A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a sequel to the popular paranormal thriller Nightshade, and there's even more sexuality and violence than in the original story. The main character deals with an overwhelming amount of lust and guilt, jealousy and grief. The body count includes some characters very close to the protagonist Calla and then some. Some of the fight scenes are bloodier and more vicious than the Nightshade wolf-vs.-wolf sequences. After a lot of make-out sessions, there is a "first time" sex scene. Although Calla can be almost crippled by her hormones, there are some positive messages about family, loyalty, and friendship, as well as several strong supporting characters.
What's the story?
Picking up right where Nightshade leaves off, WOLFSBANE starts with Calla Tor locked up by the Seekers, whom she believes are the Guardian wolves' greatest enemies. After being released to see her chosen love, Shay, the Seekers, led by the fatherly Monroe, explain why the oppressive Keepers are the Guardians' nemeses. Shay is revealed to be a Harry Potter-meets-Neo Chosen One who can defeat the Keepers ... if Calla can return to Vail and convince her former packmates to join her in a Guardian-Seeker alliance. But Calla knows that when she ran off with Shay, she left her pack, not to mention her heartbroken intended, Ren, in a heap of trouble; they could have been tortured or killed. Calla must join the Seekers to rescue her pack but faces the possibility that Ren and the rest of her friends may never forgive her for abandoning them.
Is it any good?
This book is reminiscent of primetime soap Grey's Anatomy, in that most of the supporting characters are infinitely more interesting than the protagonist. Calla is not at her most likable in this installment, with her constant, unnecessary jealousy one moment, pent-up desire the second, and then guilt-shame-grief cycle the next. Just when you think she's obviously made her choice, she devolves into another "but ... what if I made the wrong decision" inner monologue that sounds whiny and immature. The "One True Pair" of Calla and Shay starts to get quite boring, and readers may find themselves wishing for Ren to materialize or for the focus to switch to Connor and Adne, whose chemistry is confusing but undeniable.
In fact, the wisecracking Connor, clever and talented Adne, wise Monroe, and their crew of other Seekers provide a refreshing break from Calla's moodiness. Even some of the dense exposition about Guardian, Seeker and Keeper origin stories is more interesting than bearing witness to more of Calla's "I want him more than anything/No I have to save my pack" waffling. By the time Calla's pack finally makes an appearance -- in a gripping battle sequence that pits former packmates against each other -- it's clear just how much more interesting the secondary characters (Guardian or Seeker) are than Calla and Shay. And while it may not have been her intention, the author's portrayal of a conflicted and desperate Ren is more nuanced than her nonstop narration as Calla. One hopes the third book will strengthen the subplots featuring the other (better) characters, and maybe Calla will finally make a decision that sticks.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the paranormal YA genre's emphasis on violence and sexuality. How are the deaths in Wolfsbane more disturbing than the ones in Nightshade? How does starting a sexual relationship with someone change a character?
Discuss the protagonist's personality. Is she a likable heroine? What are her biggest strengths? What are her flaws?
Discuss the ongoing importance of the central love triangle to this story. Who do you think Calla belongs with? How do you feel about the "other" guy in the equation? How should the author resolve the romantic confusion?
In the first book, Calla chooses freedom, but in the second she is bound to her duty to the pack. What are some other thematic differences between the two books? Which of the two books is more compelling?
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