Sunday, November 21, 2010

Nightshade review


As soon as I heard about this book, I knew that I had to get my hands on it. High-school student Calla lives in an isolated Colorado mountain community, with other hereditary werewolves such as herself. As daughter of the pack leader, she is considered an "alpha" among her peers. Her upcoming arranged marriage to Ren, son of one of the neighboring wolf clans is something that has been carefully planned for nearly all of her life. Together, they will start a brand-new pack, a very rare opportunity. As magical and otherworldly as all of this sounds, all of it is played out in a relatively normal high school. There are some human students, but the wolves and their liege lords, cruel wizards known as Keepers, mainly keep to their own cliques.

For a group of werewolves, these guys sure act a lot like vampires. They go to exclusive nightclubs, wear beautiful clothing, appear to live upper-middle class or better, they bare their fangs in human form when annoyed, they scorn most humans as being beneath them, and they even drink each other's blood when they need healing. I liked the fact that when the wolves change back and forth into their human forms, it is more magical than physiological, allowing them to work around the whole clothing issue. Their clothes remain a part of them, and changing back, they remain clothed in whatever they had on before.

Cremer plays with a lot of gender roles and expectations here. Calla is continually chided by her mother - she must look more feminine and enticing. But she mustn't do anything unladylike, either. Ren runs around like quite the man-whore, but only receives the lightest of warnings. Calla, on the other hand, is expected to enter their union totally pure, something which causes the members of her pack to keep her at arm's length.

Of course, in a world so focused on breeding future wolves, and selecting appropriate mates, it only goes to reason that the difficulties of being gay are exacerbated. Calla is shocked when she learns that her friend Mason has been hiding his relationship with Nev for quite some time. There is an additional storyline about Calla's younger brother, Ansel who has been crushing on his big sis's best friend Bryn for a long while.

This is a much spicier read than I am used to. It verges on romance novel territory. The only explanation that I could find for Calla's quick arousal at the touch of any guy is that she must be in heat! Ren came off as a gross jerk to me. He sleeps around, he's pushy and bossy, he insists on "re-naming" Calla, calling her "Lily" even after she tells him not to. Yet, every time Ren manhandles her, Calla swoons. It's clear that Calla prefers new guy, human Shay, but she just has a lot of difficulty putting aside the duty she feels she has to her family, especially as she's been planning on getting married to Ren for so long.  Not to mention, she's fearful of the undead wraiths the Keepers may sic on her if she doesn't comply with their plans for her union.  Curiously, a lot of the reviews I'm reading seem pretty split between the two guys, with some readers seeing Ren as the guy she "should" be with, and Shay as the random interloper.  Put me on Team Shay, for sure.  
I am already eagerly awaiting the sequel, Wolfsbane coming out next July.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.


  1. I've been dying to get my hands on this book, but I'm still waiting for it to come in the mail. Everyone I've seen who has reviewed it has nothing but positive comment and praise for it.

    Excellent review!


  2. Thanks, Kelsa!
    I'm so lucky, I picked up an ARC of this at an ALA conference. The cover for the next book is to die for. Can't wait to see it.



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