Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , , | Posted on 4:40 PM

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Yes, another werewolf book. But this one felt like an ideal combination of Blood and Chocolate and Raised by Wolves, in that we have a very sexual heroine who isn't afraid of being dominant and in touch with her wolfy self -- but who also is very pack-responsible and not a self-centered whiny princess (*coughViviancough*).

Calla has a lot on her plate, even for an alpha female. Not only is she betrothed to the alpha of another pack who insists on pushing the boundaries of 'friends,' she also has to deal with an annoying human boy who knows her Pack's secret...see, she sorta-accidentally saved him from being grizzly-meat in the mountains, but she shifted forms to do it. Right in front of said Boy in Peril.

Werewolf fail.

Meanwhile, uniting with the Bane pack is bringing its own set of politics, as Calla begins to realize that being an alpha mate will restrict her freedoms even further. She's grown up with the double standard that Ren, the Bane alpha, can sleep around all he likes (after all, he's a growing boy) but she must remain 'pure' for the union. But as their Samhain engagement approaches, Calla begins to question many of the 'givens' in her life -- not least being the ever-present Keepers who determine mating rules and pack orders. The lore explains that the Guardians (read: werewolves) protect the Keepers, who in turn keep the world from falling into chaos. This means that the Keepers basically rule Calla's life. But when Shay (re: Boy in Peril) shows up at her school, he starts digging into her culture and overturning all her truths.

Calla is not a happy puppy.

Shay has his own problems; he's been adopted by the Keepers, but he has no idea who they really are. And they seem to want something from him, which may be tied up in an obscure prophecy and a tattoo on Shay's neck that only Calla can see.

Oh, and if anyone finds out that Shay knows about Calla and the Keepers,* they're all dead.

Got it?

The best thing about this book is its fullness, in character and scope. All of the characters are nicely rounded, even Ren, who makes for a compelling male lead in his own right, instead of just The Other One in a typical love triangle. You'll like Calla's packmates, who are fighting their own battles of self-determination and getting caught up in romance (Mason and Neville, you have my vote). And Shay? Well, I've gotta love a boy who breaks into private libraries and approaches Peril with Research.

This isn't Anna Karenina, but it's impressively complex for a YA werewolf offering. And if the prose sometimes dips into the lust sparklefest zone, Cremer cuts in nicely with some self-deprecating humor. However, a warning: there is a major cliffhanger ending. It is painful. But it does seem to be planned instead of randomly tossed in, so that means I have to wait (curse you, series!) until the next installment in July.

*I've just realized that would be an awesome band name.

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