Calla is a werewolf - and an alpha, destined to lead a pack comprised of the next generation of her pack, and their rival pack. Calla's life is all about what she is destined to do - her role in life, who she'll marry, who she can associate with - but I liked her from the beginning, because Calla is the type of female character who isn't blindly waltzing toward her set future. She's accepting of it, but not docile. Calla is spirited and strong, confident, sassy, and very loyal to her friends and family (also fellow Pack members.) She's a strong alpha, and a refreshing change in narrarators. One of my biggest pet peeves is female characters who doubt themselves every other page. Calla didn't.
Until she met Shay Doran. Now that's a little bit misleading (purposefully.) What Calla begins to doubt is not herself, but the future she's marching toward. She starts to question the choices she makes, but in a way that leads toward the self-growth we see in her character over the course of the novel.
Andrea Cremer creates a fabulous and lush backdrop for Calla's struggles in Nightshade. Both the Nightshade and the Bane packs are well-developed, and one of the things I liked best was that this book had a more urban fantasy feel to it than it did a dark fantasy feel. That's not to say there aren't dangers - there are - and forbidden romance - there is - but it all lended to the genuine vibe of the book. These werewolves still have to go to school, interact with humans, and obey their Pack's rules. I love authors that can bring something new and vivid to the werewolf story, and Andrea definitely did!
I really enjoyed both the plot (of which I don't want to give too much away) and the characters. Calla's intended, Ren, is someone that I hope Andrea Cremer reveals a little more of in the sequel, Wolfsbane. Ren is very intriguing and I am very interested in finding out more about him, his family, and his past. I also really liked a lot of the other, young wolves - Ansel (Calla's brother), Bryn, Mason, Dax, and Neville. I look forward to Andrea creating even more depth to these characters, and I was fascinated by their loyalty to their alphas, and the connections that started to form throughout the joined Packs.
The plot itself was well done. The pacing was quick when it needed to be, and stately when it needed to be, with enough twists to keep me on the edge of my seat. I'm especially excited to see how some of what was revealed plays out in the sequel. And of course...then there is Shay.
I fell for Shay, pretty much from the first moment he was introduced. Perhaps I'm blinded by love, and biased, but I think he is a very fascinating character: protective of those he cares about, and matured by events in his life, yet oddly and refreshingly young at times, fierce but laid-back, and someone who generally cares about Calla - not as an alpha, not as a future mate of Ren and a pack leader, but as Calla. That's what I liked best about his and her interactions.
Overall this book was a great, solid read. I don't have any real big gripes about it (I just don't give 5 stars easily.) The only thing I'd like to see LESS of is the love triangle. BUT in this case, I do feel that it served a purpose - it furthered the plot - so I'll forgive the author. :) In closing...go get this book already!