Isabel is alone in the Mistwood when she's called: it is time for the Shifter to resume human form and protect the king, as she has for generations. When she wakes in the castle, she's missing some memories, and her instincts aren't working quite right--and neither is her ability to shift into various forms.
In Mistwood by Leah Cypess (HarperCollins - Greenwillow), Isabel is back on protection duty after her first known failure to protect a king. Loyalty is given to the crown, so now, she's been called to protect the usurper's son. With some of her memories difficult to access, Isabel finds the political climate of the court tricky to navigate, and the court finds Isabel just as tricky, because she's showing some human thoughts and emotions that the Shifter shouldn't bother with.
Isabel is tested when the failed king's son returns and challenges the usurper's son. It's not only her magical fighting skills under the gun (sword?), but her ability to tease out half-forgotten truths to determine who's worth dying for.
Mistwood has an interesting structure. The first two-thirds are very much character-driven, while the last third more action-based with a strong mystery feeling. Isabel and Clarisse, the sister of the usurper's son, are the most interesting characters--Clarisse especially so, because her loyalties and motivations are murky at best.
I read this book as a first-round judge for the Cybils Awards, which means that I may have received a review copy from the publisher (or not; I own a lot of the books in this category). I read some books nominated for the YA fantasy and science fiction category in 2010 before the nomination period, and may have already reviewed them or declined to make a public review; these books might not have a Cybils post tag. As a first-round judge, I was tasked with helping create a shortlist of books. My personal reviews do not reflect any actions or discussions of the judging committee.