Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Just finished reading Nightshade by Andrea Cremer.  I have mixed feelings over this book, primarily because I have some areas that are still a mystery some that felt a little too familiar and some a bit unbelievable.

The story revolves around Calla.  Calla is the alpha wolf to the Nightshade pack.  She is about to come of age and be mated to the alpha wolf of the Bane pack, thereby merging both packs into a new and stronger group.  An arrangement that has been in place since the two were born.  However, things start to go wrong when Calla rescues a stranger from a bear attack, in doing so she reveals her supernatural self – something which is forbidden and carries a harsh penalty.  Of course the situation intensifies when this new stranger becomes the latest new student to join Calla’s highschool and thereby causing anxiety for Calla – and anxiety for her intended wolf, Ren because the new stranger Shay, quite obviously has an obsession with his ‘rescuer’.

Okay, what I really liked first.  I thought the story was really original.  I liked the idea of Guardians, Keepers, Searchers and the whole twisted history that unfolds through the story.  I like the take of the wolves being guardians with a purpose and a rich background.

I liked the characters in the pack and thought the dialogue was entertaining, especially when the two packs melded and there was a level of snarkyness and banter going on. I particularly liked Ansel and Bryne and the way that their story developed and highlighted the outdated restrictions placed upon the pack.

I liked the themes explored for example the status of the different people in the school system so the Keepers are top of the monkey tree, they’re not particularly ‘nice’ people and certainly aren’t above abusing their own power.  The Guardians are like the ‘popular’ kids I suppose, the ones who everybody stays away from because they will be rebuked – however, this is a new take, the ‘regular’ humans stay away because they can sense the danger.  We also take a look at how people in power manipulate people sometimes to serve them, we look at the theme of subjugation and also explore inequalities.

On a superficial note I like the cover, the font, the fact that the chapters are only short and the way the book is split by pages showing the waxing and waning of the moon.

And, as a debut novel this book really is quite an achievement.

What I found a little unbelievable: I found it hard to believe that this secret world just is out there and nobody has become aware of it.  It’s not like the teenage Guardians are great at keeping secrets after all!  I found the whole explanation of how the guardians change from human to wolf, fully clothed, was a bit strange and I frankly just couldn’t get my head around it. But the biggest problem I had was believing that the Guardians remained loyal and serving to the Keepers, particuarly, given the abuse that takes place in the book.  Also, if the keepers are so powerful and all knowing and can summon up such terrifying wraiths to keep the wolves in check – then why do they even need the Guardians in the first place?  The whole Guardians serving the Keepers just seemed as though it would have been more suited in a novel set in an earlier era because it didn’t to an extent fit in the modern age.

What I found a little too familiar: the story has very close parallels to Twilight.  I’m not talking about the school setting or the constant canteen setting – I’m thinking more in terms of – we have a supernatural creature who saves a human – risking the exposure of all her kind (Edward rescues Bella from a potentially fatal accident thereby threatening to expose his whole family), we then have the human attending the same school.  I can think of another parallel but it would be a BIG spoiler.

What I found a mystery: I wanted to know more – like is this the only situation in the world where these people exist are or there more.  Why were Calla and Ren alphas.  There didn’t seem to be any apparent reason – other than it being convenient for the plot because there is a girl and a boy and they’re going to be mated.  Also, it was a mystery why Calla, who is an alpha was so subservient and undecided all the time.  She started off more spirited but then seemed to quickly fade to a shadow of her former self.  I understand that she was starting to have doubts but she just didn’t seem to have much of a backbone and was completely ruled by lust.  (Probably understandable since she had spent her entire life as a ‘boy free zone’ so that she could be pure for her philandering and ‘wild oats sowing, if it’s got a pulse I’m going after it’  mate!)  So sexist it just made me want to throw the book down!

The other thing that puts the book down for me a little is I wasn’t particularly bothered by either Ren, Calla or Shay.  I thought the whole relationship between Calla and Shay was rushed and to be honest I preferred Ren to Shay (even in spite of the above)!  And it’s yet another triangle! with a cliff hanger ending!!

All that being said, I did think it was a good idea, well written and even though I didn’t particularly like the main protagonists I did like the other characters.  I will also say that I will certainly read the next book because I’m intrigued as to how it will all end.

Rating C+




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