what knowledge she can before the warning comes to fruition. The plot has some fundamental holes—how, for example, can a creature born of a magical culture ever have functioned as a bodyguard if she is sometimes unable to sense magic being used? Still, it's evident that Cypess is an able writer: the premise is novel, her characterizations ring true, and the emotional bond that develops between Isabel and Rokan will for many readers be the most important part of the story. Ages 12–up. (May)