Nightspell: What A Waste Of A Potentially Good Character

Nightspell is written by Leah Cypess. It was published in 2011 by Greenwillow. It is the companion novel to Mistwood, which I reviewed here. Cypess’s website can be found here.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult


“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?”

~Inside Flap


“Do you really think it’s a good idea to insult Prince Kestin within two minutes of arriving in his country?”

“Yes,” Darri said, just to see his reaction, “I do.”

Unfortunately, at that moment a young woman in a yellow gown took the seat across from them, and Varis’s face smoothed instantly into an expression of bland politeness. The woman tilted her head at them and said, “Guess.”

“Guess what?” Varis said, falling right into what was obviously a trap. Darri resisted the urge to kick him under the table.

The woman smiled. She was plump and pretty, despite her pasty skin, with red-tinged hair arranged in knots and twirls. “Whether I’m alive or dead.”

~Cypess 20

Hanging on the wall beside the bed was a painting of a young family, dressed simply but—judging by the material of their clothes—richly. The man had an angular face and a small, peaceful smile playing at the corners of his mouth. The woman was on the border between plain and pretty, with reddish-brown hair and sharp, dark eyes. She looked as if she didn’t quite belong in her stiffly embroidered dress. A young girl sat on the woman’s lap, looking bored.

The portrait was masterful, but marred by an uneven rip right down the middle, separating the man from his wife and child. It had been ripped and then glued back together on a separate sheet of parchment, so that the original pieces fit together jaggedly.

~Cypess 147

Cover Art

Warnings: Violence.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Rating: 2/5

What I Liked:

The ghost concept was really interesting and handled well. I liked the idea of the guardian of the living and the defender of the dead, even if it wasn’t nearly as balanced as it sounds.

It’s the return of Clarisse! And she’s even more unlikeable than she was in the first book. In Mistwood, she had the chance of being redeemed, but here, it’s completely obvious that she has gone fully to the dark side. At first, I was wondering why she was even in Ghostland to begin with, and why she was so much nastier than she was in Mistwood. Then I realized that Clarisse’s fatal flaw in Mistwood was her jealousy of Isabel, and that jealousy completely transformed her into this power-hungry, manipulative ghost in Nightspell (evidence: the picture ripped in half and Clarisse’s statement saying that she always wanted to be able to change her shape). The fact that nothing happens to her in this book is actually slightly depressing. She gets her power, and learns nothing.

Author Leah Cypess

What I Didn’t Like:

Meh. Not nearly as good as Mistwood. The concept is interesting, but the one-dimensionality of Clarisse in this book is annoying, slightly depressing, and a waste of the potential of a really interesting character, as she was in Mistwood (although, see above for my comments on her jealousy). None of the characters really stood out to me at all. The ending is cute, I suppose, but futile. Nothing is really resolved, either, since the threat of war still stands. The book is just very…flat and uneventful.

Honestly, this book didn’t have to be a companion to Mistwood. Clarisse could have been replaced by an entirely different character with nothing lost, because Clarisse herself was so dramatically changed from Mistwood. In fact, it would have been better if this book had not been a companion and was a stand-alone, because as a companion it is inevitable to draw comparisons, and Nightspell cannot stand up to Mistwood.

Overall Review:

Nightspell lacks the complexity and intrigue that Mistwood had, and so seems much more flat. It almost makes me sad to see the change in Clarisse and the devolution of her intriguing, complex character to a one-dimensional, vengeful, bitter ghost. Also, almost nothing is resolved in the book and the ending, although it seems sweet and hopeful, is really quite ugly and bitter because of the knowledge the reader has about the country and about Callie.

Coming Up Next: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

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