VOYA - Susan Hampe
Darri had promised her sister that she would not leave her in Ghostland to marry the prince of their kingdom, but that she would save her. It has been several years since then, and Callie has settled into life in the Ghostland court; but that has been placed in jeopardy by a change of plans. To seal the alliance between Raellia and Ghostland, it is now Darri who will marry Prince Kestin in place of her sister. The situation is further complicated by the news that the prince has been murdered and is now a ghost. Now the sisters and their brother, Varis, must navigate the complicated court of Ghostland as they each try to pursue their own goals. Nightspell, a companion novel to Cypress's Mistwood (Greenwillow, 2011/VOYA June 2010), is a solid fantasy read that takes place in a medieval setting of castles and warring tribes. The title switches perspectives between the three siblings as each of them pursues their own goals within the eerie court of Ghostland, which helps to keep things interesting throughout the story. The title does suffer initially from a lack of description to set the stage, which makes it a little difficult to get into at first. Though its setting is older, it will still appeal to fans of modern fantasy writers such as Aprillynne Pike and Carrie Jones, and be moderately popular. Reviewer: Susan Hampe
Children's Literature - Allison Fetters
When Darri and her brother, Varis, travel to Ghostland to rescue their sister and make a deal with the king, they are not prepared to be in contact with the wandering dead. They are both disconcerted to learn that the majority of humans around them are, in actuality, ghosts. The ghosts are left to wander the earth because as humans they were murdered and do know yet know the identities of their killers. Although each has an individual purpose, Darri and Varis both soon realize the importance of breaking the spell that has been holding the dead captive. They received a colder reception from their younger sister, Callie, than they were expecting; however, once they learn of Callie's dark secret, they understand the reason behind her distance. This book is an entertaining read that provides a unique premise. Although the ghosts are frightening, the book is tame in its presentation of their skull-like appearance. Ultimately, the story proves to be one of fighting for one's family and for the common thread siblings share. Reviewer: Allison Fetters
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—Princess Darrianka and her brother, Varis, travel far from their barbaric home in the Raellian countryside to Ghostland for different reasons—Darri is hoping to save her sister from a political marriage to the prince of Ghostland. Varis is following their father's orders and plans to trade Darri for Callie and then to conquer Ghostland for territorial domination. Things are never that cut-and-dried, however, and there are definite problems with both of their plans. Will Darri save Callie? Does Callie even want to be saved? Will Darri and Varis find a common purpose and actually get along? The family drama here is pretty thick. Nightspell is a great entry into fantasy as it reads more like European royal historical fiction. Even students who do not typically like fantasy will enjoy this title, and the connections to the alliance-building betrothals and hostile takeovers could be linked to the social-studies curriculum. The book would make a good read-aloud, as it is packed with impressive grotesque imagery and action.—Kristina Weber, Bernotas Middle School, Crystal Lake, IL
The distinctions between life and death are dissolved with sinister consequences in this dark companion to Mistwood (2010).
In the night-shrouded court of Ghostland, the dead do not rest quietly; they mingle freely with the living, dominating their amusements, intrigues and politics, centuries after their bodies have rotted away. Despite their disgust, the nomadic Raellians sent Callie, their youngest princess, as a prospective royal bride. Now her siblings have come at last: Prince Varis, ambitious for alliance (or conquest), and Princess Darri, determined to rescue Callie from her ghastly fate. Callie is not ready to leave, however, and the living and the dead each have their own agenda for their "barbarian" guests. While only a secondary character links this to the earlier title, fans will recognize the poetic style and rich characterization. The three protagonists stand out in their blunt vitality, but every character is portrayed with complexity and clear-eyed sympathy; none is unambiguously hero or villain. Elegant, allusive prose conveys both the claustrophobic horror and overripe allure of the decadent court, where the dead exude macabre charm, disarming sorrow and a dreadful "otherness." Some may be disappointed in the lack of dramatic resolutions; the more thoughtful will appreciate the fluid navigation between good and evil, freedom and duty, life and death, with only love reigning supreme.
Morbid and moving, transcendent and triumphant. (Horror. 14 & up)