Four years ago, Darri’s little sister was sent to Ghostland to secure an alliance for her people, to marry their prince once she came of age. Now, time is running out and the Raellians need that alliance too much to wait, so they’re sending Darri to marry in her sister’s stead.
And it’s just the chance Darri’s been looking for to rescue her sister.
But Ghostland is unlike anything she’s known, a country where day and night is reversed, where the dead walk among the living with little to betray which they are, and a sophisticated intrigue quite different from the fierce wars of the plains people. When you can’t tell the difference between the living and the dead, it’s all to easy to become one of the dead yourself.
Back when this first showed up in the computer at work, it was titled Ghostland, and all it had as a description was a line or two about a country where the living and the dead co-exist. That, and the fact that I’d enjoyed Mistwood, was all I needed to look forward to it.
It’s one of those rare books where the setting is as much a character as any of the people walking around. It isn’t just that there are ghosts, it’s that the entire society of this country is based on that co-existence. Anyone who dies an unnatural death comes back as a ghost, driven by the need to find their murderer and avenge their death, whereupon they can fade out of this second life. But- if you can resist the impulse to find out who murdered you, or if a royal decree bans it, you can live for centuries. While ghosts in this land can be translucent and pass through solid objects and float, all the sorts of things we expect ghosts to do, they can also become solid. They can eat and drink, they can touch. Unless they let that mask of living slip, there’s very little way to tell.
And I LOVE that. Intrigue has always been a part of this court but that duality of life and death has elevated it nearly to an art form. The Ghostland court is catty and subtle, very concerned with appearances, and thoroughly unimpressed with anything outside their borders.
And as long as she gets to save her sister, Darri couldn’t care less. Her sister, however, does. Callie has been within Ghostland for four years. Given the Ghostlander disinterest in external politics, she’s lived in a nebulous sort of honored hostage position. She’s changed a great deal from the plains girl she was- she had to, in order to survive in the court. She binds up her hair, something no plainswoman would do, wears makeup and overly ornate clothing and keeps herself tightly controlled so she can fit in at the court. Her family betrayed her and Darri wasn’t able to save her but that was four years ago- now being ‘saved’ wouldn’t be anything of the sort.
The family relationships in this are amazing and complicated and very, very prickly. Varis, Darri and Callie’s older brother, was changed by the wars out on the plains, becoming far more like their father rather than the indulgent brother who used to sneak in to tell them stories. He sees things in terms of reasonable sacrifices for alliance, obligation for the greater good of their people. He’s disgusted by Darri’s willingness to defy their father for the sake of something that to him shouldn’t matter. Darri is equally disgusted by his willingness to throw away family members and to betray agreements made in good faith. They don’t like each other- they don’t trust each other- but they’re both in way over their head with the Ghostlander court.
And Callie, who could help them, isn’t feeling particularly charitable to either of them. Their arrival puts her in a very poor position. All the snide comments and insults about her barbarian upbringing, things she managed to silence after years of effort to belong, are rising again and her siblings can only look ludicrous in Ghostland, with their clumsy clothing and straightforward blade politics. They have neither the elegance nor the sophistican necessary for the intrigue that surrounds them.
Oh, the intrigue. Mysteries abound in this story, who killed who by whose orders, who’s living or dead, which are the normal mysteries of Ghostland, but there are also larger secrets pressing in against the court. What is it that keeps the dead tied to Ghostland? Can it be destroyed? Controlled? What happens if a ghost tries to leave the boundaries? And, more directly bound to the struggles of court, what power plays are going on, and what alliances will prove the most useful?
This book is full of surprises, small revelations and big revelations and even ones that make you swallow hard and go Wow, was NOT expecting that. It’s a story of family, but it’s also a story of how hard forgiveness can be, about how people change. It’s a story about doing the Right Thing- and that sense of loss and helplessness when you realize the Right Thing maybe isn’t. It’s about hard choices and unexpected allies, and more than anything, it’s a story about what it means to be alive.
The reason this review is posted on a special day is because it’s part of Leah Cypess’ mini-blog tour and giveaway. At the end of the tour she’ll be giving away an annotated copy of Mistwood, her debut novel, complete with random scribblings and sketches in the margins. This is an amazing way to get into the head of a writer with her own book. Every stop on the tour will have mini-giveaways, with a grand prize winner receiving the annotated copy.
To be entered for the grand prize giveaway, the winner of which will be chosen from across all the blog stops, simply comment below.
For my giveaway- signed bookmarks for both Mistwood and Nightspell– you have to answer a question:
If you were murdered in Ghostland, would you want to find out who killed you so you could avenge yourself and fade away? Or would you want that second life?
The blog tour goes through 19 December so comments through then will be eligible for both the bookmarks and the grand prize drawing. And remember- the more blogs along the tour that you visit, the better your chance to win the annotated copy! Be sure to check out:
November 28: Guest post at Fiction State of Mind
November 29: Review at The Book Cellar
November 30: Interview at Library Mosaic
December 1: Guest Post at YA Bibliophile
December 4: Guest Post at Haunted Orchid
December 6: Interview at A Thousand Little Pages
December 7: Review at Ashely Suzanne
December 8: Review at Hobbitsies
December 9: Review at A Backwards Story
December 10: Nightspell excerpt at Arianne Cruz
December 11: Review at Penguin Girl
December 12: Interview at WhatchYA Reading
December 14: Review at Ticket to Anywhere
December 15: Review at Word Lust
December 16: Nightspell excerpt at A Tale of Many Reviews
December 18: Guest Post at Bodacious Bookaholic
December 19: Mistwood deleted scene at A Good Addiction
Until next time~