Spirit Walker by Michelle Paver is the second book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, of which Wolf Brother is the first.
In order to make sense of these books, you have to read them in order. Wolf Brother tells the story of a primitive world where people still live very much in tune with nature and believe in magic. Torak is a young boy of the wolf clan, but he and his father live as outcasts in the forest. The story begins with Torak’s father being mauled to death by a bear, leaving Torak to fend for himself, bewildered and alone.
After a few days, Torak finds an orphan wolf cub and the two begin an unlikely friendship which sees them developing such a bond that Torak can, literally talk to the animals. Torak and Wolf stumble across the Raven clan, who have also been having trouble with the bear, and pairing up with a trainee mage girl, Renn, Torak and Wolf set off to hunt down the bear and restore order to their world.
This story starts a few months after the adventures with the bear, with Torak and Renn back living with the Raven clan. Wolf has gone off to join his pack in the mountains and Torak pines for him. Despite this, all seems peaceful until members of the tribe start falling prey to a sickness which drives them to madness. Torak and Renn find out that the sickness is linked to the bear attacks of the previous summer, and a group of rogue mages called Soul Eaters who are bent on dominating and destroying the world of the tribes. Torak sets out to find a cure.
This book, much like the first, is fast paced and full of adventure. The characters of Renn and Torak deepen and become more interesting in this volume and we learn more about Torak’s past and his destiny. The character of Wolf continues to bring light relief and a great bond between the characters. I also noted that Wolf is the favourite character of the children I read this book to, and they are hooked by what is happening to him, way more than what is happening to the human characters.
The book has a fairly sophisticated vocabulary and plays out a range of complex emotional ideas. It is a great story to read to children aged seven and up but I would recommend it as a book to give to an independent reader for children aged ten to fourteen. I would recommend it to both boys and girls, as in my experience both sexes enjoy it equally. It is a fairly easy sell as well, as the books are not sold in a particularly gendered way.
The book ends the adventure of Torak’s quest to solve the problem of the sickness, but this is a minor part of what turns out to be a much larger quest which will continue in the next book.