Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
About the Reviewer
Lyn has a lifelong passion for learning and studied Children's Literature with the Open University, she has also worked with children and teenagers for a number of years. A prolific reader of fiction and non-fiction, here she shares her research and thoughts on the first book from the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series Wolf Brother.
Amazing Wolf Brother
Michelle Paver was born in Nyasaland (Malawi), where her father ran a newspaper. The family moved to England in 1963 and Paver was educated in Wimbledon and at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford reading Biochemistry. It was whilst at university that Paver made her first attempts at writing, having two Mills & Boon type novels rejected. However, gripped by the idea of writing, she had her next two books rejected as well, although she states on her website that she knew she wanted to write...
“I knew I wanted to write, but I didn’t think I’d be able to make a living at it…”— Paver accessed February 2017
Her written thesis gained her a First, Michelle did not stick with science though and neither did she turn to writing to earn a living, she decided she needed a day job to support the writing bug and qualified as a lawyer. When her father died in 1996, Paver took it as a wake up call and needed time out: ‘So I decided to negotiate a year off, to get myself sorted out. At the time, that was unheard-of in a City firm’ (Paver, accessed February 2017). Paver spent 1997 traveling, including re-visiting her birth land, she spent time researching and finishing the first draft of her novel about seizing the moment Without Charity. When she returned to work, she realized on her first day what a mistake it was and quit. Fortunately Without Charity had earned her a publishing contract.
In 2003, she embarked on a series of six books based on an idea that she had been day dreaming about since a child. The series built on her childhood passion for myths, animals, and how people lived in the distant past is set in prehistoric, hunter/gatherer times; a world of dark enchantment, menace and superstition. The stories revolve around a boy and his wolf companion, growing up together, fighting for survival and so much more.....
Paver talking about the series whilst spending time with wolves
Have you mixed with Wolves?
‘Gradually I realised that the old enthusiasms hadn’t gone away; they’d just broadened and taken root. And when I had the idea for Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, it all came together…’— Paver accessed February 2017)
The Story Developed
Paver amended her original idea and researched among others the the Maglemosians, the Ertebølle and Kongemose cultures of Northern Scandinavia and she says she also borrowed from the survival strategies of traditional Inuit and Native American peoples from the more recent past for her Wolf Brother series.
"Torak is alone ... Wounded, terrified, and on the run. An outcast like his father, he has avoided all contact with the clans. But now his father lies dead, slaughtered by a demon in the form of a great bear.
Somehow, Torak must keep going. His only ally is an orphaned wolf cub ... Wolf Brother carries you back thousands of years to the ancient darkness of the forest: to a world steeped in natural magic and elemental terror, a world in which trusting a friend means risking your life."(Paver, 2004).
Fiction for fun - no agenda
On the “Running with Wolves” video above Paver states that there is definitely not a message in the book, because as a child she would run a mile from any book that had a message.
Review of Wolf Brother Where Torak's Story Begins
Wolf Brother is set in ancient times 6000 years ago and is the first in the Ancient Chronicles of Darkness Series.
The story revolves around twelve year old Torak and his wolf. At the start of the story Torak is living with his father in the forest. Like all good Young Adult fiction there is no preamble the excitement starts immediately to grab the reader and draw him in.
‘Torak woke with a jolt from a sleep he’d never meant to have.’ ...’ Then the forest exploded. Ravens screamed. Pines cracked. And out of the dark beneath the trees surged a deeper darkness: a huge rampaging menace in bear form.’ (Paver, 2004).
Turn the page, the excitement continues and the reader is immediately unavoidably immersed in Torak’s world. A world so different to our own, yet utterly convincing, as real and believable as if it were really happening right now as we read. Torak’s world has very different terminology, lifestyle and beliefs to those that we know, yet magically Torak’s world is instantly easy to understand, real and exciting.
The book is a fast paced adventure as Torak and Wolf fight to survive and fulfill their destiny, there is danger all around their strength is their friendship and co-dependence. The story involves elements of fantasy and ancient ways in a time long, long ago. There are some really frightening and horrific moments in the book, although they are only as bad as the reader's own imagination makes them.
Told in the third person and past tense, many of the sentences are short and snappy, with short paragraphs, the dialogue too is straight to the point and easy to follow. Please don’t let me mislead you; this easy to follow narrative does not spoil the enjoyment for the adult reader.
Aimed primarily at the teenage/Young Adult Market, there are occasional longer and tricky words to stretch the better reader, on the whole though the story is satisfyingly fast paced and gives exciting escapism. I love this book and the series, everyone I have ever recommended or lent this book to young, old, male or female soon becomes immersed in Torak’s world and returns the book satisfied and enthralled. Today now that the whole series is published it is possible to read the books back to back, but I remember the agony of waiting for the next installment of Torak’s life to become available and that is a sign of a book that has captivated the reader and of a good author.
Illustrated Wolf Brother
The book is only 244 pages long and each chapter has a black and white plate at the top, the artwork depicting something relevant to that chapter.
Wolf Brother is a book that will stay with you long after the last page is turned and one of the great things about this first book is that younger teens can relate to it, yet it is a satisfying read for the adult reader, indeed it is a book that suits a wide range of people. The more sophisticated reader will appreciate the attention to detail and accuracy from careful research, whilst seeing it as escapism and a light read. Whilst those seeking the gratification of an easy read, fantasy style book to enjoy without much thought will love it to. Indeed, I consider that there are very few readers who will not gain something from this book. All that is needed is the faith to immerse in Torak’s world and go with it for an enthralling experience.
Book Club ~ Paver talks with Children about the book
"Like other great children's books which also entrance adults, Wolf Brother conjures up an utterly believable, yet original world where the story grips you to the very last page."
Sir Ian McKellen
"WOLF BROTHER gripped me from the very first page. It has the three qualities of a classic children's book. Attractive characters. Relentless pace. And superb writing. Added to which, it explores a world that was virtually unknown to us with real insight and authority. This really is a book that stands out from the crowd."
Anthony Horowitz, author
"The kind of story you dream of reading and all too rarely find...The descriptions of an ancient world are wonderful. The vivid prose leaps off the page."
Amanda Craig, The Times
Parts of this book review are updated and adapted from my review on a UK site from 2015 with same username.
Paver M, (2004), Wolf Brother, Orion Publishing Group Ltd, London.