Michelle Paver, Author, Geoff Taylor, Illustrator . HarperCollins $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-072825-0

Part riveting nature story, part rite of passage saga, Paver's first book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series is set in a primeval forest some 6,000 years ago (according to an author's note). As the novel opens, 12-year-old Torak watches in horror as his father is mauled by a bear that is unnaturally vicious, "possessed... [by] some demon from the Otherworld." Before his father dies, he tells the boy that he must travel north to the Mountain of the World Spirit—and that he must stay away from other people, for reasons he doesn't have time to explain. In his travels, Torak meets a wolf cub, whom he calls Wolf, and readers will likely be charmed by the scenes of their gradual bonding. But after Torak kills a buck, he falls into the hands of the Raven Clan claiming ownership of that part of the forest. When the clansmen learn that the boy can communicate with Wolf, they become convinced that he is the prophesied Listener who "gives his heart's blood to the Mountain" in order to dispel a Shadow that threatens the forest (i.e., the possessed bear). A quest ensues, involving Torak, Wolf and a Raven Clan–girl, Renn. The plot becomes intricate, but remains involving thanks to Paver's unusual setting and eccentric characters, plus the strict rules by which the clans live. Passages from the wolf cub's point of view seem extraneous, but Torak's coming- of- age tale will keep the pages turning. The author reveals many secrets at the end, nicely setting the stage for subsequent volumes. Ages 10-up. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/10/2005
Release date: 02/01/2005
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Library Binding - 295 pages - 978-0-06-072826-7
Book - 978-0-06-083894-2
Book - 978-0-06-083895-9
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