Monday, October 17, 2011

Mist by Kathryn James

Midnight: a mist-haunted wood with a bad reputation. A sweet sixteen party, and thirteen-year-old Nell is trying to keep her sister, spoilt birthday-girl Gwen, out of trouble. No chance. Trouble finds Gwen and drags her through the mist. Only Nell guesses who's behind the kidnap - the boy she hoped was her friend, the gorgeous but mysterious Evan River.

Evan is no ordinary boy - he has a secret which will lead Nell to question everything she has always learned from her grandmother's stories. Evan lives on the fringes of Nell's world, rarely glimpsed, misunderstood and feared, but a long-simmering showdown between the two worlds is looming ...

Quite by accident I managed to read 3 books, for different age groups and maturity levels, in which fae / fairy characters play a big role.

First was Huntress by Malinda Lo and second I read Mist by Kathryn James.  The third will also be reviewed this week.  Patience!

I found this book "Mist" in Foyles, took one look at that cover and the write-up on the back and knew it was for me.  I started reading it on the way home on the train and just loved how the framework of the story was set up within a few very readable chapters.

We are introduced to our main character Nell immediately.  Nell is 13, dresses inappropriately (read: does not conform to convention) and is far more likely to be found watching others, especially her sister Gwen who seems to the sparkly happy beautiful yet manipulative prettier older and popular sister we've become used to in teen fiction.  What makes Gwen a bit more than just a stock character is that she is more aware of what she's doing than some others we've read about.  She is not an ingenue. She plays at it.  It makes for an interesting contrast.

Nell is the strange one, the dreamer, yet the one who is far more capable than dealing with weird things going on than her older sister.  They come from a single parent family - their mum is a police person and is  tough and funny and a bit helpless when faced with the sass from her oldest daughter.  Their dad is someone Big in the police force too.  There was a divorce and the kids got to stay with their mum.  Their dad's mum still makes an appearance and is wonderfully strange and tough in her own right.

When Nell notices a new boy in school, when no one else does, her curiosity is piqued. She follows him home, through the strange forest behind their house and when she sees him dancing across the stones in the river she is even more curious.  But when he suddenly appears next to her and they start chatting, she is charmed but wary.  When a group of bullies confront them, Nell takes no nonsense and holds them off, with her mixed martial arts skills.  But she notices that the boy, Evan, does not like any kind of metal.

As their strange friendship grows, Nell finds that occasionally she doubts Evan's existence, until she looks at her phone and there he is, clear as day.  Odd things are happening all over town too.  The electricity seems to be playing up and all around the country, in fact, there are back outs and shortages.  The police aren't entirely sure what's going on either - as much as they try and track down the culprits messing around with the power stations, they can't find anyone or proof that someone is messing around with it.

When Gwen decides to have her birthday party in the nearby forest, Evan warns Neill to tell Gwen not to be stupid.  Partying in the forest will attract unwanted attention.  But Gwen has her own way and the party goes ahead.  And when she is taken from the party, by a mysterious older boy and a vicious wolf, it is up to Nell to figure out exactly what is going on.

Mist wanders between dreamy writing and the edge of horror.  The author seems self-assured as she creates the world and introduces us to the odd relationship between our world and the world rubbing shoulders with our own.  Even is obviously not human and the boy who takes Gwen is his older brother who is psychologically unstable.  And yet, you can't help but feel so much empathy for both Evan and his brother Fen.  They are doing their utmost to look after their own small community and as Nell comes to understand what really is at stake, she has interesting and difficult moral choices to make.

I genuinely enjoyed Mist.  I read it in a few sittings (it was bed-time reading) and think that younger teen readers would love it too.  In fact, I think reluctant readers would easily be caught up in Nell's story and there is just enough otherness about it to make it something different.  I fell for Nell and think she's a great character. With a heart of gold and a tough attitude when needs be, she is intelligent and resourceful, stubborn and someone I would like to call a friend and more importantly, someone I can identify with, even though we are obviously many years apart in age.

I am however worried that the cover - as gorgeous as it is - may put off boy-readers because I think this would suit boy-readers to a T.  There is action, adventure, a quest and a bigger story than can be found in Mist.  Frost, the follow-up novel is due for release next year and I cannot wait! Having read Mist and become so involved with the story, I have to know what Nell is going to do next.  I know what I'd like her to do...but what choices will she make and how will it not just affect her, but her family and especially her grandmother?

A great many questions to be answered and I'll be here, waiting...

Find Kathryn James' website here.  Mist is out now from Hodder Children.


Vivienne said...

I want this book! I think my next trip to Foyles may involve a little purchase!

Clover said...

I'm pretty sure this book is for me as well, which is lucky as I have a copy of it waiting for me on my shelves! I only skimmed your review as I'm dying to read it soon :)