Alphas, Secrets, and Wolves REVIEWING Nightshade

Welcome to The Real World According To Sam! It is still October, which means it's still a horror/paranormal fest here. Today we are going to talk about the first book in a YA paranormal fantasy series. Let's jump right in!


Author: Andrea Cramer
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
Year: 2010



Calla is the alpha female of a shape-shifting wolf pack. She is destined to marry Ren Laroche, the pack's alpha male. Together, they would rule their pack together, guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But then, Calla saves a beautiful human boy, who captures her heart. Calla begins to question everything -- her fate, her existence, and her world and the orders the Keepers have asked her to follow. She will have to make a choice. But will she follow her heart if it means losing everything, including her own life? 


Nightshade is the story of a teenage alpha shape-shifter who finds out that the world she lives in may not be what she thinks it is. There is information being hidden from her about what her people do and why they do it. It is also a typical YA paranormal story with a girl caught in the middle of a love triangle. Naturally, the love triangle involves someone who is part of her world and someone from far outside of it, or so it seems initially. 

I'm going to start with the cover, because that is one of the things I like best about this book. I like the purple tone that was chosen for it. I also like the composite of human Calla with wolf Calla. I really like wolves, so that's mainly why I picked up this book to begin with. I've had it for a few years now, as it was a purchase from a Friends of the Library store. I just now got around to reading it. It has been fun to go through my lengthy TBR (to-be read) pile. A good cover always get me intrigued and to me, this is a pretty cover. 

The story, on the other hand, is honestly rather run-of-the-mill at this point. Be a paranormal creature, be involved in some way with two guys, have your world turned upside down, and then be forced to make a decision about it while under the social constraints of your world's norm. Is there really anything new about this book? Well, some aspects of the wolves background and mystery are interesting. I found the core story about hidden knowledge and kept secrets to be interesting. I like the idea of the protection of sacred sites and the potential for half-truths or lies within Calla's wolf world. The rest of the book is rather generic by this point. Granted, this book came out back in 2010, around the same time as the Twilight fad, and maybe it was a bit better then. Maybe it was less done back then. Reading it now, however, shows its age and trendiness. It was a popular concept to do then that has now since been run into the ground. At least for now. We may eventually get a revival to this kind of story, or a story that does something new well, but this standard fare. 

The gist of the story is that Calla is an alpha female who leads one pack and she is supposed to marry an alpha male of another pack. The merging of the two packs will create one new bigger pack to increase the protection of sacred sites. The whole purpose of this wolf organization is to protect certain sacred sites and to protect the Keepers. Keepers are magical beings, similar to witches, of any gender. They are in charge of different groups of Guardians. Guardians are the official term for what the wolves (Calla's people) are. The Keepers want to protect humans, while a separate group aims to make humans their slaves. It all ends up having some religious angel tones to it, but this is not a religious book. It takes historical and literary elements and uses them to create a history for these paranormal beings. This premise initially seems very interesting and it is about the only thing that kept me reading on. I wanted to see what kind of world the author was building and what intricate plot she was weaving. I still don't know where it is going to go and a lot of the extra plot points within it (such as the love triangle) are getting on my nerves. We will talk more about this in a bit. Interesting premise, mediocre execution thus far.  

Calla is a semi-decent character. She is supposed to be an alpha female and she does act like the leader of her personal pack, but she also lets herself be undervalued and pushed around a lot. There are so many times when she comes across as a pushover or as weaker than she initially seemed to be. Maybe she is supposed to be doubtful of herself and allow that now so that over the series she can grow stronger, but I wasn't a fan. Girls can be strong without having to be dragged along by anybody that comes along to change things up. I like what Calla initially seemed like, but didn't like how she ended up being by the book's end. She seemed to have a character regression, instead of a progression. 

The boys in this book are frustrating. I honestly can't say I am a big fan of either of them. I am highly suspicious of both and think neither makes a great match for Calla. I don't know how this is going to get worked out by the series end, but I also don't know if I really care. I usually do a lot of fangirling and shipping when it comes to different fandoms I am in and different books I read. This time, I just can't seem to fangirl over anything. Is the story itself interesting? Yes. Are the boys? No. Give me somebody completely new next book and I won't even blink. I'd encourage it actually, so long as they're better. Ren is your stereotypical alpha jerk archetype love interest. He fits in the world of the Guardians and is meant to be the ideal mate in some regards for Calla. However, half the time it doesn't seem like he truly respects her and I often cannot wait for him to get off the page whenever he is in a scene. The other boy is Shay. Shay recently moved to the town and Calla saves him from a bear when he is out hiking. After that, they keep meeting and Calla becomes more and more interested. Eventually, Shay helps Calla begin to investigate forbidden knowledge, pulling her further and further down a rabbit hole. I don't trust Shay and he honestly just seems like he's a bit of a good boy alternative to Ren. As though disliking Ren means we should automatically want Calla to be with Shay. I don't like that mix. I'd rather have two really decent male interests and just see where the adventure goes and which works better for Calla. So far, I pick neither. Let's just let Calla do her own thing. 

I give Nightshade a Lone Star rating of ✯✯ and a half. It is an okay book. It is lightly entertaining, but it has a lot of the same things that books in its genre do. This one doesn't feel overly different or unique. If you were, or have recently been, into the trend that this book followed, then you'll probably enjoy it. If you're sick of teen wolves and vampires and other paranormal creatures, with power struggles in groups, teen drama, and love triangles, then you're definitely not going to find much to like here. I'm going to continue reading the series and see if it gets any better. However, it isn't high on my list of things to get to.

This concludes another review here at The Real World According To Sam! Thank you for joining me throughout this month for all these Halloween reads. I'll see you at the next review!