Saturday, 17 December 2011

Book Review 8 - Nightshade, by Andrea Cremer

First things first: forget what you've heard about the plot of Nighshade. Wolves, love triangle, blah blah blah. Just ditch the misconceptions and the assumptions and everything, OK?

Now, I'm not saying Nightshade was perfect, as my orders to carefully select/delete your memories of Nightshade's hype might suggest. But if you'll be patient with me - I know my reviews can turn out pretty long, but it's only because I love doing them, and when something's worth doing it's worth doing right, right? (Oh God, did I just nearly reference an ancient pop song there? Please pretend I didn't. You are feeling very sleepy....) - I will get to my point eventually.

So. Onto the review. Well, let's start with the cover first, shall we? I know there are several editions of it, but I have to say this one is my favourite. I could go on and on about it, but I won't. It was the cover of the copy of Nightshade I picked up, and I think the other ones - which have models on them - ruin the story a little, changing your imagination's perception of the book, whereas this one is stunning, simple and utterly divine.

Nightshade's beginning is graphic, and action-packed from about, ooh, the second paragraph? Scratch that, it's the first. I liked how it really grabbed you, and introduced you to Calla's world almost instantly. It's definitely not something for people who like gradually-built stories, because the details seem to intertwined beautifully with the action almost straight away - you need to be clever and really absorb the information, because you know you're not going to be told it twice.

The first quarter of the book was really promising. There was action, information, a dark seductive vibe, tension, and the beginnings of conspiracy. Some of the scenes had me so hooked I had to read them three and four times just so they'd get through in my head, and then I'd re-read them again to bask in their awesomeness. I was obsessed to the point that I was reading the pages faster than I could turn them.

Though the supernatural is a common feature of YA fiction now, the way the wolves were portrayed in Nightshade was refreshing and very well-written. The themes of hierarchy, power, ignorance and duty are thoroughly explored through the pack and their wider circle - including their masters, and this was one of my favourite unique selling points of the novel.

And then Calla met Shay.

At first, he was bearable. He was innocent, gullible, naive, an outsider, but he was smarter than he looked and I wanted to find out more about him. But what Calla was going to do for him - sacrifice her pack, her family - was implied from very early on, though we had no idea how it would actually be carried out, and it just wasn't believable. Not that he wasn't worthy of Calla's love - it was just that I had trouble seeing the reasons why Calla would be interested in him, apart from blind love-at-first sight, which is a shaky basis, at least when included in this kind of story. He didn't leap off the page, and his character seemed a bit flat.

Unlike Ren. Ren was the epitome of what everything this book should have stood for; passionate, fierce, flawed, powerful, irresistible, a risk-taker. He was betrothed to Call to create a new pack, but that didn't stop him for vying for her affections in the only way he knew how. He was a player, and every time I saw his name on the page I practically screamed with delight. He was the only character I genuinely, and whole-heartedly, loved, though the secondary characters of Ansel and Bryn definitely added something to the book.

However, the one thing I was horribly disappointed by in Nightshade was the way women were treated. It seems like a really absurd thing to say about a modern YA novel, right? But although at first I didn't notice, the way the female members of the pack were expected - and often forced - to become second to their male counterparts, and even worse, toys for them disgusted me. I did understand that it was based on their wolf nature and the strict rules of the Keepers, but it got out of hand. I was looking forward to Calla be the strong-willed, independent minded girl I'd heard about - and she was that, at the beginning, before slowly and surely she allowed herself to be degraded and weakened. Even worse than this, it was mostly on her mother's orders. What kind of message in that sending out to its readers? In the end she did stand up for what she wanted - Shay - but it was too long in coming, and the damage had already been done.

My advice: anyone who loves pure YA fiction, action and suspense will love this book. But feminists better stay away, or you'll end up burning the beautiful covers on a bonfire.

Writing: 3.5/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3.5/5
Impact: 2/5 (I could give it five out of five for all the wrong reason, but I won't.)
In five words: dark, seductive, paranormal romance, mixed-message


And yes, I know we haven't been around for a while...*shame* But don't worry, there'll be plenty of reviews and posts coming up over Christmas to make it up to all of you.

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