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UK cover of the book
|Series||Chronicles of Ancient Darkness|
|Genre(s)||Children's adventure, fantasy novel|
|Publisher||Orion Children's Books|
27 May 2004 (UK)30 September 2004 (US)
|Media type||Print ( hardback & paperback), audio book (CD & cassette)|
|Pages||224 pp (first edition, hardback)|
|ISBN||ISBN 1-84255-170-1 (first edition, hardback)|
|Followed by||Spirit Walker|
Wolf Brother is the first book in the series Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver. Wolf Brother takes place 6000 years ago during the New Stone Age, and tells the story of twelve-year-old Torak, a boy of the Wolf Clan.
The book was published in 2004 by Orion Children's Books.
Most reviews were very favourable, commenting on Paver's imagination, humour, and descriptive writing style. Most commentators praised the author's attention to detail and depth of research. Paver travelled to the forests of Finland researching how people lived 6000 years ago, and she also spent time with wolves at a wolf reserve. She also studied the raven population at the Tower of London. Wolf Brother is illustrated by Geoff Taylor.
"Six thousand years ago, Evil stalks the land. According to legend, only twelve-year-old Torak and his wolf-cub companion can defeat it. Their journey together takes them through deep forests, across giant glaciers, and into dangers they never imagined. Torak and Wolf are terrified of their mission. But if they do not battle to save their world, who will?" — Wolf Brother
In pre-agricultural Europe,the hunter-gatherers of the Forest live in clans, each represented by a particular animal or life form. Torak and his father, of Wolf Clan, live together in the forest. During Torak's twelfth year, his father ("Father") is killed by a bear which has been possessed by a demon. Before Torak's father dies, he tells Torak to swear an oath to head north and find the Mountain of the World Spirit, and ask the World Spirit to help destroy the bear before it kills all life in the forest. His guide will find him and help him on his quest. Torak reluctantly leaves his father as the bear comes back to kill him. Torak heads north and soon encounters an orphaned wolf cub. Torak initially tries to kill the cub in order to eat it, but he doesn't have the heart. He discovers that he can communicate with the cub. The Cub smells Torak is of the Wolf Clan, who was fed by a wolf as a baby, and accepts Torak as his pack-brother. He realizes the cub is the guide, and Torak names the cub "Wolf". Over time they become good friends. A few days later Torak and Wolf are captured by the Raven Clan, who accuse Torak of stealing one of their roe deer. They are taken to the Raven camp so Torak's fate can be decided by Fin-Kedinn, the Raven Clan leader. Torak's captors are a teenage boy named Hord, a girl named Renn, and a man named Oslak.
In the Raven camp, Torak is taken to Fin-Kedinn. Unlike the other Ravens, Fin-Kedinn treats him with kindness and respect, until Fin-Kedinn realizes who Torak's father was. To regain his freedom, Torak fights Hord, who is much bigger and stronger, to prove his innocence. He wins by temporarily blinding Hord with steam from some broth which is cooking nearby. This, together with the dog whistle which Torak has made to summon Wolf, makes Fin-Kedinn and Saeunn, the Raven mage (shaman), see Torak as the possible fulfillment of a prophecy about a "Listener". The prophecy states that the Listener, who "talks with silence and fights with air", will offer his heart's blood to the World Spirit and thereby kill the demon-bear. One interpretation of this prophecy is that Torak must be sacrificed, and his blood taken to the Mountain of the World Spirit. Fin-Keddin reveals to Torak that his Fa was the Wolf Clan's mage, and the Demon Bear was created for the sole purpose of killing his Fa. They then lock Torak away while they debate his fate.
Torak escapes, helped by Renn, who believes that Torak must go to the Mountain of the World Spirit himself. Renn tells Torak the rest of the prophecy, which says he must find three parts of the "Nanuak", the brightest soul, to please the World Spirit and ensure its aid. On their journey together, guided by Wolf, Torak finds the first part of the Nanuak when he falls into a river, the second part in a cave, and the third part while crossing the treacherous glacial flow close to the High Mountains. Nearly at their destination, Renn and Torak are recaptured by the Ravens and taken to the Raven Clan's new temporary camp. Fin-Kedinn releases Torak, believing him to be the one who should go to the Mountain. Fin-Kedinn also reveals that Torak's Fa was killed because he dedicated himself to thwarting a group of rogue mages, the Soul Eaters, who have turned to evil in their determination to rule the Forest.
Torak and Wolf climb the mountain, followed by the bear. Torak is unexpectedly attacked by Hord, who believes himself to be the one who must take the Nanuak to the mountain. Torak realizes that the prophecy's "heart's blood" means Wolf, and as Wolf carries off the Nanuak, Hord and the bear are engulfed by an ensuing avalanche, and fall down the mountain. Torak escapes from under his hiding place and looks for Wolf, but he only hears his howl in the distance, along with the howls of other wolves. Torak howls to Wolf, promising that he will one day return for him, before turning to head back into the forest.
Wolf brother was generally well received by critics. One of the earliest reviews, posted by the UK newspaper The Guardian, said that the book was a "rattling read, and has a nicely detailed setting and covers enough reader interests - friendship, adventure - even pets." Publishers Weekly praised the book, calling it "part riveting nature story, part rite of passage saga. Torak's coming-of-age tale will keep the pages turning." Almost all reviews praised the book's themes of courage, bravery and friendship. Many critics also commented on the story's oddest aspect, of telling a few chapters of the book from the point of view of a wolf. Paver has also stated it was one of the hardest aspects of the story to write.
Paver was invited to the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in the UK, where the museum displayed a few artifacts from the time period in which the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness take place, next to excerpts from Wolf Brother. Paver said she was absolutely "delighted" that her book had been so honoured.
The book has been translated into French, Slovakian, Polish, Vietnamese, Bulgarian, Japanese, Dutch, Swedish, Portuguese, Italian, Hebrew, Finnish, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Latvian, Danish and Icelandic.
When Paver was writing the first draft of Wolf Brother in 2003, she did not originally plan it to be a series of books. As she wrote the book she quickly realized the story would not be able to be contained within the pages of only one book. The next book in the series, Spirit Walker, was published on June 28, 2006.
The book was adapted in ten episodes for BBC Radio by Ivan Jones in 2007.
Possible film adaptation
In 2007, the rights to the entire series were sold to 20th Century Fox to be made into major motion pictures, to be produced by Ridley Scott. Catherine Hardwicke was to be the director of Wolf Brother until she was offered the directing job of the first Twilight movie in 2007. The script for the film was completed in 2007 and the project has been untouched since. On August 19, 2010, in response to many fans' questions, Paver's agent officially stated the Wolf Brother film is "on hold": since then there has been no further news.