Well, after the huge tome of Ken Follett’s World Without End (his sequel to Pillars of the Earth, both really good books, I might add) I embarked upon a journey into Michelle Paver’s world as told in her Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series of six books. I’ve not long finished the last of them (they’ve been part of my daily life for about 3-and-a-half months).

The first book in the series is Wolf Brother, a book recommended to me years ago by a friend of mine (howdy, Al) and then given to me as a birthday present last year (thank-you again, Dave and Chris). First I’ll give you a very quick tour of the books and then I’ll tell you what I think of them (don’t read any further if you plan to read them!).

Our hero Torak loses his father (Fa), finds a wolf cub who becomes his guide and pack-brother (Wolf). He then meets the flame-haired girl Renn and the father figure of Finn-Kedinn (and the rest of the Raven Clan who take him in). Through all this, Torak is hunted by a demon bear whom he has to destroy to save the Open Forest.

In this book, Torak discovers he’s a Spirit Walker, a dying breed who can inhabit the bodies of other living things. He travels to the sea in search of a cure for a sickness that’s threatening the Open Forest. He meets Bale and the rest of the Seal Clan including the Seal Clan Mage who turns out to be a Soul Eater, a corrupted Mage lusting after Torak’s power.

Wolf is kidnapped by a group of Soul Eater’s all hell-bent on gaining Torak’s spirit-walking ability. Torak and Renn track Wolf to the Far North where the Soul Eater’s plan to sacrifice Torak, thus enabling them to possess his power. I must mention that in this one, Renn gets stuck in a dark hole and can’t move, her arms squashed up against her sides. Believe me, I’ve had nightmares about things like that 🙁

At the end of the last book, Torak is branded on his chest with the mark of a Soul Eater and is banished from the Raven Clan and they, along with any other clan, are obliged to kill him on sight. All the while he is being lured by Seshru, one of the Soul Eater’s (and, as it happens, Renn’s mother). Bale, from the second book, is in much of this story.

In which Bale is murdered by a Soul Eater (Thiazzi) whom steals a fire-opal (a great source of power) and Torak swears revenge. He, Renn and Wolf travel to the heart of the Deep Forest to find Thiazzi. The Owl Mage (Eostra) steals the fire-opal at the end of the book.

The last book where our heroes travel to the Mountain of Ghosts in search of Eostra, the last and most powerful Soul Eater.

OK, so what did I think of the books in all? I’ve mixed feelings to be honest. As a whole, I’ve enjoyed them but some parts didn’t deliver. I’ll say what I didn’t like first, and then what I did.

Firstly, I hate bad English (or what I see as bad English, not necessarily wrong). Using ‘smelt’ instead of ‘smelled’ and ’round’ instead of ‘around’ just winds me up. I know smelt can be used but……And I absolutely detest it when author’s write something like this:

“the man reached the door, opened it.”

Puh-lease put in ‘and’ where the comma is! Not sure if this is an American thing and it seems to be a growing trend of late. I read a book by Joe Hill last year called Heart Shaped Box and it was littered with that type of writing. I almost stopped reading the book because of it. I was mortified to see an instance of it in a Neil Gaiman book I’m reading at the moment. Arrggghh……!!

I didn’t think Torak’s spirit-walking ability was used enough and I was expecting more in that department. There didn’t seem much point in having it half the time.

I also found (and this was probably the most disappointing) that the Soul Eater’s were talked up as being nigh on invincible but died really quite normally. Seshru, for instance, was shot with an arrow; not a magical arrow of any sort that was an adventure in itself to obtain, just a normal arrow. Thiazzi, the Oak Mage, about to become lord of the forests and the most physically powerful of all, fell out of a tree and died (the demon bear in Wolf Brother suffered a similar fate).

Another thing; I find it hard reading about people eating raw liver and eyeballs and drinking sinewy blood (but that’s just me). All that stuff reminds me of The Life of Pi which, if you haven’t read, is highly recommended.

Now my moans are out of the way, I’ll say some nice things 🙂

I love the way that all things have a spirit of their own. An example would be a fire which was ‘woken up’ or ‘put to sleep’. The trees, birds, mountains and rivers all had their own spirits. It reminds me of the Native American Indians and their outlook on life and, like them, the inhabitants of Torak’s world used everything from a hunted animal and nothing went to waste. Thanks were also given up to the spirit of the killed creature, a kind of respect sadly missing in today’s society.

The drawings (by Geoff Taylor) were beautifully rendered and remind me of Gustav Dore’s wonderful engravings.

Being a lover of wolves, I loved Wolf and his lupine ways and his take on some things (the stars were described as the moon’s cubs which I thought was a wonderfully warm perception to have). To learn more about wolves and their ways, author Michelle Paver went to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust in Reading. I used to be a member of this organization about 15 years ago (I’ve still got all the magazines stashed away somewhere) and it put me in mind of doing something I wanted to do all those years ago, and that’s to go and see some wolves for myself (I’ve never seen a live one). I must look into it. I know you can go to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust and see them there so I may treat myself this year. Apparently Paver does writing workshops there for children and one of the wolves (whom you can adopt) is called Torak. So now you know 🙂

The ending of Ghost Hunter was rather quite beautiful and has become one of my favourite endings to a book (no ending has yet beat Titus Alone, though). Definitely the highlight of the whole series. I know I’m soft, but I do like a happy ending 🙂

Have you ever read a book and parts of it seem related to your own life in some ways? These books did it now and again and it certainly adds to them. I also loved the insight of how, as often happened with Torak and Renn, things left unsaid brought a silence and tension between them (they always seemed ratty with each other these two!).

My favourite of the books were Soul Eater and Oath Breaker (I much prefer the forest to the sea or icy mountains where some of the other books take place).

Well, I think that’s everything. Actually, no it’s not. I think these books would make better films, though I know there’s always things you can’t convey that you can in a book, so we’ll have to wait and see. I believe Ridley Scott (Bladerunner, Alien, Gladiator etc.) has been signed up by 20th Century Fox to produce a film of Wolf Brother.

Before I think of anything else, I’m outta here.

Jimbob