Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Nightshade 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? (courtesy of Goodreads)
The many paranormal romances I've read can be divided in two categories. First, where the narrator is new to the paranormal world. And second, where the narrator is already part of the paranormal world. The first type of story slowly introduces the reader to the supernatural element. You get the feeling that there's something very strange going on, but don't know what. You learn as the narrator does and know no more than he or she. With the second type of book, you dive right in to the paranormal. The narrator is part of what's going on, so doesn't necessarily bother to explain. You quickly see the inner workings of the magical world, but with no context. I find the second type of paranormal much more satisfying. Initially, it is very frustrating. I had a lot of trouble getting into Nightshade. I had no idea what was going on and was irritated rather than fascinated. Calla has been a werewolf her entire life. References to Keepers, forbidden texts, wraiths, etc are so natural that there's no need to explain it until newcomer Shay is in the position to be taught. Fortunately, Calla does a great job of explaining things to Shay slowly enough to keep the mystery going but thoroughly enough to relieve the initial confusion. The beginning of books like Nightshade are often difficult, but it is so much more satisfying to see the paranormal world from an insider's point of view. You get a much more complex and developed world. If you'll forgive the Twilight reference, it is the reason that Midnight Sun is so much more interesting than Twilight to me.
Calla Nightshade was born to a great destiny. To become an Alpha wolf guardian. To mate with Ren, the handsome yet arrogant alpha male wolf. To protect the Keepers, who provide her family with everything in return for their service. She's never questioned her fate. Or who is good or evil in her world. Keepers are good, guardians are good. Searchers are bad. But a new boy comes to town and makes her question everything. Shay is handsome, curious, fearless, sexy, and fun. He and Calla are instantly attracted to one another. Instead of shutting out the world to focus on their newfound love, Shay pushes Calla to learn more about who she is.
I love Calla. She is a powerful, kick-butt girl. It's she who does the saving. She's also a good friend, daughter, and sister. She's not one to rock the boat for the sake of rebellion, yet ultimately she is willing to stand up for what she knows to be right. I love how she is portrayed as brave and strong, but not macho. We understand that she is terrified every step of the way and doesn't instantly know what to do.
An intense love triangle develops between Calla, Ren, and Shay. As overdone as the love triangle theme is, this story still manages to feel fresh and fun. I love Shay. He is funny yet serious enough to ask questions about the werewolf world that no one else does, confident though not arrogant, sweet yet also capable of acting foolishly. Ren is a harder character to love. He is destined to be with Calla and sees her as his property. He is arrogant and entitled. Yet he also is a basically good person raised by an ogre of a father and truly wants to be happy with Calla. He grows on the reader. The other wolves in Calla and Shay's packs are great side characters. I especially loved Calla's brother Ansel. I was always amused by Mason and Neville and intrigued and saddened by Sabine's story.
Nightshade only gets better as the book goes on. By the last page, I was devastated that the next book wouldn't be out for months. Seeing the world through Calla's wolf eyes is so much richer than seeing it through an outsider's (like Shay) eyes. We see the little subtleties that people new to a fantasy world will miss. By the end of the book, the reader has a good understanding of werewolves and the legend behind them. I grasped Keepers, Searchers, and the origin of the werewolf. There is still a lot to learn in future books, but I feel comfortable at where I am now. Nightshade leaves you knowing and experiences just enough that you yearn for more.
Rating: 4.5 / 5