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Review: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Nightshade (Nightshade #1) by Andrea Cremer (Release Date: October 19, 2010)
Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Hardcover (PHILOMEL, 528 pages, $17.99)
ISBN# 039925482X
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?
Author Site: andreacremer.com


Phenomenal YA Urban Fantasy; Passionate, Thought-provoking, Impossible to Put Down (5 stars)

Amidst the steady flux of young adult fiction centered around werewolf and vampire mythologies it can be difficult to seperate the wheat from the chaff, as the expression goes. This is in no way aided by the very talented art departments who serve up beautiful cover art months in advance to titillate would-be readers into purchasing a book they only know has a pretty wrapper and falls in a genre they like. But sometimes you get lucky and even though your gut reminds you not to judge a book by its cover you break down and buy it anyway only to find it really is a gem worth raving about. For me, Nightshade is exactly that kind of book.

Calla has known since she was a child that she is promised to Renier. At Samhain, when the two celebrate their coming of age they will be mated as the alpha male and female of a new wolf pack. As Guardians in service of the Keepers their pack will protect a sacred site from the Searchers. She knows exactly who she is and what her life will be. There is no reason to question the master of her fate.

But when Calla rescues Shay Doran, a human boy she is intrinsicly drawn to from the start, the course of her destiny takes a sharp turn. The world she has never questioned, the destiny she has never wavered from fulfilling becomes less and less clear. Soon she will be forced to choose between living in the comfort of an intricately crafted deception and a very uncertain truth.

I don't wish to give anything away in my review if I can help it so please bear with me when I say that I feel the book's blurb doesn't really do the story justice. There is certainly a love triangle element here but I found it to be important without being the core of the story. Calla can't help but be torn between Ren and Shay, they represent very different needs she has. There is intense lust and passion throughout the unraveling of Calla's (for lack of a better term) "love life" that kept me biting my lip in anticipation. If you love a good like triangle you will love this book. Yet, even as she spends much of her time fretting over her impending nuptials and her attraction to Shay at its heart I think this is a story about a young woman choosing between what is expected of her and what she wants. As Nightshade unfolds there are many layers to the story. On the surface this is very enjoyable and entertaining romantic urban fantasy. Looking at it on a deeper level I, as an adult reader, found the morality issues very compelling. Calla is expected to blindly follow and obey. While Ren is by no means a bad match she doesn't have a choice in whom she mates with. Carefully sprinkled throughout the book you will find other small details that, if you're anything like me, will make you root for her rebellion.

While the plot and characters are really great they wouldn't stand up well if Cremer wasn't a talented writer. I found her ability to convey a tone and set a mood with how she described a character's body language to be especially note worthy. Because this is a story about wolf shapeshifters I found this in particular connected me to the characters and brought me into their world more than endless detailed diatribes focused on fashion and appearance could. Instead of telling us how a character sounded she showed us! I loved that. Another gift I think she has is her ability to give you one seemingly purposeless detail on the fly that will come back and be very important later. By the time the story reached it's cliff-hangery ending I was so emotionally invested in the outcome I practically stamped my feet in indignation that I now have to wait until next year for more!

Months ago when I first laid eyes on the cover for Nightshade I knew as long as the premise interested me even a little I would pick it up. To my delight it was filled with shapeshifters, magic and romance and to my surprise it now holds the place of second favorite book I have read all year. This is a masterfully crafted book that I feel compelled to beg readers not to pass up. If you enjoy romance, shapeshifters, urban fantasy or paranormal romance, a dash of teen angst and rebellion, or any of the above please dear reader do not miss this one! I'm sighing in frustration knowing that, Wolfsbane, the second Nightshade book, will not be out until Summer 2011.

Other Reviews:

Windowpane Memoirs
Jami of YA Addict
Killin' Time Reading
Elle of Ellz Reads

Notes: I received this ARC via Amazon's Vine Program.

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