Book Review: Nightshade, by Andrea Cremer

Call me crazy, but my 2010 Young Adult fiction obsession is with wolves. Ever since I read Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater, I’ve been on the lookout for YA books with shapeshifter wolf or werewolf protagonists with those gorgeously discomforting yellow eyes. I STILL haven’t read Martin Millar’s Lonely Werewolf Girl series, which is apparently brilliant – Books 1 and 2 are sitting on my bookshelf, staring at me….judging…

BUT. To top off 2010, I have managed to squeeze in a wolf novel before I dare ring in the new year. And even better, it actually turned out to be a good read. Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade, has set the scene for a promising new series with protagonist Calla, an alpha female of the prestigious Nightshade clan. Destined to be mated with Ren, the alpha male of the comparable Bane clan, Calla enjoys the privileges of an elite shapeshifter, occasionally giving into her wolfish ways on night hunts. She also rules the school and is generally the envy of her pack.

As fate would have it, Calla chooses to save a lost hiker from the claws of a wild bear, purposefully revealing her wolf shapeshifting form under the assumption that the hiker will never see her again. Of course, however, lost hiker turns up at the school, calling himself Shay and attracting the interest of the clans’ master Keepers/Guardians. And Calla finds her dangerous attraction to Shay growing by the minute.

Nightshade is multiple levels above the usual paranormal YA claptrap for the following reasons:

  • Calla is everything I could have ever wanted from a heroine. She’s strong but not silly; impulsive but thankfully falls short of being brash; and maintains her sense of duty whilst recognising her inability to completely quash natural desires.
  • There’s actually a real love triangle here. Unlike a lot of paranormal YA romance where it’s quite clear who the main character will end up with, Nightshade possesses two opposing love interests who offer Calla a chance to express the two halves of her soul, and there’s no clear black and white decision for the reader.
  • There’s a good bit of alternate history with the clans, the Guardians and the Keepers that makes for some interesting reading;
  • Finally, the fantastic world-building, characterisation and story suspense kept me interested to the end cliffhanger.

Nightshade, whilst not a perfect book, may have just kept my wolf interest piqued for another year. Eagerly anticipating the second instalment, Wolfsbane, this book would be the ideal Chrissy present for that paranormal-loving older teen (I say older, because there’s some heavy sexual tension in the Calla-Ren-Shay love triangle). And with the news that there’s a prequel in the works to be released after the trilogy , it seems like a worthy investment!

Thanks to the fabulous Hachette Publishers for sending me Nightshade for review.

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Aimee Burton

Aimee Burton is a lawyer-in-training who still dreams of befriending unicorns. This blog will be her escape from reality, and hopefully it'll inspire her to finish writing that fantasy trilogy she's always promising her friends is "almost halfway" done.