Greenwillow Books (2010)
Reviewed by Maggie Desmond-O’Brien (age 14) for Reader Views (05/10)
“Isabel is a shape-shifter. She knows—deep in her soul—that she exists only to protect the king. But she can’t remember how. Thrust into the dangerous world of the court, Isabel must uncover her past, separate her heart’s truth from her magic’s legend, and, above all, keep the unbearably handsome new king safe. Even if protecting him means disaster for her.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. Going in I had heard a lot of hype, but I’m also not a huge fan of this kind of fantasy fiction. I think it’s too easy to go wrong. And comparisons to “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore were obviously inevitable, and almost anything in the genre compared to “Graceling” is going to fall a bit short.
So, I was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t quite live up to the hype but made an enchanting, enjoyable read. Fans of the genre are sure to adore it, and even those who don’t consider themselves fans will probably like it. Cypress did a fabulous job of foreshadowing and creating a character that we could believe in as a supernatural force and doing it with enough suspense that we would want to keep reading. Or, at least, I wanted to keep reading—this is another one where I climbed into the bathtub with it and didn’t get out till I’d finished.
A complaint I had, though, was the romance. I like romance maybe a little less than the next girl, but I still like romance. However, this is a book that would have definitely worked without it, and probably would have worked better. It felt contrived and tacked on to me, trying to force itself into a genre it doesn’t belong in. Authors, us teen girls WILL read books without romance. We might not go into a Twi-hard frenzy over it, but I assure you we will read it and enjoy it just the same, and will probably be more loyal to you if we feel you were loyal to your story. (And it’s not just me—many of my friends aren’t huge romance fans, either. Really. It’s not just me!)
Anyway, I hit the really high points and the low one—now time for the good points that, while small, also helped make this book work. First of all characters. These were extremely impressive. “Graceling” to me was not a character book, it was a plot book; this was a character book. That will definitely be essential in distancing itself from Kristin Cashore’s work, because unfortunately, there are a lot of parallels. If you look at a publishing timetable there is no way Leah Cypress could have intentionally plagiarized, however, readers will probably find a lot of the material familiar ground.
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