I generally do not read YA. It's not that I disdain YA or think it's unworthy in some manner, it's simply that I can not possibly read everything as much as I would like to. However, I recently read Nightshade by Andrea Cremer. I am incredibly glad that I did.
The Cover and Inside the Dust Jacket Copy:
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?
Format: Hardcover, 528 pages
Publisher: Philomel (October 19, 2010)
List Price: $17.99
Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Borders
Andrea Cremer has created an intriguing and interesting new mythology for the world in Nightshade. We are dropped right into that world with no prologue or explanation. This works well as we slowly find out about this mythology/history as the book progresses. We learn what Calla has been taught about the history and origin of the Guardians (she is one) and the Keepers.
The story, while wrapped in an origin mystery, is also about a love triangle. I don't think that Calla can be judged by the standard of normal 17 year old behavior - whatever that is. She's not a human 17 year old. She's a Guardian, Alpha of the Nightshade pack, and committed to her mission both personally and in terms of the greater good. She is promised to Ren Laroche, Alpha of the Bane pack. The world is very black and white for Calla. When Shay Doran, a human, is introduced into her world everything begins to change for her. She faces questions about personal choice, trust, and doing what appears to be right perhaps to her own detriment. In other words, her world gets shaken very badly. While she's an Alpha, she will never be as alpha as a male Alpha. There are a few moments in the book that prove this point to Calla and frankly they made me cringe.
There is action, mystery, intrigue, and high school in Nightshade. While Calla, Ren and Shay are the main characters, I found the Nightshade and Bane packs' dynamics engaging. You can read Nightshade as simply a terrific paranormal story with action, wolves, a love triangle, good guys and bad guys, and extremely enjoyable characters. You can also read it as an allegory for intellectual and emotional oppression (do what you are taught and told to do) and as the beginning of a coming of age story for Calla, and to a lesser degree for Ren and Shay. What you won't read is a conclusion to the story - it ends on a cliffhanger.
I give Nightshade 4 1/2 Qwills.
The second book in the Nightshade series, Wolfsbane, will be published in July 2011, with the third book, Blood Rose, to follow in Spring 2012.
Shay Doran on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shadowshay
Shay Doran's Blog: http://www.shaydoran.com/
Shay Doran's YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/shaydoran
Please note that Nightshade was provided to me by the publisher.