Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer


Forbidden flowers can be deadly. . .

While other teenage girls daydream about boys, Calla Tor imagines ripping out her enemies’ throats. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. Calla was born a warrior and on her eighteenth-birthday she’ll become the alpha female of the next generation of Guardian wolves.

But Calla’s predestined path veers off course the moment she saves the life of a wayward hiker, a boy her own age. This human boy’s secret will turn the young pack's world upside down and forever alter the outcome of the centuries-old Witches' War that surrounds them all. . .

I'd like to say that I'm never swayed by covers but, oh my word, how gorgeous is this? I also bought the US hardcover as I'm a sucker for those rough (deckle) edged pages. So, cover love aside what's it actually like? If I were to sum it up in a few words or phrases it would be; sexy, amazing research, great mythology. Cala is a Guardian, a race that can shift from wolf to human appearance at will. Guardians are a warrior race whose job is to protect the Keepers,an ancient race of witches. Cala's also the alpha of her pack and is promised to fellow alpha, Ren. Their union is planned for Samhain and will herald a new pack which Ren (with Cala by his side) will run. However, despite these long-held plans Cala saves a human, Shay, from a bear attack which starts a forbidden relationship. Now, when I say sexy I mean it. There's a thrilling, under the surface longing that runs throughout the book which inevitably bubbles up to the surface. After all, Cala is a seventeen year old girl who's expected to live a nun-like existence in a modern world. Nightshade is so well written that I never felt that the kissing scenes were unnecessary or overdone.

Cala is an enigma. Although she's a Guardian and extremely strong she has to abide by strict rules of the pack and of the Keepers. While Ren is free to do what he likes Cala must keep herself pure for their union. The rest of her pack aren't expected to live by such archaic laws but of course Cala is different. Initially I couldn't see the attraction of Shay. Although he's the forbidden he doesn't quite have the, erm, animal charm of Ren. I found I quite liked Ren despite his many failings and felt as sorry for him as I did for Cala. A thread of threat runs through Nightshade and the pack are always trying to avoid upsetting the Keepers. The passages where the Guardian's and Keepers interact where quite creepy and unsettling which made me want to know more about the traditions that brought their relationship about.

Shay, of course, is the human outsider and as confused by their world as the reader. The information about this strange world becomes clearer as Cala begins to trust him more. Shay is a great cynic, he needs evidence before he's prepared to accept something at face value. The use of the beliefs of Thomas Hobbes is used by Shay to show how far from accepted philosophy Cala's world is. A great deal of research lies behind the story of Nightshade and it's this that makes it not just another Young Adult paranormal novel. The mythology is flawless, intricate and absorbing. Shay encourages Cala to ask more about the world she inhabits and as they research it together they grow closer and we get to learn more through their discoveries.

The book becomes more tense as Cala and Ren's union gets closer. Cala begins to question more and more and her situation becomes impossible. The two packs are great secondary characters and their stories are almost engrossing as Shay and Cala's. The pace is fast which barely a chance to catch your breath before the next big event. Did Shay win me over in the end? I must admit that he did - I loved his rationality and genuine concern for Cala. I read this book in two sittings and would recommend it. It's one of my favourite reads of this year, up there with Nevermore, Clockwork Angel and Angel.

1 comment:

Clover said...

I only sort of skimmed your review as this one is either next on my pile to read or very, very close. But what a gorgeous cover! And everyone has good things to say about it so far, I can't wait :)