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As a rule, I tend to avoid books about animals – this is mainly because I cried at Lassie until I was sick when I was a child.  It has had a lasting effect.


I often get sent books by friends, as well as reviewers.  Everyone knows I am an avid reader, and if they find a children’s book they love, I can pretty much guarantee at least a text message, and sometimes the book itself will wing its way to me.

My friend Paula had mentioned how much she loves the books Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver.  In fact, she had mentioned it on several occasions.  I had earmarked them as books to look out for, but when I eventually read the synopsis of the first book: ‘Wolf Brother’, I have to admit that I was fairly reticent, as animals loomed large.  I was pretty sure it would make me cry.

Paula was nothing if not persistent, and eventually mailed me her much read and loved copy of Wolf Brother on loan.

I am so thrilled that she did persist.  It didn’t make me cry, for a start, and it is a brilliant book that I loved, and which I have spent the weekend reading to my son, Oscar.  It comes in at 232 pages, and we read it in three days, which should be testament enough.

There are six books in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, and I was despatched today, with Oscar knowing that we would finish the first book tonight, to buy the second book, so there would be no waiting.  I have duly done it, and Spirit Walker is on the menu for tomorrow’s reading.

The books are set in pre history, where what we would call cave men, inhabit the earth, an earth teeming with animals that live in a delicate  balance with the men that hunt them. The people are grouped into tribes, each worshipping a separate clan or spirit animal that defines their relationship with nature.

Outside of this stands Torak, a boy who roams the forests with his hunter father, outcasts from their wolf clan, keeping away from other humans – learning the language of the forest.

The book opens with the terrible death of Torak’s father, savaged by an enraged bear – who unlike other animals who kill to eat, leaves its prey after it has killed, and rages on through the forests.

Torak needs to learn how to survive alone pretty quickly.  His father has left him with only a few dying words, most of which seem obscure to Torak.

Eventually Torak hooks up with a young wolf cub whose family have been drowned in a  freak flood, and Torak realises that he can communicate with the wolf in its own language.

As Torak and wolf progress through the forest, not only do they begin to learn more about each other, they also learn that they have a much more mysterious destiny to fulfil.

This is a wonderfully written adventure story. The characters of Torak and Wolf are beautifully drawn, as are the other characters who come to populate the book further on in the story.

The action is fast paced and relentless, but always well plotted and structured so that no detail is wasted – everything feeds back into the main story.

The story is really too old for my son, who is seven.  We have had to discuss background to the story and various ideas that inform the plot, although he has grasped them quickly once we have discussed them.  Ideally I would recommend this to children aged ten and up.  It is suitable for both boys and girls.