Nightshade (Nightshade #1)
by Andrea Cremer
Summary: 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?
Nightshade was an interesting read. It was a YA paranormal romance dealing with werewolves and a pretty obvious love triangle, which I was a bit skeptical about. I’d seen plenty of mixed reviews about the series, but I figured I’d give it a shot and I ended up liking the book quite a bit. There were aspects about the book that I loved and aspects that I hated or am tired of encountering in YA novels.
What I loved:
- Calla, the heroine of the book, is a Guardian, which is basically a shifter/werewolf. She’s also the alpha of her pack. I suppose I’m used to seeing ordinary human heroines in YA meeting up with supernatural creatures and I liked that the roles were reversed in this book. She’s strong and sure of herself in the beginning and is able to lead her pack and I’m always a fan of strong female characters.
- This isn’t just a book about werewolves. They are called Guardians and they have their own complicated place in the world. There’s a lot of world building and structure to the pack and it’s got elements from different mythological stories. I love a good backstory that’s unique and original, especially when it involves things I’ve seen before with new twists. A complicated hierarchy also leaves tons of room for various conflicts.
- The characters are complicated. As an alpha, Calla has a responsibility to lead her pack and that involves paying attention to everyone in it. As her pack is on the verge of merging with another, she decides to test the waters by getting together with the other pack and noting how everyone is getting along. The different personalities of the members of the pack were interesting. Even the less important characters had distinct personalities. No one felt like a cookie cutter placeholder and I enjoyed the variety.
- The book is less teenager-ish than I expected, even though much of the story takes place in school, after school, around homework, etc. I thought the characters were all great, the conflicts all pretty much believable, and it wasn’t all that juvenile. Calla struggles with much more than typical teenage woes. From some negative reviews, I was almost expecting a werewolf Blue Bloods (which was basically a vampire Gossip Girl) and I was extremely relieved to find that wasn’t the case at all. Clothes were discussed and so was money and what not, but not in an uncaring, flashy sort of way.
- The romantic tension was strong. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen a love triangle quite like this. I could make an argument for both guys and I don’t even know which one I like more or who I think is better for Calla. I really liked both of them in different ways. I loved that Ren was caring, despite being the strong and arrogant alpha male. I loved that Shay was curious and forbidden and forced Calla to question the world.
- It brings up important issues. It deals with things like blindly following rules, making tough choices, being gay, abusive situations, philosophical questions, etc. and it deals with them well. There’s a bit of seriousness peppered into the plot and I liked this aspect.
What I didn’t like:
- The conflict seemed to be directly tied to the love triangle. Without giving too much away, each guy represented an entire way of life. While I liked the kinds of things Shay did for Calla’s personality (teaching her to question things), I thought it was unfair that in order to be a more skeptical person (and therefore a better leader), she’d have to choose him. And if she doesn’t choose him, it would mean she chooses to continue a lifestyle where she must obey rules without question. The option of questioning orders but also picking the other guy wasn’t really apparent in the book and I wished it was. Why can’t Calla do the “right” thing without it being tied directly to her romantic choice?
- I loved everything about Calla, except the way she handled herself regarding the love triangle. I mean, she would melt over Ren one moment and then turn around and swoon over Shay immediately. It was ridiculous. I can sort of understand a lot of the conflict in most love triangles, being confused and what have you, but Calla could have seriously gone either way. And I felt like the issue I mentioned above about the conflict being tied to love triangle was really tipping the scales, not her own feelings about said guy or the personality of the guy. It was all just crazy.
- And lastly, this is one of those books where even though major stuff is going on, the characters get all caught up in steamy moments instead of concentrating on the important stuff. It happens quite a bit in this book and many times I kept thinking “OMG this is NOT the time for this!”
Overall, I enjoyed reading the book and will definitely continue the series. Nightshade ended on a major cliffhanger and I have no idea where the story will go. I would recommend this book to others. If you like YA paranormal romances and don’t mind love triangles, it’s a great read.