Rummanah Aasi
  Nightshade by Andrea R. Cremer has been getting a lot of buzz this year and has been popular in my public libraries. I have read many favorable reviews of the book as well as minor negative reviews. It is so interesting to see how many people critique a novel, which is one of they many reasons why I love blogging and the blogging community. While Nightshade is marketed as a paranormal romance that centers around werewolves, the book is actually much more. It is filled with intrigue, politics, struggle of power, love, family, and betrayal. It is by far the most interesting paranormal romance book I've read this year.

Description: Calla Tor has always known her destiny. She is an alpha werewolf of the Nightshade Pack and is to be mated with Ren Laroche, the male alpha werewolf of the Bane Pack. The plans for their impending union, designed to create a new pack, are upset by the arrival of Shay, a human, when Calla impulsively saves him during a night on patrol. With this one simple decision, Calla has changed everything. Her fascination and attraction to Shay will cost her everything that she has held so dear-including her own life. 

Review: Nightshade may sound like an ordinary paranormal romance with a forbidden love story, however, its supreme world building, mythology, and intrigue sets this book apart. From the very beginning, we find ourselves in the middle of a bear attack. Calla, in wolf form, makes a rash decision to disobey her wolf pack in saving, what she thinks, is an ordinary human. Words such as Guardians, Keepers, and Searchers are introduced and used frequently, but we are given no explanation as to what these terms mean. As you can imagine, I was a little confused by the story in the beginning. I did manage to wrap my head a little bit with inferences from the plot, however, it is not until about a third of the way through the book that the information is given. While this may frustrate some readers and make the story disjointed, I was hooked right away and didn't mind the gaps. I wanted to know what these terms mean and how they relate to one another. I was glad things weren't quickly given away. 
  As we go deeper into the story, we realize that Nightshade has many layers that go deeper beyond the tropes of its genre. There is a hierarchy and social class structure in Calla's world. Guardians, what we call werewolves, are created by magical creatures (who, in my opinion, are very similar to witches and warlocks) called the Keepers. The sole purpose of the Guardian's role is to serve and protect the Keepers against their enemy, the Searchers. Humans are the lowest class and not given any importance, which is why Calla's disobedience in saving Shay is so striking. In addition to the social structure of Calla's world, we also learn about the customs and traditions of the pack. It is through her increasing fascination with Shay and his challenges to her traditions that catalyzes Calla's rebellious attitude. From the werewolf books that I have read, this mythology of magic and power is refreshing and intriguing.
  Calla is a strong female heroine. She is a firm believer in her traditions and understands what is required of her. She is willing and determined to do anything for her family and pack. Though she is an alpha and can control her pack, we see how easily her powers are overshadowed by others, especially her destined mate, Ren, and her willingness to except orders from others. Like Calla, we also begin to question what it means to be alpha, especially when she is surprised by the unfairness of being an alpha (i.e. losing personal freedom) and the traditions that bind her. Despite her uneasiness with her customs, she reluctantly goes out of her comfort zone when she and Shay uncover startling truths of her real history. We quickly find out that nothing is what it seems.
  Shay and Ren, the two love interests in Calla's lives are very interesting. Both have their shares of flaws and appeal both to readers and Calla. It has been a really long time since I have been divided by choosing a male lead. In Nightshade, there is no clear winner for me or even for Calla, I think, because there is so much left to be discovered about them. I found the boys' relationship with Calla to be fascinating. Shay first appears as your ordinary human who falls for a werewolf, but he goes through significant changes and becomes a key figure in the long fight between Searcher and Keeper. We finally go beyond the mortal/paranormal pairing. I found myself questioning whether Calla is drawn to him because he represents the unknown to her or whether it is because her alpha holds power over him. Similarly, our first impression of Ren is that he is sexy, cocky, and womanizing, however, he also begins to be much more complicated as we learn about his past and family. I also couldn't help but wonder if Calla's hesitance in becoming closer to Ren is due to her own insecurities or because her dominance is overshadowed by his. While there are steamy scenes and romance featured between Shay and Calla as well as Ren and Calla, I couldn't help but question if it was really love or simply a matter of Calla struggling with pre-determined destiny or free will or even a competition amongst our two male leads. 
  While some of the plot twists were kind of predictable, I was more invested into the characters, particularly the secondary characters. Cremer does a great job in describing the individuals that make up the two wolf packs. I loved watching them interact with one another and how they responded to their alpha's call. Since Nightshade is the first book in a series, the ending did feel abrupt and it does leave off in a cliffhanger as I expected. I look forward to seeing how each of the characters grow and what is the true history of the Guardians, Keepers, and Searchers in the sequel, Wolfsbane, which will come out in July 2011.     

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language in the book and a few racey scenes. Recommended for ages 14 and older.

If you like this book try: Wolfsbane (NightShade #2; available in 2011) by Andrea Cremer, Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Dark Divine by Bree Despain, or Matched by Ally Condie 
8 Responses
  1. I've seen the big buzz on this book too but haven't picked it up yet. Glad to hear you liked it.

  2. Jenny Says:

    Fabulous review Rummanah! I really enjoyed this one as well and like you, struggled to choose between Ren and Shay, but I've definitely started leaning toward Ren I think:) I can't wait to read Wolfsbane!

  3. Thanks, Jenny! Like you I was leaning towards Ren too, especially at the end. I can't wait to find out more.

  4. I just finished this one. Like you,i was confused at the start but grew to love it.

    You asked how I am compiling my book lists. They are basically a list of everything (or most everything) I read this year, split into categories. I didn't hate any of them but didn't love all of them either. I was also disappointed with Fallen, Hush Hush and Perfect Chemistry (we clearly have similar tastes) but have them on the list b/c I think the info will be useful to people.

  5. Commenting on your and Jenny's last comments..I am Team Shay, but Ren is starting to grow on me. Once we start to see his kind and vulnerable side he doesn't seem like so much of a possessive jerk.

  6. I felt the same with Ren too, Alison, but I had a feeling he had a lot more baggage so I cut him some slack. ;)

  7. I am all about Ren - I don't know, I can see Shay doing something really crappy - just can, and he would justify though his individualistic attitude - it's not a bad thing per se, I just don't think it can be trusted!

  8. Luxembourg Says:

    New characters are introduced and loved. Calla struggles to understand her place both as a wolf and in relation to Shay. Her choices haunt her and her guilt is heavy as she faces the consequences of those choices. It's heartbreaking to read at times.

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