Nightshade (Nightshade, #1)
by Andrea Cremer
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?
Like many, many others, I've fallen in love with this cover. A little less so with the story it contains -- I like it, sometimes a lot, but I don't love it. Though I hate to compare things to Twilight (it seems like nearly every YA book these days gets the comparison in some way...), Nightshade has the same addictive readability, so that even when you're rolling your eyes, you keep right on reading.
I really did like the core characters, especially Calla -- I questioned her "alpha-ness" at times, but I was willing to set that aside and go with it, and like her despite some pet peeves (which others have gone into, so I'll just let them take it and run with it, and move on myself). I was (pleasantly) surprised to like Ren, as their was a definite dick aspect to him, as he's uber-alpha male. But Cremer chose not to make it a clear cut thing -- Calla is set to marry Ren, as they are both alphas and expected to form a pack, but she finds herself drawn to new (human) boy, Shay. It would have been very easy to make the reader hate Ren and love Shay, and feel pity for Calla for the situation she's in, but instead, you see that there are good and bad things about all three characters, and it makes it much more appealing and believable with this complexity and gray area.
Another thing I really liked about Nightshade was the mythology Cremer created to back her story. There are legends passed down, and a secret "history" that shadows real human history. It's all layered with real-world philosophy and actual thought, and it just adds so much to the story and the believability of the more fantastic elements.
There were some drawbacks for me, though. There were a few things -- key things -- that happened very, very quickly, and it sort of shocked me out of the whole "willing suspension of disbelief" thing. If something book-changing is going to happen, I can get it being fast-paced. Things happen quickly sometimes, and maybe it's necessary. Without giving away something critical, there was one instance in particular that I have a feeling the rest of the series hinges on, and it just failed for me. It felt rushed and forced, and the entire set up was just...weird and I didn't buy it. As soon as there is that disconnect, you start to doubt everything, and I just wasn't pleased. I felt like a lot of the work Cremer had done to build veracity was just tossed out the window*.
But all in all, even when I doubted or rolled my eyes, I enjoyed myself reading this. I fully intend to read the next book, and even will go so far as to say I have high hopes for it; I see this series having a big following, and though I'm not unreservedly gaga over it, I certainly recommend it.
*Please keep in mind, I read an ARC, so this could have changed for the better...
Make sure to check out my interview with Andrea Cremer, in which she talks a bit about creating the mythology I talked about, or read my teaser of the book.
And while you're hopping around Book Rat, stop by and enter to win a finished copy of Nightshade, one of the many Helluva Halloween giveaways!