When I reviewed Mistwood by Leah Cypess last year, I talked about was how refreshing it was to read a young adult book that wasn’t focused solely on a romantic plot. This was also one of my favorite things about Mistwood’s companion novel, Nightspell, which I was lucky enough to get my hands on last week (it comes out tomorrow!). I should really stop saying lucky, since I almost always find books in the bookstore before their release, so I am probably not special. Alas.

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?

I love the plots in the Mistwood novels. There’s enough mystery to keep me interested without it being overly convoluted with red herrings. And her plots move for me. The ghosts made for interesting twists and turns (and an interesting moral question at the end). I will admit that the plot of Nightspell is less fast-paced than that of Mistwood, but this was also a very different book. The mystery drove Mistwood. The characters drive Nightspell.

A book with three different points of view is something I might not normally enjoy as multiple points of view tend to give too much away. Nightspell completely avoided that, and I thought hearing from the three siblings helped keep the plot moving. It was also interesting to see how three people with similar backgrounds and upbringings could be so incredibly different.

Really, that’s what Nightspell is about: Darri and her siblings. The plot in this novel is secondary to the family. That was the plot that drew me in the most. Darri and Callie desperate for the other’s love and approval. Varis, war weary and battle hardened and not at all sure how to be a brother anymore. Darri most of all broke my heart, because she was the one who showed the most willingness to change and the most willingness to help. I loved how she was completely tough as nails when she had to be, but she still had a heart. Not that she was perfect. She wasn’t. The prejudice that she fought to overcome was a great plotline, even better when balanced with her ability to stay true to the life she wants.

Though the world building is great in Nightspell, I almost wish there was a little bit more background given. The plot moves so well that the action really starts at day one with hints about Ghostland dropped throughout. But I wanted to know more. I knew the siblings so well, but I’d have liked to know some of the ghosts better as well. Prince Kestin was a good exception, and I felt we saw a lot of who he was through what we were shown, rather than what we were told.

If I was going to complain about one thing, it would be Clarisse. I loved Clarisse in Mistwood. In fact, when I wrote my review, I said a companion novel would be fine and dandy with me if it was about Clarisse. Her story in this book was so interesting, but I never got enough of it to be satisfied. She felt more like familiar a name than the character I loved and wanted to know more about.  That made it hard for me to see this as a “companion” novel. Really, I don’t think it needed to be though. This book stood strong on its own.

Nightspell is a good read, and it’s good fantasy (even if I have to admit to liking Mistwood more). The world-building has a solid foundation which makes the plot so much more readable, and I really liked Darri and her supporting cast, especially Callie and Prince Kestin. And I really, really liked the ending. Really.

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