I have to start off by saying that I loved, loved, loved this book. NIGHTSHADE is absolutely making my list of favorite books for this school year. The cover design is gorgeous, the concept is unique and intriguing, the fantasy world created is fascinating, the plot is fast-paced, the main character is a strong female, the boys she’s involved make are both feasible options, the secondary characters are entertaining, the side story about acceptance of gay friends is handled realistically and well, the (Wisconsin!) author’s knowledge of historical lore is apparent, the secrets make you want to know more, and the writing is engaging. It was just released last week and I had heard so many positives about it, but when I went to the store to pick a book and saw the cover, I had to pick it up. So I decided to read the first chapter right there to see if I wanted to buy it, and I was instantly pulled into Calla’s world and left the store with the book – finishing it in three days. The book is well over 400 pages, but flies by, especially since the plot pacing is such that I couldn’t stop reading because I wanted to find out what would happen next.
Calla is a Guardian in the Nightshade pack. They are a pack of werewolves who work for the Keepers protecting something hidden. Calla is the daughter of the alpha wolf and she is a month away from a union with Ren, the son of the alpha wolf of the Bane pack. Once Calla and Ren unite, they will be the alphas of a new pack of this younger generation. Unfortunately, since the two packs are rivals, she’s never spent much time with Ren, except to see him dating lots of different girls at their school. This is interesting because as we get to know Ren more, we see why Calla is drawn to him - he's more than just his reputation - and we start to really like him as well for his sense of duty, protectiveness, and heart. Ren and Calla have to start spending time together to prepare for their union and combining their two packs into one. What no one knows is that Calla has already broken a major pack rule, when she saved a human boy from a bear attack in the woods – something forbidden for the Guardians to do. When their first order as a combined pack is to protect Shay, the new boy, Calla knows she’s in trouble because he’s the boy from the woods. As she spends more time with him she realizes how much she wants to spend more time with him - and so do we - he is caring, honest, and wants to see the best in people. Calla learns a lot about the research Shay has been doing, which is related to the history of her people Calla has been forbidden to read because it is very different from the stories she has always been told.
This book is about Calla finding her way past the order and rules she’s always followed into being her own independent, free-thinking person. Yes, the Ren-Calla-Shay love triangle is the main conflict in the story, but the reason it’s so important is because it represents two very legitimate choices for Calla: stick with being a Guardian, under the rule of the Keepers, with Ren and be a Guardian and live with her pack as she’s been preparing for all her life - or go with Shay, who thinks she is being treated like a slave, and run for her life to get away from this life that may not be what she always thought it was. The reason both are legitimate choices is because of all of the other family and pack characters in the book – and the fact that there is a feeling that Calla truly cares for both Ren and Shay, but in different ways. Her ultimate decision is made based on the information she has at the time, and her desire to protect those she loves. Calla thinks it’s about survival, but Ren counters, “This is only about love.” And it is because you will end up loving this book!
5 STARS for NIGHTSHADE
I can’t believe I have to wait until next summer to read book two: WOLFSBANE (you can preview chapter 1 on the series website at www.nightshadebook.com)! This is a planned trilogy.