So how about those werewolves, huh? They’re everywhere lately; them and vampires and witches and anything else that used to be totally terrifying but is now swoon-worthy and sparkly. I don’t have a problem with that, to be honest, but what I do have a problem with is the sexism. Have you noticed the blatant stereotyping? A bland, innocent “ordinary” girl falls in love with the vicious, dangerous, or freaky “bad boy.” Pfft. Really? Where are the strong, independent girls who see cars speeding towards them and move out of the way? Where are the girls who take action and kick butt instead of waiting for some guy to come and save them?
Guys and girls, I would like to introduce you to Calla Tor, the female protagonist of Andrea Cremer’s Nightshade.
I cannot emphasize enough how much I love this book, and not just for the strong female lead. Nightshade features an impressively paced and intricate plot and a whole cast of likeable and complex characters. Calla Tor comes from a long line of “Guardians” whose job is to protect the “Keepers” who gave them the power to transform from wolves to humans centuries ago. In modern day Colorado, two Guardian packs still remain – the Nightshades and the Banes. Calla is a Nightshade set to marry Ren Laroche, the son of the rival Banes, when they both turn eighteen in October, which will create a new pack. Even though Ren is the smooth player type and he and Calla tend to bicker, Calla holds no resentment toward her role as the next alpha and the responsibilities the role entails. In fact, she’s looking forward to it… until she rescues a beautiful (her words, not mine) boy being attacked by a bear in the mountains around her home. And then – of course – things are never the same.
The character that really sold this book for me was Shay. Oh god, do I love Shay! He’s intelligent and sweet and handsome, and even though he’s not a huge powerful werewolf like all the other characters he still kicks ass. I don’t think I’ve loved a YA hero this much in a long time.
And Cremer can definitely write. She has a talent for vivid sensory images, but all the same, some of her descriptions and phrases struck me as unnecessarily flowery. Here’s the first sentence of the novel as an example:
“I’d always welcomed war, but in battle my passion rose unbidden.”
…What does this even mean? Is she saying that she loves to kill people, but regrets the way her emotions get out of control while she kills? Is she saying war is awesome, but battle is better? Aren’t they, in essence, the same thing? First sentences (and paragraphs) are important in a novel; they give the readers an idea of what to expect. This one sentence made me feel like I was in for writing that was as purple and flowery as the cover. That’s not good. Luckily, I stuck with the novel and realized Nightshade is worth the effort after all. The first few pages were a little clunky, but the next 450 more than made up for it.
If you like werewolves or paranormal fantasy, you should definitely read this book. And then please petition a major studio to make a film of it so I can see Shay Doran with half his clothes missing.
Sydnee is a freshman at Wayne State University pursuing a degree in Journalism. Her hobbies include painting and taking long afternoon naps. She is obsessed with hunky heroes, explosions, melodrama, and magic—all things that make a frequent appearance in her stories. Her blog is http://syd-dreams.blogspot.com.