A stand-alone companion novel to the much-acclaimed MISTWOOD. 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.
OPINION: 4 STARS
The Short Version:
Mystical and creative, Nightspell blends a well developed world with a stellar cast for an engaging, refreshing read. Though companion to Mistwood, Cypess builds the world new and smoothly for first time series readers, letting everything happen seamlessly and often unnoticeably. With several unexpected twists in the plot, a strong and beautiful writing style, and plenty of deeper undercurrents, Nightspell will find a great home with many fantasy fans.
The Extended Version:
Darri is stubborn and headstrong, determined and loyal, and makes for both a caustic and relatable central character. Rapt with guilt over her sister having been traded years before, but desperate to set her free even at Darri's own sacrifice, her full personality is strong, well developed, and clear from the start. The tension with her brother adds a great element to the story, without coming off as cliche or just a convenient plot device, while still creating a realistic, strong bond between the two despite their differences. From beginning to end, Darri goes through tremendous character growth and development, perfectly handled and in reaction to a range of different events and situations she faces.
Kestin is charming and suave, yet tormented in his own way, and the combination creates a fantastic, notable, and swoonworthy character. He's a hard character to fully describe without giving a few key things away, but he has a very strong role in the book and adds immensely to both the development of other characters and the plot. Kestin's loyalty to his country yet how personalable he still is adds a great element to his characterization, and readers will fall completely in love with him.
Darri's sister comes across with a strong personality, with the changes in her from before she left to current written smoothly and easily, giving readers the full scope of what's happened. Stubborn and frustrating at times, but someone you want to hug at others, she adds a bold presence. Closing out this phenomenal cast of characters is Clarisse, a girl you can't quite figure out right away, and minor characters throughout the castle that are vivid when they're on the pages without taking over.
The plot of this one has a great pace, and though very character driven in many places, the world and it's elements tie in to create a completely engaging read. With carefully timed reveals and subtle hints into the overall mystery, Cypess has pulled in a range of elements and used them to a huge advantage. For first time readers of the series, everything makes sense, with no sense of having missed something that would make reading Mistwood vital, but the small things that integrate between the two are also present to reward and compliment previous readers.
The writing is fantastic, having a very magical element to it and doing a tremendous job of building the emotional atmosphere. With a sense of foreboding often lingering, and fully capturing the uncomfortableness of being living in the land of the dead, Cypess navigates personal and social biases in an endearing way. From beautiful descriptions to intense emotional, this one includes everything. Though written in third person, the reader gets to know Darri and her mind very well, yet also gets more into the other characters in a way that strengthens reader connections while still keeping the focus on Darri.
Tying everything related to this book up, the ending is satisfying in a way that might take some time to sink in and fully appreciate but is there all the same. Betrayals and alliances, relationships and friendships, this book covers a range and does it well while still keeping a strong focus on the characters. With some poignantly handled scenes, an original and well built world and plot, and a stellar cast full of fantastic characterization and development, Nightspell grabs readers from the start and doesn't let go.
Source: ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: May 31, 2011