13 January 2012

Nightspell by Leah Cypess

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?

Nightspell is a book about ghosts. Sorcerers in a country where everyone wanted the throne and assassination was a matter of course created a spell that allowed murdered people to come back as semi-corporeal beings in order to avenge their deaths. Although the idea was that they would avenge their deaths and thus move on, eliminating the rash of murders, instead people quickly exploited the spell in order to live forever and murder became not such a big deal since murdered people lived on. Cypess has fully fleshed out this world and spent a lot of time thinking about the consequences and unintended effects of her choices. The result is an eerie, rather uncomfortable place that made me want to move on and yet I had to keep reading in order to find out how Darri would save Callie and get out. And, speaking of, Darri is a strong character. She has a sense of self and loyalty but her regrets have turned her into an avenger herself, interested only in righting the wrong she committed when she let her father send Callie away to marry Prince Kestin. Callie starts out a little confusing, but I grew to really like and sympathize with her. Varis was a jerk, but he was a well written jerk, and much more understandable and sympathetic than Viserys Targaryen from A Game of Thrones (which, for some reason, my mind wouldn’t let me stop thinking of whenever he was in the picture). The plot is so full of twists that I feel I can’t talk much about it, other than saying that I really liked the ending and although I feel it should have turned out the other way I can really see why it turned out why it did and I agree that it’s much more in character, I am just wistful for the ‘what if’ that’s left unsaid. In fact, my only disappointment with this book is that it wasn’t a sequel to Cypess’ excellent first book. I’ll be sure to pick up anything she writes in the future and give it a try.

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