454 pp. Philomel Books (Penguin Young Readers Group). 2010 ISBN: 978-0-399-25482-6
Summary from the publisher: “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?”
Inside and out I completely love this book. I fall for books quite often, but there are only a few I’ve read that leave me wanting to keep reading and reading and reading. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is one and Nightshade is another. There’s something magical about the writing style, the setting and the characters. Andrea Cremer’s writing is both easy to read and very engaging. The setting is near Vale, Colorado at Mountain School, a school for werewolves with some priviledged humans mixed in. It has the perfect mix of magic and mystery, plus the normal teenage drama and hormones.
Because I am a character junky, I need to start a new paragraph to discuss why I love the Nightshades and the Banes. Calla, the alpha of her Nightshade pack, is down-to-earth and protective of her pack. She’s also a low-key girl that prefers jeans and a t-shirt over a skirt and heels. Can’t say that I blame her for that! Ren is her future mate and fellow alpha. He’s strong, dark and handsome. He’s also quite the “ladies man.” Despite Ren’s many love interests in his time before the union, he honestly cares for Calla. Calla knows its her duty to be with Ren and gets weak-kneed when she’s around him. But she’s also developing an inappropriate crush on the newest human at Mountain School, Shay. This sets up a delicious love triangle. Surprisingly, I can’t decide whether I prefer Ren or Shay more. Ren is protective of Calla, sometimes to a fault, and very jealous. But he’s also greatly concerned over her well-being and working with her to create a strong, unified pack. Shay is intelligent and vulnerable. But he’s strong-willed and romantic with a mysterious background to boot! Decisions, decisions. I can definitely say that Nightshade is full of well-written sexual tension.
Andrea deserves much praise for the research she put in for this novel. From her bio, I know that she’s earned her Ph.D in early modern history and it shows. This story required historical research and it’s obvious that legitimate research was performed. I’ve read in blog interviews that Andrea put a lot of thought into her characters’ names, which I love. If I ever get the guts to write a book, I will follow suit. I’ve looked up some of the names like Seamus and Nightshade, and I’d like to learn more about the other names used. These sorts of details add so much dimension to a story.
Now for the appearance of Nightshade. The cover is gorgeous! I love the purple and touch of shimmer under Calla’s eyes. The model portraying Calla looks beautiful yet fierce, just like Calla herself. The frayed edges of the pages make me feel like I’m reading one of the books Shay swiped from his uncle’s library. The shifting moon marking a new chapter is brilliant, but I’d like to know more about the alchemical symbols marking each chapter as well. I’m always thinking of my students when I buy a new book, and it was no different when I bought Nightshade. I showed my students the cover and all the fine details I just mentioned. They were immediately intrigued. I even asked the boys in my classes if they’d want to read this. Most of them said they think it looks like a cool book. I asked them about the color of the cover, and they weren’t hindered by it.
Overall, Nightshade receives 5 out of 5 stars and major props for Andrea! I was sad to finish because I am completely hooked on the story. Book 2, Wolfsbane, is at the very top of my I Can’t Wait to Read list. Nightshade gets my highest recommendation 😀