Sunday, November 14, 2010

Review: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Yet another cliffhanger ending in a YA urban fantasy… I feel like there should be a warning label on these types of books. Read at your own risk—book may leave you feeling cheated and unsatisfied! Nightshade came highly recommended to me and while I enjoyed it to some extent, I thought the overall story was just all right and didn’t really add anything new or exciting to the genre. There is the classic love triangle between the heroine, the man she is supposed to love, and the man who she can’t help but love. Throw in a prophecy, some werewolves, an ancient ongoing war, and you have a well written novel in some serious need of some editing! One can only read so many pages about the main character obsessing over her impending nuptials and forbidden love without wondering, “To what end?”

The main character, Calla, is the young alpha female of the Nightshade clan. The Nightshades and their rival clan, the Banes, serve the Keepers (wizards) by protecting a mountain where an ancient power called Haldis resides. A group of rogue wizards referred to as the Searchers are after Haldis, and in order to prevent them from getting to it, the Keepers force the two wolf clans to form a third clan, consisting of all the young pups from both the Nighshades and the Banes. Since Calla is the alpha female, she is expected to marry the alpha Bane male, Ren. I should point out that she is not entirely unhappy with this arrangement. Ren and Calla are friends, and while Ren is a bit of a flirt and has a reputation for going after the ladies, the two are mutually attracted to one another. The problem is that Calla doesn’t know if she will ever love him the way a mated couple should love one another. Bring in Shay, a human boy that Calla exposes her true nature to in order to save his life, and Calla’s resolve to marry Ren starts to crumble.

Now I’m all for love triangles, but this particular group of lovebirds really grated on my nerves. Calla’s inability to choose between the two men was selfish and cruel, because she essentially led them on throughout the entire book. When she was with Ren, she was horrible to Shay, going so far as to humiliate him in public in order to ensure that no one would recognize her feelings for him. However, when the two start spending more time together as a result of some events that occur in the book, Ren is led to believe that he is an insufficient mate because he can’t understand why an alpha female would rather be with a human boy then with her mate and her own kind. Jealousy and fighting ensues, and inevitably Calla must choose between duty and love.

The biggest issue I had with this book is a spoiler, so skip to the next paragraph if you haven’t already read the book. Obviously the only way for Calla and Shay to be together is if he becomes a wolf, so it was inevitable that the author would find a reason for Calla to turn him. However, the manner in which he was turned really made me angry! Calla is dying and the only way to save her is with pack blood. Since her pack isn’t there, turning Shay is her only option if she doesn’t want to die. The next part is where the author starts to lose me. Calla, who is half dead, somehow manages to summon the strength to bite him and recite a complicated incantation to turn him into a wolf. It takes Shay mere seconds to seize uncontrollably and have his soul ripped in two before he is able to swoop in and save the day. Considering that Calla only has a few precious minutes to live before the poison reaches her heart and lungs, I have to say I never knew that turning a human into a wolf was so quick and easy!

I am interested in continuing the trilogy, but I’m not particularly excited to read the next novel. The werewolf history and culture was by far the most interesting aspect of Nightshade. I especially liked how Calla described what it is like to be a werewolf. Unlike in other stories where werewolves are ruled by lunar cycles and strong emotions, Calla is both human and wolf all the time and she can choose which form she wishes to inhabit and move freely between the two. If you are a fan of werewolf stories and you’re looking for a well written YA, then Nightshade is definitely a good choice. Just be warned that the main focus of this novel is on the love triangle, and many pages are devoted to Calla agonizing over who she should choose.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

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