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Review of "Wolf-speaker" by Tamora Pierce

Updated on April 18, 2009

Are you trying to encourage your child to read? Getting a child interested in reading is often closely linked to getting your child to invest in a story. If, however, the vocabulary is too far above your child's reading level, he or she will quickly get frustrated and likely give up. These advanced books, though, often have more intricate and interesting stories. You can help your child maintain his or her interest in reading by continuing to read with him or her the stories at a more advanced reading level. On that note I'd like to tell you about the book Wolf-speaker by Tamora Pierce.

The book, published by Atheneum Books in 1994, is considered a young adult reading level and is filed with teen fiction. However, the story is about a fourteen year old girl (the daughter of an unwed mother), her ten year old companion Maura (an orphan living with her sister and brother-in-law) and a variety of animal and mythical companions. Though I found the story to be an enjoyable bit of fantasy I feel it will more readily appeal to pre-teen girls than an older audience.

Wolf-speaker is 281 pages long and features words like application, instinct, breeches and sentries. There are ten named chapters and an epilogue. This book is the second book in the Immortals series but not the second of Tamora Pierce's books to take place in the Tortallan world. Song of the Lioness and the Protector of the Small also take place in this world. The Immortals will allow you to revisit the characters brought to life in those series.

The story presented in Wolf-speaker I found to be predictable, however, a younger audience will be unlikely to have that problem. Also, even with the predictability I found the book to be a cute story. It deals with the conflict that the hero's wolf friends are having with the local humans in Dunlath. Daine, the hero, is accompanied by her teacher the wizard Numair Salmalin. It soon becomes apparent to both that there is more going on than just a problem between humans and wolves.

Daine learns more about her magical abilities and the world she inhabits as she works to help her friends. Throughout the course of the story she learns to see others as people having reasons for their own actions and no longer simply good or bad. There are clear villains but the story still has a good message about diversity and accepting the differences of others as animals, humans and immortals work together toward a solution to their problems. This second story offers a clear conclusion to the conflict presented at the beginning of the tale, while still presenting a bit of a lead into the next story.

The world that Pierce has created is inhabited by a medieval type society with a more Roman type religious view. In other words the people seem to have a god for everything--even the animals have a variety of gods. (For example, the wolves have a god Old White and his mate Night Black and Weiryn is a mountain god of the hunt.) However, unlike the Romans, the main god of this world is actually a goddess.

This world is also populated by a variety of mythological creatures called immortals. The immortals do not die but they can be killed. (These include the orphan dragon whom Daine has adopted, ogres, basilisks and a host of less familiar creatures). Beyond that is the level of immortals that have been deified. They can neither die nor be killed. The Immortals series deals less with the people and more with the animals that inhabit this world Pierce has created.

Tamora Pierce worked above and beyond the efforts she normally puts into a book in order to create truly believable animal characters, particularly in regard to the wolves. She researched everything from eye color to wolf song using a wide variety of resources. Pierce tapped resources from preservation societies to television programs to the published works of current researchers. This effort can be seen in the actions, speech and thoughts of Daine's lupine companions, the Long Lake wolf pack.

One note of cation, the book does deal with some violent issues. The Dunlath nobles are rebelling against their king. The lady of the castle is having an affair with one of her co-conspritors. A group of riders sent to investigate are found dead by Daine and her companions. Daine is attacked by a Coldfang who is subsiquently turned to stone by a basilisk. She and her companions risk death several times in their efforts for the king. The conspiritors plot to poison the king's people and the surrounding plant and animal life. During the preperation of the poison one of the conspiritors is accidentaly poisoned and forced to cut off her own hand to avoid death. Also Daine kills a couple Stormwings using her crossbow. While these issues are not addressed from an adult perspective they are dealt with in this book.

That being said I still believe this to be an enjoyable story, which will mostly likely appeal to pre-teen girls with an interest in fantasy and animals or those girls interested in wolves. Young boys might also find the tale diverting but with a female hero they are less likely to become engaged in the tale. I hope this review has proved helpful and should you choose to read Wofl-speaker I hope you also find it to be a diverting tale.


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    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      I'll have to see if my 12 year old likes this.

    • Joy M profile image

      Joy M 8 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      I know what you mean. My dad read to my brothers and I throughout elementrary school and even into middle school. I loved listening to him read and would always beg for one more chapter (though my brothers usually fell asleep).

    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 8 years ago from Texas

      Sounds like a lovely story. I think continuing to read aloud with children who are old enough to read for themselves is a wonderful idea and a very good way to build family. I was very sad when my father stopped reading to me, even though I loved reading then and, of course, still do. Reading aloud to one another is a lovely bond.