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Review: Nightshade

Nightshade, the first book in a new series by Andrea Cremer was released in the U.S. on October 19, 2010. It is currently available in hardcover, audio and eBook editions. The print edition is 528 pages and is published by Penguin (Philomel).

Nightshade is the author’s debut novel.

Description from the Nightshade website:

Nightshade: The Hunt Begins

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?

The Guardians, beings who can shape-shift from human form to wolf and back, have always been protectors for the Keepers. It has been their role to make sure that the Searchers do not discover the secrets in the sacred Haldis caves. They have served their masters as is their duty and are well-taken care of in exchange.

But their lives and futures are not their own. While their needs are provided for – education, food, shelter and a few luxuries – they do not get to choose their mates, nor do they get to decide their future. Those that question receive a swift and terrible justice.

When Calla, alpha female of the Nightshade pack, breaks the rules by saving a human boy from a bear attack, she puts her loyalty to her masters and to her pack on the line.

When that boy, Shay Doran, turns out to be the nephew of a very important Keeper, her actions put her at even greater risk. Only if Shay is willing to keep her secret will she be safe.

The very need she had to protect him in the first place draws her to him, jeopardizing the arranged match she is to have with the Bane pack alpha, Ren Laroche, on Samhain that will bond the two packs and make them stronger protectors.

As Calla’s feelings for Shay grow, will she abandon her pack, her masters and her future mate in order to have the freedom to love who she chooses? Or will the secrets that she learns about Shay change everything.

***

Nightshade is a book that starts off running and does not stop. From the moment Calla Tor saves Shay Doran from the bear to the very last sentence of the book with its dramatic cliffhanger ending, the story just keeps moving.

Each of the main characters has such a distinct personality. Calla is fiercely independent, even in a situation in which she has little control over the direction of her life. Ren, while a typical alpha male – cocky, charming, with a long list of girls pining for him – shows a hint of his vulnerability when it comes to Calla, his “Lily.” And there’s Shay, in his near perfection aside from his secret addiction to comic books, with his good looks, intelligence and his ability to do almost anything.

Author Andrea Cremer’s writing is smart and creative. This is not another werewolf story or one of sorcery and magic. The wolves are most definitely wolves. Even when they’re in human form all the younger members of the two packs display their animal natures, whether by bowing to the hierarchy of the pack, scenting the air for danger or to track, or whether they are nervous or quick to anger as any wild creature might be.

The story moved forward quickly but is not hurried and is detailed but not overly so. It is a surprise that the book is over five hundred pages for the print edition, as it doesn’t feel like such a lengthy story. Every moment was germane to the plot and was exciting, suspenseful, humorous, tormenting or heart-breaking.

For a debut novel this was absolutely brilliant. The journey with the characters in this story really felt as if you were following along with a wolf pack.

Reviewer gives this book [rating=6]. Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.

On a personal note:

Why didn’t I read this book sooner? I so wish I had. I cannot tell you how perfect this book was for me. You know how sometimes you connect with a book and there isn’t any one reason you can pinpoint? This was one of those for me.

Even though the book was over five hundred pages, I wanted the story to keep going. It took me until, I’d say, the two minute mark for me to figure out that this was going to be one of those books. (It also took me a minute or two to actually get an idea of what the story was about.) The whole concept of Guardians and Keepers is really so cool.

I don’t think there is one single thing I didn’t like about this book. It had tons of action, humor, some really wolfish behavior, a very tormenting love triangle, all sorts of different supernatural creatures, magic and spells, secrets and mysteries. And with a really cliffhanger-y ending this book this book checked all the boxes. Plus, it had two of my most favorite character names – Shay and Dax.

When I realized that the book had reached the end I literally “growled” as I cannot wait for Wolfsbane.

***

How I “discovered” this book:

Nightshade is a “Just Discovered” just got a chance to read book.

I actually bought this book in November, shortly after release date. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was about, but it came up everywhere – on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, blogs – so I thought I’d buy it knowing nothing about it. From the cover I assumed that it had to do with witches and magic, not typically the genre of book I read, but it was so prevalent I thought I’d give it a go.

There were so many new books that were released in October and November that it kept getting moved further back on my Kindle, but it was never forgotten. I decided to participate in a book challenge on Goodreads and I had to choose books that I wanted to read this January, and after searching my TBR pile Nightshade was one of the ones I selected. So then I had to wait for January, but as it’s officially the new year it was my first book of choice.

As I always try to refrain from reading any reviews or detailed descriptions about a book before I read – unless I am unsure as to whether I want to buy it – I had no idea what this book was about until I was a few pages into it. It was so worth the read, I only wish I had read this ages ago!

***

To read an excerpt of Nightshade click here.

Wolfsbane, the next book in the series, will be out on July 26, 2011 and is available for pre-order in hardcover and audio formats. The hardcover is listed as 400 pages. To read an excerpt of Wolfsbane click here.

There is also a third book, Bloodrose, due out in spring 2012, along with an untitled companion novel due out in fall 2012.

The cover for Wolfsbane is amazing so I thought I’d pop it in here. Click it and it’ll take you to Amazon.com for more info or to buy.

Book trailer for Nightshade:

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