In this original and spectacularly told adventure story, Torak and Wolf are joined by an incredible cast of characters as they battle to save their world, in this first book in The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness.
©2004 Michelle Paver; (P)2004 Orion Publishing Group & HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
"Paver's depth of research...makes this impressive British import...intriguing and believable." (School Library Journal)
Ian McKellen brought this book to life. He is the best reader I've ever heard, bringing wonder and mystery and excitement to the narrative as well as to the dialog.
If this book is the first of a series, I hope he reads them all.
After listening to this first book of a six-book series I know that I am hooked for the duration. Paver takes some basic story elements and brings them excitingly alive ; a boy's kinship with an animal; a battle against pure evil; a quest of myth-like proportions.
I listened to Ian McKellen (Gandalf) bring this piece to stunning life. It's a fantasy, set in ancient Bronze-Age Europe, uncounted aeons ago. The first of 6 or 7 books. Beautifully written, the story is fast-paced and action-packed. It's told in 3rd person, with the POV shifting from the boy Torak to his brother — a wolf cub. The setting is vivid and the story sometimes felt almost real, like it could almost have happened, back when people lived in tribal clans, ate reindeer, and worshipped the spirits in rocks and rivers and ravens. There are some life-lessons embedded in the story. For example, the ritual of respect young Torak showed to any animals he killed, thanking it and promising to use every part to sustain life (the hide, bones, and meat).
PLOT (no major spoilers): A suddenly-orphaned youth and his wolf cub are destined to save the world from a malevolent demon-possessed bear. As his father (Fa) is dying, having been mawled by the bear, 12-year-old Torak makes him a promise: To journey into the frozen North, to the tallest mountain, home of the World Spirit, and plead for help, for only this Spirit is powerful enough to defeat such a demon. Torak must also offer sacrifices (find three pieces of the Nanuak: the river eye, stone bite, etc) to the World Spirit. He must also offer up his own heart's blood. (He wonders, "All of it??") No one has ever climbed the World Mountain or seen the World Spirit — the stuff of legend. Torak is frightened and frequently tempted to break his promise, but he keeps his word (another moral of the story). Help comes from a surprising source.
They make a great team, Wolf, Tarok, and the surprise helper.
It's a coming-of-age story, wrapped up in a quest. A "fellowship of the ring" but with only 3 in the group.
Secondary characters are Hord, Oslak, Fin-Kedin, an old Mage woman of the Raven Clan, a disgusting Walker, etc.
I enjoyed it well enough, but it's really written for kids. I'd have loved it more in about 5th grade.
However, I LOVED getting into the mind of the wolf cub. The words he invented (he calls Torak "Tall Tail-less" and the campfire is "the bright beast that bites hot" (so clever!). Torak can never talk to wolf about what will happen tomorrow, because a wolf has no concept of future, only of now.
The author has a degree in biochemistry and lots of experience with animals, including wolves and bears. But hopefully not bears possessed by an evil spirit.
Narrated superbly by Ian McKellen. It's — oddly enough —not available in kindle format at Amazon USA. And only books 1 and 4-6 are available in Audible USA. A bummer!
The Audible version did not come with the pictures and maps from the book. I wanted to see the map at least, and we cannot buy the kindle book in America. I wish Audible would add that companion piece (the map).
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