Author: Saundra Mitchell
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBTQIA
Publication Date: February 4 2014
Hardcover: 322 Pages
When Willa Dixon’s brother dies on the family lobster boat, her father forbids Willa from stepping foot on the deck again. With her family suffering, she’ll do anything to help out—even visiting the Grey Man.
Everyone in her small Maine town knows of this legendary spirit who haunts the lighthouse, controlling the fog and the fate of any vessel within his reach. But what Willa finds in the lighthouse isn’t a spirit at all, but a young man trapped inside until he collects one thousand souls.
Desperate to escape his cursed existence, Grey tries to seduce Willa to take his place. With her life on land in shambles, will she sacrifice herself?
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Review copy via Netgalley
Format (e- or p-): eARC
Why did I read this book: It sounded really good and because I loved Mitchell’s first book so much.
Willa Dixon always knew what her future looked like: taking over the family lobster boat, marrying her childhood sweetheart Seth, settling down next to her beloved sea in her small Maine town. But one fateful night takes everything away when, as the result of her own actions, her younger brother is killed. Forbidden by her father to set foot on the boat, faced with financial disaster and an incoming inquest that might take away her fishing license, not to mention the growing distance between her and Seth, there goes Willa’s future, shattered at her feet.
That’s when her mind starts to wonder and she thinks about the Grey Man.
Legends say that there is a spirit who haunts the unapproachable lighthouse and controls the fog. The truth is that there is a young man who is made of mist but is still very real, who’s cursed to be trapped in the lighthouse until he collects one thousand souls. Or until someone takes his place.
When Willa’s thoughts come to him, he zeroes in on her as the next Grey Lady.
Mistwalker takes over a story with familiar fairytale elements (Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel) and does wonders with it. It subverts what we have come to expect from those stories by examining the way Grey got cursed and the way the curse can be broken. In a way, it reminded me a lot of the recent Disney movie, Frozen. One of the most brilliant twists is how at first Grey hopes to seduce Willa into loving him so she can sacrifice herself for love until he realises that this approach would not work on her and so he goes with the truth instead (or…at least a measure of truth).
The chapters alternate between Grey and Willa and the two characters could not be more different and the narrative reflects that. Grey is truly stuck not only with regards to the limitations imposed by the curse but also in who he is. His narrative is repetitive, going over and over around the same points – it makes sense because what else is there for him to do apart from obsess on how to break his curse?
It is Willa’s narrative though that truly makes the book. Her story is one of immense sadness, grief and guilt. For the loss of her brother, for the future she thinks she no longer has, for loving her boyfriend but knowing it is no longer enough. Her love for her family shines through as does her love for fishing. I absolutely loved how Willa truly believed in the traditional ways of their fishing community and hoped to maintain that even though the story is set in the contemporary, modern world. It does not mean that other characters of her age feel the same way: her best friend is off with her girlfriend to better pastures and on to college. That is not a future that Willa wants for herself though and that is…ok. I loved that.
Mistwalker is a brilliant, heartfelt story of grief and guilt and family and friends. Its resolution is pitch perfect. It reminded me both of the author’s own Shadowed Summer and of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. After all this high praise I can only say: it’s already a Notable Read of 2014.
Notable Quotes/Parts: I have the perfect quote to include here but it’s not at hand right now. I will add it later today. Sorry!
Rating: 8 – Excellent
Reading Next: Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
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