Nightshade by Andrea Cremer has been on my shelves unread for so long. I'd heard good things about it when it first came out and of course I think the cover is very pretty with all that purple and I wanted to read it. Two things put me off - the first, I go through phases where I'm not able to read paranormal books and the second, it looks like a way chunkier book than it is. Size intimidates me!
So the timing wasn't right before, but I'm very happy to report that I loved this book reading it even a year after it's original publication date. On the surface it would appear to just be an ordinary werewolf story, but I loved how Andrea Cremer addresses the werewolf heirarchy and has her main character, Calla struggle against this male-dominated society. She becomes more aware of the double-standards facing men and women in terms of sexual activity as well as some of the abuses of power from those higher up. It's really quite interesting to read!
Calla Tor is an alpha werewolf in her pack. Her future holds no surprises as everything has been decided for her - she will graduate high school, mate with another alpha werewolf, Ren, and together they will lead a new, young pack of werewolves who exist for the purpose of protecting the Keepers. Calla knows all of this and accepts her part in it, until while on patrol she comes across a beautiful boy being attacked by a bear. Knowing that it goes against every rule, she saves him.
Calla figures she'll never see the boy again, but when he's there in school the following week everything begins to shift away from what is planned and more towards what Calla wants. But wanting to be with Shay has its own dangerous consequences. As Shay begins asking hard questions about Calla's life and her role as a werewolf protector of the Keepers, she too begins having doubts and fears about her own future. How far will Calla go to find out answers and rebel against the natural order of things?
I think the relationship between Ren and Calla and Calla and Shay is very fascinating. There's obviously attraction in both pairs, but with Ren it feels more like an obligation rather than pure want as it is with Calla and Shay. The tension and jealousies really crackle off the pages for those really focused on the romantic element to the story. I especially loved some of the secondary characters - in particular, Calla's little brother and also her best friend and second, Bryn.
There is just one section that didn't sit very well with me. Without spoiling anything, I felt that there was one fairly large decision made without much preamble or thought that seemed to jar me out of my reading flow. It felt too sudden and like it could have been handled or presented differently for it to make more sense. Still, I got over pretty quickly and the ending ramped up into an exciting ending. I'm now hugely excited to continue with the story and am really thankful I gave Nightshade a chance!