Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review: Tris and Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison

Izzie loves Mark, and why shouldn’t she? As the captain of the basketball team, he is kind and loving and he’s everything she’s ever wanted in a boyfriend. Her BFF loves . . . somebody, but she won’t say who. So when a hot new guy, Tristan, shows up at school, who better for Izzie to fix up her friend, Branna, with? And what better way to do it than with a love philtre?

But even the best of magic has a way of going awry—and Izzie finds she’s accidentally fallen in l
ove with Tristan herself. And that’s a problem. First of all, there’s Mark. Second, Tristan comes with baggage—like the supernatural creatures that keep attacking whenever he’s with Izzie, and the fact that he comes from the place where Izzie’s father was killed, years ago, by an enormous, evil serpent that’s still around—and it knows Izzie is out there.

Like Mettie Ivie Harrison’s
The Princess and the Hound, praised by Orson Scott Card as “powerful, surprising, moving, and deep—a classic,” Tris and Izzie rings the changes on a timeles
s legend, this time in a contemporary high school setting. (summary from Goodreads)

A modern and magical retelling of the German folktale, Tristan & Isolde, Harrison's Tris & Izzie unfortunately does not live up to it's potential.

Izzie has known her whole life that magic exists, and
tells no one but her best friend, Branna, the truth. Her mother is a witch who concocts potions to help people in her work as a paramedic, and her father, who died when Izzie was a toddler, was also magical. Izzie has always been told that she was born without any magical abilities and she relishes her ordinary life with her normal, popular boyfriend, Mark. But when Tristan, a gorgeous transfer from another school, arrives, Izzie's life takes a turn from the normal. Determined to see Branna as happy as she is, and in an attempt to ignore her own attraction to Tristan, Izzie steals what she believes to be a love philtre from her mother's cabinet and has Tristan unknowingly drink it. Instead of Branna also drinking it, however, Izzie impulsively does so. She knows there's no countering a love philtre, but Izzie desperately continues to fight her feelings for Tristan and make things work with Mark. But when magical and deadly creatures show up to kill Izzie she has more than the consequences of the supposed love philtre to deal with. She must face truths long hidden for her protection - about her actual magical abilities, about how her father really died, about where Tristan actually comes from, and about the evil serpent, Gurmun, who is not simply a nightmare of Izzie's, but a powerful creature intent on killing her and enslaving the world.

I truly hoped I would enjoy Tris & Izzie, despite the many negative reviews I'd read. Honestly, because of those reviews I did have fairly low expectations going in. Still, I'd fallen in love with that cover and as a modern retelling of such a tragic love story, I really thought it would be a book for me. Unfortunately that just wasn't the case. I almost didn't finish reading this one but, eternally hopeful, I pushed through to the end, though it never lived up to its potential. And Tris & Izzie did have potential.

I liked the ideas behind the story. That magic secretly existed, and in many forms, was interesting. Izzie's mother, as a witch for example, could create potions, whereas Tristan's magic lay in metals, and Izzie's and her father's in the elements. There were also some seriously cool creatures, like trolls, fairies, dragons, etc, but these were only minimally touched on. Gurmun himself, a monstrous and ancient evil serpent, had the makings of
something huge but fell into the stereotypical bad guy trap, ending up nowhere near as scary or as effective as I think Harrison set out to have him. Big Bad 101, my slithering friend - less chatter. Even the main characters fell a little flat. Tristan never developed beyond a sword-toting, old world feeling warrior with one purpose in life - to protect the damsel - and Izzie herself was never depicted as being powerful enough to explain why Gurmun was so determined to hunt her down. I kept waiting for her to to grow out of her naivete, harness her abilities and learn how to use her magic to it's fullest...and kept on waiting. Instead Harrison neatly and quickly wrapped the story with a bit of luck and winging it. Everything that felt like it had the possibility of more unfortunately just kept falling short. Including the once epic romance of Tristan and Isolde that fizzled here. I can't believe in a love just because there's attraction and the author says it's there. I need to feel it, but in actuality I felt very little throughout this book.

Tris & Izzie was ultimately a quick read, and I think that might have bee
n part of the problem. There was just too much, too fast, and many of the plot lines felt forced and without coherent development - just like it's characters and romance. It was as if their purpose was simply to provide drama but there was never any actual building up to it. The only surprises were how many times Izzie thoughtlessly changed her mind. Every shocking twist was instead glaringly obvious before it was revealed and so the story plodded along despite how much Harrison tried to fit into it.

Overall, Tris & Izzie was a disappointing read for me. I'd hoped to like it but I simply could not connect with any of the characters or the story as a whole. Everything that held some sort of intrigue never became more than that.


Publisher: EgmontUSA
Published date: 11 October 2011
Pages: 262
Format: e-Galley

Many thanks to EgmontUSA and NetGalley for providing me a copy in return for my honest review.

Challenge: Vacation Reads - Curvenal.
A hidden and magical town full of mythical creatures? I could enjoy a vacation there...especially now that it's destroying evil has been booted!


  1. I keep checking reviews of this one, hoping I'll find a reviewer who liked it. But nope, never happens. I'm glad you pointed out what was good about it, but it still sounds like one to miss. I love the Tristan and Isolde myth and would love to read a good retelling of it.

  2. @TG I'm so sad that I didn't like this one, I really wanted to! The concept is great, but unfortunately it just didn't work out. I had such high hopes for a good retelling too. Maybe someday soon! :-)

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  3. Only one owl - ouch. I have this one from NetGalley and feel obligated to read it and give it a chance. But negative review after review really leave me with low expectations, not unlike yourself going into this one.

    Part of the draw for me now is to read it just so I can see what stinks so badly about it. (Hee Hee)

  4. @Gina @ My Precious I felt so bad not liking this one, even after having low expectations! I just couldn't take it seriously, you know?

    I'm interested to hear what you think about it. Who knows, maybe you'll like it! I'm sure I did read a review that gave it 4 or 5 stars, but I can't remember there's a chance. :-D