Saturday, November 6, 2010

REVIEW: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

by Andrea Cremer
Philomel Books/Penguin Young Readers Group
Hardcover, 454 pages
Published October 19th 2010


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?


Okay, first things first: the overall book look.  I love the roughly cut, old school pages that they gave his book.  That’s a literary bonus for me that sets me up right from the start.  However, I do not like the cover.  I am not a purple girl, and stunning models on book covers don’t do much for me except make me think that this is a girly whirl book that I will not enjoy.  According to Calla herself, she is not a girly girl either, so the heavy eye makeup just didn't feel like her to me. It's pretty eye candy, though.  And then there’s the tagline:

She can control her pack, but not her heart.

Eeeeee, it just feels wrong like a bad 1980s romance with Fabio.  Even though I don’t like the cover, it could have stood alone without the tagline.  

Now, here’s the good news: Andrea Cremer’s writing more than makes up for any misgivings I have over the cover. 

In this book, wolves are known as Guardians.  There are two packs of Guardians in Nightshade: the Nightshades and the Banes.  Calla is the alpha of the young Nightshades, and Ren Laroche is the alpha of the young Banes.  Their bosses/masters are known as Keepers, and they have ‘matched’ Calla and Ren to be mated and form a new pack with their respective young pack mates.  Yep, you read that right.  Calla is heading into an arranged marriage right from the get go, and on her eighteenth birthday, too.  Calla seems to have mixed feelings about it, but her sense of loyalty and duty stays her course.  However, those mixed feelings intensify quite a bit after wonderfully intelligent and attractive Shay enters the picture.  She does something for him that puts her in jeopardy and makes her start keeping secrets.  Those choices start opening her eyes to a lot of other issues at hand, ones that not only have huge consequences for herself, but for her friends’ and family’s entire way of living. 

I had a lot of fun reading this book.  Seriously, I don’t think I’ve had this much fun drawing connections since the Harry Potter series.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure this was going to happen for me with Nightshade.  The first chapter puts Calla in unfamiliar territory, and the way with which she handles the situation had that paranormal that, “I-feel-compelled-to-help/protect-this-person-even-though-I-shouldn’t-but-I-just-can’t-help-myself” tone.  Very Edward Cullen.  Edward is so not my type.

Now, stick with it, true believers, because the rest of the book is freaking rad.  Andrea took a common paranormal group and gave it a completely new mythology and society.  If you like a good old-fashioned love triangle, philosophical and historical references (political or otherwise), gender issues, good vs. evil with a twist and a right hook, and mix in something of a dystopian flair, then oh, baby, you are going to like this read.  

On top of that, the characterization is great – it seems like everyone, even the minor secondary characters, has a good backstory or personal conflict.  Andrea paces the narrative so it comes out at a natural flow, and it’s very cool how she shows that personal issues affect group dynamics.  Then, there’s the main show of the Calla/Ren/Shay love triangle.  Calla has genuine affection for both, although she feels a greater pull towards Shay.  Personally, I am not convinced that always will be the case.  Her choice (if she ever gets one) would be a lot simpler if one of the guys was awful.  However, Ren is not the asshole he initially is painted to be, and I suspect that Shay will give us a few surprises as we continue in the series.  In a way, both guys represent the choice that Calla will have to make: despite Ren’s cockiness, he truly believes in his duty to care for and lead the pack (group identity), and Shay is a staunch advocate of personal choice and open knowledge (personal identity).  Both care for Calla with a genuine fierceness that is both touching and overwhelming.  Now, if that weren’t enough for our soon-to-be-of-age heroine to deal with, add in some parental pressure, realizing your bosses possibly are not the good guys (or maybe they are), and feeling responsible for everyone else’s happiness before your own. . .  well, you can see why our girl Calla might be a wee bit stressed. 

Here are the chief issues/ideas in this book:

*hierarchy and class issues (you think wolves would be at the top, but oh nooooo)
*gender inequality (seriously, some of the guys in this . . .  shudder)
*personal identity/choice vs. group identity/responsibility
*lack of control over one’s own life
*duty vs. freedom
*ignorance and comfort as control devices

Also, if you are not familiar with philosophy, I think Andrea does a great job of giving the reader enough information to understand the story through dialogue.  The way she does it is fantastic and keeps your attention.  However, if you aren’t so familiar with classical philosophy, you may miss her fabulous nod to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

And that’s all I’m giving you.   Seriously, read the book.  You will feel in the dark in the beginning, but I assure you, you will know everything about this world as you need to.  Andrea keeps the book moving between the knowledge reveals and, all of the sudden, you realize that you are learning about this universe right along with Shay. 

I’m hooked, Andrea.  Color me a happy, happy fan.

Overall: A

Bonus: There is a preview of the next book in the series on the Nightshade wesbsite.  It's a bit hard to find - look for a picture of Nightshade on the left side - it will have a badge on it telling you to click here here for the preview of Wolfsbane.  The badge blends in, so you don't see it right away.


  1. I thought I was the only one who couldn't stomach that tag line. It made me cringe every time I so much as glanced at it- and made Nightshade seem like such a bland paranormal romance.

    On the other hand, it's awesome to hear that the book seems to have much more depth than I initially thought. Minor secondary characters that are also three-dimensional?! And all that re imagined mythology sounds amazing. I can't wait to get started with Nightshade now. :)

  2. Great review! I love how in-depth you went with this review, especially with your philosophical/idea section. I haven't had a chance to read this book yet, although I own it. I was one of those fan-girls who was dying for the release and then never had time to actually sit down and read it. Bleh.

    Anyway, I actually liked this cover. The purple and white really appealed to me. What do you think of Wolfbane's cover?

  3. Wow. Thanks for the in depth review of this one. Loved the idea section like Kristina. Man, I can't wait to read this, now.

    But I agree with you on the cover and I AM a purple girl. There's just something about it that doesn't quite work for me.

    Again, thanks for such an in-depth review :)

  4. @Linna - I wouldn't say they are fully developed, but we get enough bits and pieces that they stand out as more than background noise. Sabine in particular - I find her interesting and have major sympathy for her. yeah, ugh, the cover - lame.

    @Kristina it's not that the cover isn't nice to look at, it is. It's just that it doesn't have much a connection to the story - it's eye candy.

    @Vee haha, yes, I tend to write very detailed reviews, espescially if I liked the story - glad you enjoyed it!


  5. Great review!!! I really enjoyed reading it and agreeing! Never really even thought of Calla and the book cover but I definitely agree! Thanks for stopping by my blog, by the way. Love the atmosphere here :) You've made me a follower!

  6. Ok, don't judge me..I signed in with my other blog LOL. L.J. aka Lou Rohde from Reader Recommended here :) Thanks for stopping by RR :)

  7. Why you gotta be hating on purple, girl? Color o'kings, it is. ~_^

    This was a good one- you're right in that it's definitely deeper than most of the books you find in the YA market these days. Good analysis, keep it up. ^_^

    Lupines and Lunatics