Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
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?
Here’s the scoop:
I have an aversion to wolves and shapeshifters. Blame it on that obnoxious apeface Jacob Black ( Hate. Him. So. Much. Especially in Eclipse. ) I’ve even read Shiver and though the story was decent, I had a difficult time because I feel that girls who like wolves basically have a crush on the family dog. And as much as I like my dog, I wouldn’t want to go there. Hence, the aversion to wolves.
Nightshade is altogether different because its protagonist, Calla is the wolf. Not only is she a wolf, she’s an alpha (for those of you not hip to the wolfy-talk, that means she’s the head hauncho of her pack). She is a fierce, intelligent, gorgeous-but-doesn’t-flaunt-it high school girl who can shift into wolf form at her choosing, destined since birth the be paired with Ren, an arrogant, sexypants alpha from another pack. Together they’ll create a new pack and run it together after they have a sort of wolf-bonding ritual where they marry (at seventeen! But do they count it in dog years? I don’t know).
But oh the problems are aplenty. You knew that right? Because how boring would it be for Calla to be all excited about marrying Ren and for them to run off into the sunset, tails wagging, and live happily ever after? It would be a snoozefest. So when Calla is patrolling the woods one morning, she breaks the rules and saves the life of a human boy. You can’t really blame her. The guy is hot (and yeah, he’s being mauled by a bear). So she does what any rebel would: she kills the bear and feeds the boy her blood, which magically heals him. This is a bad idea because of course the cute boy shows up at school on Monday and of course he is totally intrigued and smitten with Calla. Of course!
Shay (aka “the smitten guy”) is new in town and doesn’t quite get all the weird unspoken rules of the Mountain School and its surrounding areas. He has no idea that there are distinct groups of people who have certain roles to fulfill and that you never cross those lines. For years there has been an alliance between the Guardians (the wolves) and the Keepers (the humans who take care of the packs in exchange for protection). Shay is supposed to stay away from all of them and remain with the humans, blissfully unaware of this surreal world, except he saw Calla shift from wolf to human form when she saved him. He knows.
One the best parts of this story is Calla. She is very strong without being obnoxious (take a lesson, Rose from Vampire Academy). She knows what her duties are and she’s prepared to live up to them. Inwardly she’s torn between her loyalty to her new pack and her growing attraction to Shay. Shay is a reminder of all she cannot have because her life has been planned out since before her birth. Part of her wants that life—the new pack and a new sense of power—but part of her just wants Shay.
And sweet, sexy goodness, there is some serious tension here. First with Ren, who is hotness du jour (and knows it). In his macho, alpha male way he tries to make it clear that Calla is his woman and even though it sounds totally jerky, it comes off kind of cool. I mean, it’s not his fault. It’s his wolf instinct. Ren and Calla have a great love-hate partnership going on and it oozes with pure animal attraction.
Her relationship with Shay has its moments too. Shay is admirable because he is willing to risk anything and everything to steal moments with Calla. And he does. Part of me kept thinking he was just a glutton for punishment, but the other part thought it was romantic, which would have been nice except that he bugged the living shizz out of me. His devotion was annoying at times.
For some reason I was more of a Team Ren girl. I don’t always like the alpha male, macho characters (guys, my husband refers to his clothing as “outfits”, okay? That doesn’t exactly scream “machismo”.), but I was more taken with him because he seemed to have so many layers underneath that manly man act and ultimately, he cared for Calla just as much as Shay did.
The whole story is well-written and pretty much unputdownable (this IS a word. I’ve decided). There is also a mystery— about the relationship between the Guardians and the Keepers, their history and their future—that Calla slowly begins to unravel. In the end, she has to decide who she can really trust, and I was kept guessing the entire time.
Crush Intensity: 4/5 Good stuff! The guys are a bit controlling, as are the adults, but Calla is strong enough to follow her own desires. I enjoyed it enough to care what happens next. The sequel, Wolfsbane, comes out July 26, 2011.
The Way I See It: I’m get all Catherine Hardwicke on you (for the guys, at least). I recently watched the trailer for Red Riding Hood , which, though it may or may not suck, is looking awfully sexsay. And hence, I was inspired.
I once read that Andrea Cremer pictured Max Irons as she was writing Nightshade. As I was searching for images of him online, pictures from Little Red Riding Hood came up (in which he and my next casting choice both star) and I had stroke of genius.
Ren was a little more difficult for me to cast. I know what I picture in my head, but I can’t find anyone who personifies that image. As I watched the trailer for the aforementioned film, I thought Shiloh Fernandez carried off the tough-guy-who-could-be-very-naughty thing pretty well. It was hard to find a picture of him where he didn’t look stoned or somewhat reminiscent of Joaquin Phoenix, but otherwise I think he’ll do.
Truthfully, I can only picture the girl on the cover of the book as Calla (well! She was always there just staring at me) but as far as real people go, I think Dianna Agron would fit the bill for Calla Tor.