Michelle's Review: Nightspell by Leah Cypess

book cover Hardcover: 336 pages 
Publisher: Greenwillow
 Release Date: May 12, 2011
ISBN: 9780446572811
Source of my copy: author
Series: Mistwood #2 (standalone)
Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Here be ghosts, the maps said, and that was all.
In this haunted kingdom, ghosts linger--not just in the deepest forests or the darkest caverns, but alongside the living, as part of a twisted palace court that revels all night and sleeps through the daylight hours.
Darri's sister was trapped in this place of fear and shadows as a child. And now Darri has a chance to save her sister . . . if she agrees to a betrothal with the prince of the dead. But nothing is simple in this eerie kingdom--not her sister, who has changed beyond recognition; not her plan, which will be thrown off track almost at once; and not the undead prince, who seems more alive than anyone else.
In a court seething with the desire for vengeance, Darri holds the key to the balance between life and death. Can her warrior heart withstand the most wrenching choice of all?

Michelle's Review:
I picked up Nightspell because Leah Cypess was on my list of authors-to-read, I love fantasy books and I enjoy stories with siblings. In the end, I am glad I read Nightspell--the writing was fantastic and the plot intricate--but it is not a re-read type of book for me.

Callie, a very young Raellian princess, was sent to Ghostland to eventually marry Prince Kestin. Four years later, her older siblings Darri and Varis arrive at Ghostland. Darri will marry Kestin instead as they cannot afford to wait for Callie to come of age and form a crucial alliance. Darri, who had lived with the guilt of not stopping her father from sending Callie away, sees this as an opportunity to rescue Callie from the land where ghosts (abominations in the eyes of Raellians) roam freely. However, Callie might not want to be rescued and Varis may have a different agenda himself.

Nightspell is told through three (3rd person) point-of-views (Darri, Callie and Varis) so the narration switches off a lot. I did not really mind it for the most part because then I got the whole picture. However, I did not feel for or connect with any of the main characters (or any of the secondary characters). There was nothing wrong with Darri, Callie and Varis but nothing really stood out to me either. I didn't empathize or care enough to root for their success.

Like I mentioned, the plot was complex. It's one of those where you have to read until the end to get the whole picture or to understand what is really going on. Sort of like Melina Marchetta's Jellicoe Road but set in a unique, fascinating fantasy world. I thought the author did a wonderful job with the world building. But the itself plot was slow-moving; it takes a while for something to happen to push the plot along. It was slow reading for me because of this.

And some of you all know how much I like a good romance in my reads. It doesn't have to be the main focus of the story but I like having even a hint of one somewhere. There is none in Nightspell and I can't help being a little disappointed about that.

Nightspell was interesting enough that I finished it but it wasn't one I was especially eager to pick up again after I put it down. Fantasy readers who do not mind that it lacks a romantic element may enjoy it as it has great world building, a unique and complex plot, and the overall the writing was lovely.

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