(2022) Michelle Paver, Zephyr, £12.99, hrdbk, 261pp, ISBN 978-1-789-54244-8
Wolf Bane is the ninth and last book in the series that started with Wolf Brother and is intended to be read as a standalone novel for younger readers. I think it is better read in the context of the other books as it gives little introduction or explanation of the concepts used in the book and may be confusing for some.
It is a tale of how Wolf tracks a demon and how a demon tracks Wolf; how Torak and Renn fight to save their pack brother and bring him safely home. It is an imaginative look at Stone Age life and the blurring of who is human, and who is not, feels very deliberate.
While the wolves are presented with thoughts and dialogue, this is not the talking creatures found in the works of Beatrix Potter or Briain Jaques’ Redwall. Instead these are animals who communicate to their own species and with the humans they are familiar with body language and noises rather than a full vocabulary. Anyone who has lived close to animal or pet will be familiar with the idea that they can communicate their ideas without the need to walk about in clothing.
The story is all action and little exposition or explanation, which makes for a fast moving and dramatic tale, designed to stir imagination and excitement. It has rich, but uncomplicated world building, most of the tale takes place in the natural environment, so no need to invent too much detail. The setting itself is described and through this we come to understand concepts. Sea Wolves, for example, are Orcas, something which is never said, but seen through the description of the creatures.
The hardback copy that I have is presented beautifully, with a ribbon bookmark and black and white illustrations throughout. Assuming the other novels are similar, I imagine they would make an attractive set on a child's bookshelf.
There are dark themes in the novel, Wolf faces injury, captivity and maybe even death, the author pulls no obvious punches in the telling of the tale. However, it is a tale appropriate to the intended age group, dark in places, but not depressing or gruesome.
If you have, or are, a child between 8 and 12 years then this book is an enjoyable tale, well worth reading.
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