Friday, August 19, 2011

Packed with Supernatural Greatness

Nightshade: Book 1
When you think of "werewolves" I am sure you think of those creepy man/wolf concoctions that run around on two legs and are entirely too disturbing to really like much (unless it is Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer" of course!). But with the Shiver series, we found ourselves loving the kind of werewolves who are really shape shifters- they go between fully human and fully wolf, depending on the circumstances. In Nightshade, by Andrea Cremer, we see this type of wolf. A shifter who can change when the situation calls for it, but who pulls off a relatively normal life considering they are half pooch!

A long time ago, a Witches War was fought and two types of witches emerged: Keepers and Searchers. Keepers try to protect the sacred places of power that tie this world and the nether world together while Searchers try to steal that power. It is a constant struggle that never ends. That's where the Guardians (werewolves) come in. They are the obedient soldiers who help the Keepers protect the powerful places and in return the Keepers give them the best homes, educations, and everything they need to live. The price? Guardians live under the direct orders of the Keepers and they can't even choose their own mates- the Keepers choose who they mate with.

Calla and Ren are the upcoming alphas of two rival packs: the Nightshades and the Banes. They are to be married in order to merge the young wolves of both packs together and create a third pack. While Calla would never think of disobeying an order, she resents the fact that she will never be able to marry for love. When a human boy named Shay comes to the school, he sends her world into a tailspin. He seems to be connected to the Keepers, but still doesn't understand the world around him. When she saves him after a fatal bear attack by giving him her blood, enchanted pack blood, her secret is out. Now Shay will do anything to get to know Calla more, even irritate Ren, the pack alpha who could rip Shay to pieces.

When Calla is ordered by her Keeper to keep an eye on Shay, she reluctantly starts spending time with him. He comes across a forbidden book that the Guardians will only read under the punishment of death. Even though she is scared of the book at first, she lets him convince her to translate and research the book, which turns out to be a history of the Witches War through a prophecy that seems to have something to do with Shay. Unsure of Shay's role in her marriage and the Guardian world, Calla begins to have feelings for Shay, even though she knows it is completely forbidden. What she doesn't know is Shay's role in her world is very dangerous, so dangerous it may put her entire pack and the only life she's ever known in jeopardy. Is Shay worth the risk to Calla's entire world?

The pack dynamic and obedience vs. dominance in this story is very interesting. It transcends through to the Keepers who claim the wolves are their soldiers while Shay claims they are nothing more than slaves. The huge amount of control they have over the wolves is clear, but at first it seems to be an understandable arrangement. It becomes quickly clear, however, that the Keepers take too many liberties with the wolves, including their romantic interests in the young wolves (who have to obey the Keeper's wishes). This is a hard dynamic to deal with and understand, and makes the book very interesting.

The writing for this story is average skill level for junior high to high school students and the content is appropriate for a wide range of ages. The story is gripping right from the first chapter, so despite its length, there is no trouble convincing yourself to stay with the book. There is a pretty standard love triangle, but I am not going to lie, I am a total sucker for a love triangle! And this one is tough because you like and dislike both guys enough that you find it hard to pick a side: Team Shay or Team Ren! I guess for now I will hold off picking a side until I read the next book- maybe that will sway my decision more!

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