Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
Published October 19th 2010 by Philomel (Penguin)
More at: Goodreads
In our world, Halloween is a playful holiday, marked by costumes, candy and revels. In others, it is Samhain, a sacred night, and a time for darker, less inviting magic.
For Calla, the alpha female of the Nightshade pack, it marks her union with the Bane pack's alpha, Renier and the joining of their two packs to form a new one. Calla is a Guardian, a nonhuman gifted with the ability to shift into wolf form in order to serve the Keepers and protect their sacred sites. A recent increase in attacks by the Searchers, the enemy of the Keepers has placed the sacred sites in jeopardy and a new pack of young Guardians are needed to safeguard their ways.
Duty and honor have been ingrained in Calla since her birth. She must lead her pack, obey her Keeper and fulfill her obligation to join with her chosen mate. With the union drawing near, Calla has become anxious about her impending partnership with Renier. As her pack's alpha she is a leader, independent and proud. As the alpha male's mate, she will become his second, his lesser, his to own.
When a chance encounter with an injured hiker leaves Calla torn between saving him and betraying the rules that dictate that she mustn't interfere and should let him die, Calla does something that an obedient Guardian should never think to do. She defies her laws and saves his life. Hoping to hide what she did from the Keepers, who would surely punish her for it, Calla is terrified when the hiker appears at her school.
Now, to protect her secret, she is forced to get closer to its source and in keeping it, she begins to question if she should follow the path that has been chosen for her, or follow her heart.
I picked this up the other night, feeling rather nonchalant about the whole thing, anticipating that this would be an OK reading experience, and something to indulge in for a few minutes before I fell asleep....SEVERAL HOURS LATER, wide-eyed, and completely engrossed, I found I COULD NOT put this book down. Wow. Wow. Wow! I tore through this book so fast I swear you could smell smoke. It's just that good.
We have so many things going on in this story. Calla struggling with her fate. Calla fending off advances from her soon to be mate, who she actually really cares for, but who she must not touch before the union because alpha females must remain pure. Calla having to contend with the dynamics of merging two packs, who up until now have almost been rivals. Then we have the addition of Shay, the hiker who throws a curve ball in an already complex game making her question love and loyalty. All of it fits seamlessly, step by step as the days count down before Calla's union. It's very fast paced, with a definite timeline and central focus. I was quite impressed with the juggling that was done in order to fit it all in. You know the union is going to happen, it can't be prevented, but what will take place there, and what the outcome will be is completely left up to chance.
Calla is such a strong female lead. No whimpering or whining. No looking to anyone to get her out of her situation or save her. It's interesting that she so fixedly accepts her fate up until the point where it starts to sink in that she will have to relinquish control and that being what makes her question if she could in fact choose another path. I also LOVED the fact that in this love triangle, both of the men are GOOD choices. There's no bad boy. Either of them would love her and both of them are worthy. They both just represent two very different lives, both of which have equal perks and value if you think about it.
The entire story takes place in the month of October, ending on Halloween. The book will be published on October 19th, so that you're reading it almost as it is taking place. An excellent little addition to keep you totally locked in the story. Publishing win right there, with a gorgeous cover to complete the package.
And of course I loved the Guardian's society being loosely based on pagan believes and witchcraft. I like a little heathenism in my lit. :)
"Sorry." I shrugged. "I read novels."
"Works for me." He grinned. "What's your favorite?"
I watched a cab pass us on the street. I really should just get out of here.
"Ah. Too personal." He raised his eyebrows. "The relationship of a girl and her favorite novel can be complex indeed."
*Quotes taken from an ARC of Nightshade and may differ in the finished copy.
A big thanks to the publisher for sending me this little lovely.