Torak and his father have been living alone, away from their clan, for as long as Torak can remember. When a demon-possessed bear attacks them one night, Torak’s father is mortally wounded. Before he dies, he makes Torak promise to seek the Mountain of the World Spirit. On his journey to the mountain, Torak meets a recently orphaned wolf cub who becomes his guide, and then the boy and his wolf are captured by a tribe who wonder if Torak will fulfill their prophecy and save them from the demon-bear. There he meets Renn, a brave and spirited girl who only wants what’s best for her tribe. Meanwhile, the bear still hunts them.
Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother, the first in a series of children’s novels called The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, is a serious and gripping story. The writing is lovely and full of beautiful imagery, especially in the sections written from the wolf cub’s perspective. The story is original, suspenseful, and a little bit frightening. It promotes love, loyalty, and courage.
Wolf Brother is a perfect read for children in the targeted age range of 9-12. Torak, Wolf, and Renn are easy to love and the ancient wilderness setting is fascinating and offers lots of opportunities for learning about forest survival techniques.
Teens and adults will probably wish that Torak, Renn, and Wolf had to work a bit harder to fulfill their goals. Until the end, Torak mostly manages to accidentally stumble upon what he needs rather than apply his skills, courage, or wits. This aspect of the story was disappointing, but it was so well written otherwise that I still enjoyed it.
I read Wolf Brother on audio. The narrator is enthusiastic and pleasant to listen to. However, he has a deep, gruff, slightly muddy voice with an English accent that my 9-year-old daughter found difficult to follow. If you’re thinking about the audio version for a child, you might want to have them listen to a sample first.