Wolf Brother: Book 1 of Chronicles of Ancient Darkness
Thousands of years ago the land is one dark forest. Its people are hunter-gatherers. They know every tree and herb and they know how to survive in a time of enchantment and powerful magic. Until an ambitious and malevolent force conjures a demon: a demon so evil that it can be contained only in the body of a ferocious bear that will slay everything it sees, a demon determined to destroy the world. Only one boy can stop it - 12 year old Torak, who has seen his father murdered by the bear.
With his dying breath, Torak's father tells his son of the burden that is his. He must lead the bear to the mountain of the World Spirit and beg that spirit's help to overcome it. Torak is an unwilling hero. He is scared and trusts no one. His only companion is a wolf cub only three moons old, whom he seems to understand better than any human. Theirs is a terrifying quest in a world of wolves, tree spirits and Hidden People, a world in which trusting a friend means risking your life.
From extensive research about how the people of Northern Europe may have lived more than six thousand years ago, Michelle Paver has fashioned a remarkable debut novel for children. Wolf Brother, the first instalment of her six-book Chronicles of Ancient Darkness sequence, takes its readers back in time to an atmospheric world of snow, hunter-gatherers, tribes, clans, mountains, forests, bears and unearthly superstitions. For humans then, life was hard and Paver’s narrative taps wonderfully into all the sensations they must have experienced living amidst such an unforgiving landscape.
The book begins dramatically with the death of Torak’s father, the mage, Fa, from mortal wounds inflicted by a giant, possessed bear. Fa’s dying words bind Torak to a quest to find the mythical Mountain of the World Spirit. Only there will Torak find the strength needed to defeat the demonic creature and killer of men.
Having lived apart from other Clans, and burdened by such an impossible task, Torak is bereft by the death of his only companion in life and struggles to survive in the harsh conditions he now finds himself in. Then, instead of killing an orphaned wolf cub for food, Torak spares the tiny animal and together they travel north.
Torak gains a further companion for his arduous journey in the form of Renn, a headstrong and feisty girl of his own age whose Clan Torak inadvertently has an altercation with. Renn believes Torak to be The Listener - a prophesised being who will save the world - and together they escape from danger... into a different sort of peril.
Paver’s novel is strong on detail and the authenticity of her settings is breathtaking. She cleverly weaves a fantastical, but believable, layer onto her narrative that enriches her story and makes it all the more readable. (Age 10 and over) - John McLay