Nightshade - Andrea Cremer
*October 19th, 2010 Philomel
Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything— including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?
With Nightshade Andrea Cremer has created an enchanting world so similar to our own, yet so different.
Let's face it - there have been a lot of trends lately in the YA realm. Most notably, vampires, zombies, werewolves. Well, Nightshade is, in essence, a story about human-wolf beings - werewolves, if you will. Yet at the same time, it's so much more than that. In Nighshade Cremer has created an entire mythos for her werewolves - an interesting and unique mythology that's a completely fresh take on things.
Which is one of the major winning points for Nightshade. The whole concept of their packs, the hierarchies, the interactions between the different members, the backstory behind the whole thing ... it's all very unique and enticing.
However, at just over 450 pages and larger than mass market book-size, Nightshade is pretty hefty - unncessarily so, in fact. The story starts out a little slow, and it honestly feels like the tale could've been told a bit more succinctly. There are places where it drags a little and others where it's quite predictable and [the reader] figures it out, but it seems to take the characters another good ten or more pages to do the same.
It's also great to see Calla (the MC/leading lady) as a strong and capable female character. She's a pretty badass wolf and fully capable of protecting herself - the antithesis of a damsel-in-distress. However, strong feminists beware because here's where it gets a little contradictory. Calla's portrayed as a strong female, and then pages - even mere paragraphs - later, she's objectified by males, which in turn basically undermines half her characterization. With the whole 'danger allure' (like many other YA books out there these days *cough*), Nightshade doesn't exactly portray an ideal example of a healthy relationship.
In spite of all that, with great writing, unique mythology and lots of action, Cremer's Nightshade is still a highly enjoyable read. So am I planning on checking out the two follow-ups, Wolfsbane and Bloodrose? You betcha!