By Andrea Cremer
Publication date: October 19, 2010
As a future Alpha female of her own wolf pack, Calla has always been obedient to the rules put in place by the Keepers but then she saves the life of Shay, a human boy. Calla is torn between her duty to marry Renier Laroche and lead the new pack and her growing love for Shay. Calla soon finds that Shay is no ordinary teen when his life is endangered. Together they try to solve a prophecy while time is running out for their relationship.
At first, I thought Nightshade was going to be just like Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. There are some similarities between the stories with female wolf protagonists coming to the aid of human boys, the "arranged marriage" to another alpha wolf, and pack dynamics. Nightshade adds a new dimension to this plot with the concept that the wolves, known as Guardians, serve Keepers, who are witches. The Keepers are supposed to keep the world in balance and the Guardians act as protectors. The "villains" of the story are Searchers, who separated from the Keepers long ago in a rebellion called the Witches' War. The idea of a school where there are humans, Guardians, and Keepers was interesting. In some ways Nightshade is original. In other ways it is not because it seems to follow the typical paranormal romance plot with the love triangle aspect.
I liked Calla as a protagonist. She is a strong leader and she cares about her packmates but she is also uncertain. At the beginning she is too willing to go along with what is expected of her even if it isn't what she wants. This changes throughout the book. I think she improves through her relationship with Shay. Unfortunately while Calla is drawn to Shay she is also experiencing a strong attraction to Ren. Ren is known to be a player even though he is meant to marry Calla. He has a bad reputation as a ladies' man at her school and among the packs. At the same time he appears to care deeply about Calla and he has a difficult home situation. Part of the time I liked Ren and part of the time he really irritated me. My main issue with the book was not so much the use of the love triangle which is a staple of this genre but the difficulty I had with Calla's behavior towards Ren and Shay. I didn't like how Calla handled things with Ren even though they are in a way "engaged". Since she is supposedly falling for Shay it was strange that she reacted to Ren the way she did. I liked Shay but at first he was not a very exciting male protagonist and I actually preferred Ren. Thankfully Shay became more interesting as the book progressed and he has potential to be a "scene stealer" the way Ren is.
Nightshade is a YA paranormal romance that would likely appeal to fans of Blood and Chocolate as well as the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. Calla is not unlike Rose Hathaway and the concept of wolf Guardians is in some ways similar to the dhampir Guardians from Mead's series. While the YA book market is overflowing with paranormal romance, I think Andrea Cremer is attempting to do something unique with this series. Whether or not she will succeed remains to be seen. I liked the backstory she created with the Keepers and even the side characters like Calla's brother Ansel are interesting to read about. Nightshade ends with a cliffhanger that will leave readers anxious for book two, Wolfsbane. I know I will definitely be reading the sequel when it is released next year.
Readalikes: Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause, the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead, Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson, Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey, the Drake Chronicles by Alyxandra Harvey
I read this book as part of a blog tour, courtesy of Star Book Tours.