Lets start with the cover, shall we? It's nothing short of gorgeous. I love the shades of purple and the lilies, white with magenta. Calla's shocking orange/yellow eye contrast nicely to all the purple. The cover shimmers too. It's a nice change from from the white on black with red painting across most YA paranormal covers these days.
The book starts off introducing us to Calla, a female Alpha 'Guardian' wolf from the NightShade pack whose protecting a human from a grizzly bear. The boy is bleeding out behind her as she growls and snaps at the predator and with the help of her second, Bryn, the bear is warded off and disaster is avoided. knowing that by letting the boy live, it would mean certain death if the pack's 'Keepers' found out. Fortunately, her and Bryn oath to secrecy and Calla vows to put it all behind her. She has more important things to look forward too, like her future union with sexy Alpha Ren Laroche from the neighboring pack, Bane. The union's been in the works since the two were 5 so it's nothing new to Calla and she knows no different.
We're explained of pack dynamics, Guardians serve witches known as 'Keepers'. This generation of Guardians and Keepers attend school together with the humans and neither class associates with humans. Wolves on one side of the cafeteria (split into Bane pack and Nightshade pack at separate tables), witches on the other and humans sandwiched in the middle. For the sake of the union at the end of the month, Ren suggests fuzing their pack of friends together a little early because that's what will happen anyway. Both Ren and Calla have been reminded by their keeper leaders that they should be ready to commit and they want to know neither will stray.
Enter Shay, the boy Calla saved over the weekend, now a new student attending their school and new to the rules.
Things I liked
I can't tell you how much I loved the beginning of this book, abet it's predictability. You can tell that the boy she saved will eventually turn up later but you can sense the urgency of not wanting her superiors finding out what she did. Even as Alpha Female, Calla and her second, Bryn, know too well that the Nightshade Keeper would not hesitate to make an example out of her. The first few chapters are a wonderful setup
I like the concept of two Alpha's being in a relationship. It had potential and most of the time, I enjoyed Ren's protectiveness over Calla. Aside from a few moments of jerkiness, I saw Ren as the better option.
Things I didn't like
It should be dearly noted that Ren is somewhat of a womanizer and has had more then his fair share of the girls at school. While Ren is allowed to his pick of girls, Calla must stay pure until the union. In fact, the school nurse corners her in the bathroom and reminds her about this after seeing Calla with Shay.
Shay and Calla's whole relationship. It quite plainly set up Ren as being the jealous jerk we're not supposed to like. I didn't care to much for Shay's prying, he assumed it was a situation that Calla could easily walk away from. He embedded himself so deep into Calla's life for 300 pages until a major confrontation with Ren left Shay finally saying he didn't want to come between Ren and Calla. The pacing bothers me. It follows the fast love trend in so many YA's these days. I get no intensity of love and longing from them. Whenever they get close or intimate, it tore me from the story and left me shaking my head in confusion as to what just happened. It bothered me that she would be sitting on Ren's lap one night and the next day she's seeking out a private place to lock lips with Shay.
Not to mention, when Union Day does come, Calla goes off to save Shay. There's a scene where they run back to Shay's uncle's house (the last place they should go really) and Shay has to help her out of her dress to change into more practical clothes for running away in. He has time to remark how she's not wearing a bra, has time to run his hands up her sides, get very suggestive with everything still happening around them. The scene was enough to break me out of the story, it just seemed so misplaced.
With Ren acting as Alpha male, Calla's Alpha Female status is pretty much wiped out. While she's still an Alpha, her word isn't as strong as Ren's. Shay pretty much acts as a beta type, which would clearly set Calla up as being dominant. I thought the concept of two Alpha's being together far more intriguing IF Ren and Calla stood on equal grounds. Even though I was suppose to be rooting for Shay, I found myself leading towards Ren in that aspect. I would have loved to see Calla fight for her Alpha status and succeed, instead of being handed a free pass with Shay.
Personally, her Alpha status could have been removed and the book wouldn't have suffered. It felt like a slap to the face when her mother told her 'That's the way it is, deal with it.' after the Bane's Alpha started to hit on Calla's mother during a visit. If there's no benefits from being a female Alpha, it shouldn't have been wrote in. Her mother even got abusive with her, slapping Calla across the face when she questioned her mothers actions.
Calla clearly states her beliefs, her motives, who she is, but is changed without so much as a 'whatevs'. She's a tomboy, but her mom wants her to be more feminine. She has a fit when she sees her mother rummaging through her closet, replacing clothes, but within pages she's wearing skirts, dresses and corsets with minimal complaint. The transition doesn't seem to bother her much outside of the argument with her mother. She fears the outcome of being caught for saving a human to eventually turning Shay into a wolf, two very strict no-no's. her thinking process during these events aren't very thoughtful for someone who shows concern for the rules and she wasn't set up for breaking them. Every time she breaks a rule, she has a moment where she clearly states it's wrong, she doesn't want to get caught, she'll die if she does. She's afraid to do so, yet when she does, there's not much guilt she goes through.
I really want to touch upon the love triangle that is Ren/Calla/Shay, but frankly since this is the first book out of a series, I can't say much about it but it's one of the most painful triangles I've read. Shay's part in the love triangle seems forced. Whenever Shay leads Calla astray I think to myself 'she should have just stayed with Ren.' Then I remember Ren's 'Bad Boy' image. I cringe at the thought of Calla being with either guy, really. However, as I've said, it's the first book, for all we know Calla could end up alone.
I wanted to give this book a 2, but settled for a three because this book did keep me entertained. I'll most likely seek out the second book when it comes out in a few weeks, but instead of buying it, I'll be saving my money and getting it through the library.