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Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

November 27, 2010

Publisher: Philomel

Publication Date: October 19, 2010

Format: Hardcover

Status: First in the Nightshade trilogy. Book two, Wolfsbane will be published in July, 2011. Book three, Bloodrose, will be published in the spring of 2012. Cremer is also writing a prequel that will be published in the summer of 2012.

Source: Purchased by self

Genre: Teen, Werewolf

Location: Vail, Colorado

Other Info: On her website, Cremer lists a work in progress called The Inventor’s Secret. It’s Steampunk, which means I really, really want to read it. Here’s a little blurb, but you should go to Cremer’s website to check out the whole thing: “The Inventor’s Secret is the first book of a YA steampunk series set in an alternate nineteenth-century North America where the Revolutionary War never took place and the British Empire has expanded into a global juggernaut propelled by marvelous and horrible machinery.” Sadly, no publishing info yet.

Description: (From the author’s website):

While other teenage girls daydream about boys, Calla Tor imagines ripping out her enemies’ throats. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. Calla was born a warrior and on her eighteenth-birthday she’ll become the alpha female of the next generation of Guardian wolves. But Calla’s predestined path veers off course the moment she saves the life of a wayward hiker, a boy her own age. This human boy’s secret will turn the young pack’s world upside down and forever alter the outcome of the centuries-old Witches’ War that surrounds them all.

I don’t know what held me back from reading this book. It’s gotten a lot of blog attention lately, and the cover is really lovely. Also, it’s about werewolves and I think I might have mentioned a time or two that I’m into werewolves. Seems like this would be an auto-buy for me, huh? Well, maybe it was its sheer popularity that turned me off. As much as I can, I search for underdog titles. The problem is, this often wars with my desire to find and read books I think I’ll enjoy. After all, life’s too short to read bad books.

Nightshade is not a bad book. In fact, I liked it a lot. It tells the story of Calla, werewolf and Guardian. In the beginning of the book, Calla rescues a boy from a grizzly attack. She does more than rescue him, though. She saves his life by giving him some of her blood. She also transforms from her wolf form to her human one where he can see, thereby breaking some of the most important pack rules. Things get yet more murky for Calla when the boy shows up as the new kid at her school. Though Calla tries to avoid the boy–Shay–she isn’t successful. Shay’s insistent about getting answers, and Calla herself is drawn to him.

When it turns out that, though human, Shay is somehow connected to Calla’s world of witches and werewolves, things get even more complicated. There’s something special about Shay, Calla knows this even before she’s asked to look out for him. Calla’s attraction to Shay is completely forbidden. Not only is Shay human and therefore should know nothing about Calla’s werewolf nature, she’s also promised to someone else. Calla’s father is the alpha of the Nightshade pack and, as the alpha’s daughter, she too has alpha status. While this means she’s high up in the pack hierarchy, it also means that she has been chosen to marry an alpha of the Bane pack, Ren. Ren and Calla’s union will the the formation of a third, new pack, an event which has long been planned for.

Calla’s story features possibly one of the most interesting triangles I’ve read lately. Calla is genuinely attracted to both boys, but she has reservations about being with each. Shay is forbidden fruit. He’s human and he doesn’t really understand her world. His lack of understanding means that he doesn’t understand the risks she takes just by spending time with him. He leads her down a dangerous path, often refusing to take her fears seriously. Not cool. On the other hand, Shay’s inability to understand pack rules and protocol mean that his perception of them is more clear-sighted. While Calla is an alpha, she’s also been raised in a society that emphasizes obedience. Shay is always quick to point out a time when he thinks that being obedient isn’t necessarily the right thing to do.

On the other hand, Ren was the more alluring male in the triangle. It’s probably because he’s the one that’s an alpha–and I love alpha heroes. Yum. Calla and Ren have been promised to each other since childhood. They’ve always known they were going to be together eventually. Here’s where things get sticky. Pack rules are pretty strict. As the female half of an alpha pair, Calla’s been expected to remain “pure.” She doesn’t even have her first kiss until 170 pages into the book. Ren, by virtue of the creed of a male alpha being all about the chase, has been, ah, allowed to experiment freely. Uh, yeah. But as the story opens, Calla and Ren’s union is fast approaching and Ren’s decided that it’s time for him and Calla (and their respective packs) to begin spending time together. Basically, he puts the moves on her. And when he does, boy is it hot. Unexpectedly so for a Teen novel.  Plus, Ren has a lot more depth than Shay. Shay has mystery–he’s clearly someone important and his origins are hazy, at best. But, as Calla discovers, Ren isn’t the arrogant playboy she’s always thought he was. And he cares for her more deeply than she realizes.

I don’t want you to think that the love triangle isn’t the only aspect of this novel. The appearance of Shay in Calla’s life signals a shift in her belief system. All her life she’s been taught to believe certain things and Shay’s existence and his curiosity bring up questions about those beliefs that Calla can’t answer. Also, more and more Calla begins to see problems with pack hierarchy and the Guardian/Keeper relationship that she can’t ignore. In the meantime, her union to Ren creeps ever closer. And she’s also beginning to realize that mating with Ren will mean that he’ll be in charge, which isn’t easy for an alpha to accept.

Cremer’s world is complex and layered, in the best of ways. I have to say, though, that thing I enjoyed the most was the relationships that Calla had with both boys. I’m on tenterhooks as to who she’ll end up with. Even on Amazon, Nightshade was linked to Twilight and, I suppose that comparison, while odious, is inevitable. Only, there was never any question who Bella would end up with in the Twilight books. It was always, always, always (shut up already) Edward. It’s not as clear in Nightshade and I liked that. While I must admit to leaning in Ren’s favor, I’m not totally against Shay, either. That’s pretty awesome, because I tend to take sides early, and immovably. I’m adding myself to the long list of people awaiting Wolfsbane.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2010 5:17 pm

    I’ve had this one on my shelf for a while, too. It sounds great and I’m excited to read it, but I keep putting it off. I think it probably is all of the hype- I’m worried that it will be a let-down. That steampunk series sounds amazing! I almost wish she’d released that first!

    • November 27, 2010 5:28 pm

      I feel the same way about the Steampunk series, but that might be because it’s my new favorite subgenre. Also, I had the same reservations about Nightshade, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

  2. November 29, 2010 10:16 am

    Fabulous review! I absolutely agree with your thoughts on Ren, Shay and Calla. I’m leaning strongly toward Ren, I find him more alluring as well, but I thought she did such a great job with the relationships between all three. I can’t wait to read Wolfsbane!

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