Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver is the first book in the series Chronicles of Ancient Darkness. Set during the new stone age Paver creates a world of hunter-gathers who live in forest clans. Torak, the 12 year old protagonist, must learn to defeat the demon bear that killed his father and now threatens all life in the forest.
I read the first five novels back in primary school and really enjoyed the magical, ancient world Paver explores. Having read Wolf Brother again I still enjoyed them, although they were too simple to completely satisfy an adult reader. The only downside I felt to the book was the focus on the specifics of survival, lots of different forest food sources are mentioned by name and there is a general focus on being specific about elements that do not add to the story. Whilst these parts are interesting and show how it was possible to survive before plastic and wifi, in places it can distract from the real story.
One of the most interesting elements of the novel is Torak’s relationship with animals. He is able to communicate with them, using their own grunts and snorts. Paver writes that ‘wolverines only listen to threats’. Torak’s deep connection with the world around him is further shown through his relationship with Wolf, whom he begins to form a bond with that develops throughout the series. Wolf has his own narrations, still written in third person but taking on his animalistic view of the world and showing the difference in the senses between animals and humans. The passages from Wolf’s point of view soften some of the sharper tones of the grieving Torak. Paver creates a world very different to the modern one we live in, but cleverly invites the reader in through the youth of Torak and Wolf meaning they discover much about the world along with the reader.
Personally I don’t feel inclined to re-read the rest of the series. It was great to re-read them and remember why I enjoyed them, but they are far better suited to a younger audience.
For anyone with children it is an interesting read featuring adventurous boys and girls that will get them fascinated with a world away from the screens.