Wolf Brother

Wolf Brother

Author: Michelle Paver

Publication: 2004, Harper Collins

Pages: 295

Overall Rating: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Rating for Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Age Category: 9-12

Age of Main Character: 12

Brief Summary: Torak’s father has just been killed by a bear.  His only companion now is a wolf cub.  But together the two of them must brave the dangers of the forest and travel to the distant Mountain of the World Spirit in order to fulfill his father’s dying wish.  Because the bear is no ordinary creature.  It’s a demon in animal form, and if Torak doesn’t stop it, it will destroy the entire forest.

Age of Main Character: 12

What I Liked the Most: Wolf Brother is a stone age fantasy.  It’s one of the only books I’ve ever come across set this far back in history – 6,000 years to be exact.  There are no metal weapons, not even something as simple as a wheel.  It’s a very cool setting, given an extra level of intensity by the strong fantasy element of the demonic bear and the dark spirit world Torak has to navigate in order to fight it.

Paver does a brilliant job bringing her stone age setting to life. While running with Torak, you get to help skin a deer and dry it’s meat, make a portable fire from a mushroom and a bit of birch bark, and fashion a pair of stone age sun glasses. Other than following the author’s example and travelling to northern Finland to sleep on reindeer skins and eat lichen, reading Wolf Brother is the best way to transport yourself back to a pre-historic era. And with the fantasy elements and well done fight scenes, it’s a fast moving pleasure to read.

Finally, while most of the book takes place from Torak’s perspective, there are a few scattered sections from the POV of the wolf cub. Paver does an amazing job of putting you inside a wolf’s head and defining the world the way a wolf really might see it. Serious kudos for that.

What I Liked the Least: Torak gets help on his quest from a member of one of the clans (I won’t say who as I don’t want to give away too much). But I never really bought their motivation for helping him. Over the course of their journey they develop a solid friendship that makes all their later sacrifices utterly believable. But this person had to defy their clan to give Torak that first bit of help. They had to risk exile or even death – to turn against everyone they had ever known or cared about – and I couldn’t understand why they did it.

How Good was the Action? For a middle grade novel, the action is fairly intense. Torak is in a fight for survival, and while he engages in relatively few actual battles, there are plenty of opportunities for struggle – with both his environment and the spirit world. One scene where he has to enter a dark cave filled with unseen creatures was particularly unnerving. And Paver does an excellent job of drawing out the tension in each scene and filling them with raw emotional power.

How Engaging was the Story? Torak’s journey is one that forces him to face his deepest fears, to risk everything, and to reexamine much of what he thought he knew about the world. With those kinds of stakes it’s impossible not to get sucked in – especially with such a richly drawn setting.

Overall Assessment: A tense, well-written fantasy that plunges you into the heart of a pre-historic world.

Profanity: None

Sex: None

Violence: Some. The bear kills people – but we never see any of those deaths take place. There are fights and injuries, but no gore and very little blood. Torak and his companions do hunt and kill animals for food, but this handled in a very practical manner without blood.

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