Author: Andrea Cremer
Format: Hardcover, 452 pages
Publication Date: October 19, 2010
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Having heard so much about this series, I included this book cover in my header, but didn't read the book itself until very recently. With so many tempting books out there, I have a hard time choosing my next read...
This book was my very first all-werewolf novel. I had previously gravitated exclusively toward vampires, but, when I met Jacob Black in The Twilight Saga, I decided that werewolves might make interesting reading, as well. So, attracted by this exquisite cover, and hoping for the best, I plunged into the world of the Nightshades and the Banes...
Well, I certainly wasn't disappointed! The novel proved to be a fascinating one! What I found most interesting was the combination of werewofl tale and dystopia, seamlessly interwoven to make one very compelling tale.
Calla Tor is an alpha, the leader of the Nightshade pack. She is betrothed to another alpha, Renier Laroche, who leads the Banes. Their impending union has been arranged by the Keepers, a mysterious group of magical humans that actually control the lives of the werewolves, who are here given the name of "Guardians". The Guardians are completely provided for by the Keepers, and must in return follow their orders, serving them as soldiers when necessary.
The book begins in a very dramatic fashion; Calla is out on patrol, in the mountains located not far from her village. She has shifted to her wolf form. Suddenly, she encounters a lone hiker being threatened by a huge grizzly bear. She reacts on pure instinct, driving off the bear. Then she heals the hiker, who is dying from loss of blood.
The boy she has saved is Shay Doran, the nephew of a mysterious, very wealthy man who owns a mansion near the wolves' village. Shay is also a normal human, with whom werewolves are forbidden to fraternize...
This, of course, sets up a love triangle, which is something of a staple in young adult books these days. Nevertheless, it is very well handled by Cremer, who makes both Shay and Ren equally fascinating rivals, for Shay is an alpha male in his own right, even though he's an ordinary human.
It becomes clear, very early in the book, that Shay is also a rebel. He challenges the prohibition against reading the philosopher Hobbes in class, and later convinces Calla to read another forbidden book, The Way of All Against All, which chronicles the War of the Witches. Though at first terrified of reading it, Calla eventually joins Shay in his research related to the book.
It soon becomes apparent that things are not as the Guardians have been led to believe they are...
The plot intensifies as the union of Calla and Ren approaches. The Searchers, enemies of the Keepers and the Guardians, are looking for Shay. At the same time, Calla is torn between him and Ren, but starts to pull more toward Shay.
This novel's reputation is well-deserved! The world-building is so realistic that I found it increasingly difficult not to believe that Guardians do, indeed, exist. I was drawn into the characters' thoughts and feelings -- all of the characters, too, even though it's Calla who narrates the novel. She is tough, resourceful, yet very sensitive, very caring, especially for her sweet younger brother, Ansel, who emerges as a wonderful minor character. She is attracted to both Shay and Ren, not wanting to hurt either one. Shay is such an engaging character, as well! Although he, too, is an alpha, never for a moment does he try to order Calla around. Indeed, he encourages her to question her world, as well as her place in it. Ren, in contrast, wants her to go along with the planned marriage, to fit into the established order of things. Thus, each boy becomes symbolic of the two warring instincts in human nature -- to maintain the status quo, and to challenge it, attempting to go beyond it to something new and better.
At stake in the novel is the Guardians' freedom to choose their own mates, to determine the course of their own lives.
Cremer ties everything together perfectly, even though the novel ends on a cliffhanger, in preparation for the sequel, Wolfsbane, which I am currently reading and enjoying just as much as the first book in the series. She is a master at creating tension and suspense, and her dialogues give the reader important insights into her characters, as well as leading one along to find out what happens next. Her prose style is simple, yet quite effective, with just enough description to set up each scene.
It's really too bad that the third book in the series, Bloodrose, won't be out until January of next year. I so wish I could go on from the second book straight into the third!
This novel will delight all YA paranormal fans! In my particular case, I can say that these characters and their world are totally unforgettable, and this book will occupy a proud place among my favorites!