"Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything— including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?"
First of all, I have to say that the cover of this book makes me really, really happy. Not the look of it, the feel of it. It isn't made of that super shiny material that makes you squirm cuz you're so afraid of leaving finger prints on it and it isn't that dull, lifeless cardboard cover either. It has this amazing texture that practically made me do a happy dance. Not to mention the page edges. Usually I don't like that rough-edged, jagged paper, but it just works on this book. The only down side to this book: the smell. I like the smell of almost every book, but his one, ahhh not so much... Enough of my blabbering and on to what you really want to hear about.
Nightshade is a good book. It's exciting, has a bit of character development (exponentially more than Twilight, if you want a comparison), and certainly grabs your attention, but overall I was a bit let down. This book has been building and building hype for so long that I expected more of it. The beginning of the novel makes it seem like it is going to maintain a fast pace, but it really doesn't. Some events were abrupt and didn't make sense. Also, I don't understand Calla's attraction to Ren... at all. Even worse, the ending is an abrupt cliffhanger. (On a side rant - why does every book end in a cliffhanger nowadays? Don't any authors know that books in a series are supposed to be able to stand alone?)
While I certainly have some (a lot) of issues with this book. I do have to say that I like Calla Tor. I am a HUGE fan of strong female leads, and even though Calla doesn't always take initiative, she certainly qualifies. I like Calla's leadership skills, her curiosity, loyalty, honor, and drive. And even though it may annoy me at some points, I like the way she puts others before herself. However, it isn't until Shay Doran shows up that she begins to think for herself. Shay teaches her independence and gives her the strength to stand up for something.
This book does delve a little bit into some deeper meaning. It speaks to the way that people blindly follow leaders and traditions without question. I'm not trying to say that all leaders and traditions are bad, or that people always follow them without question. On the contrary, many traditions are beneficial, and the people of our fair country certainly question their leaders. And the book also addresses this.
Too many mixed messages? Well, here is the bottom line. Nightshade is worth a read, simply as that. However, if you want a book about wolves, I recommend Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. If you want a book with a similar (but better) plot to Nightshade, try Firelight by Sophie Jordan. You can read my review here.