This month I have become a little obsessed with The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, a series aimed at Young Adults (i.e. older children) but I, a woman in her twenties, enjoyed it immensely.
This is a series of six, set in the Stone Ages- before farming, writing or the wheel. At first I was attracted to the series because I have previously loved others set in Ancient Times- notably The Earth’s Children series by Jean Auel also known as The Clan of the Cave Bear Series. And the UK covers are extraordinarily beautiful, textured surfaces with simple, but instantly identifiable illustrations.
To an avid speed reader these are one-book-a-night reads, not only because the writing is so accessible in its descriptions, but because the plots are so fast paced and the first book is gripping from the off.
The plot starts with a death, remember how much controversy there was surrounding the death of a major character in the Harry Potter books? Or how The Lion King is remembered for being the first time Disney showed a dead body? Within the first chapter Torak, the brave and resourceful protagonist who is 12 at the start of the books, sees his father killed by a demon trapped in a bear. This, in my opinion, gives much more credit to the sensibilities of the reader, it is necessary for Torek to suffer such a huge loss at the start in order to explain his reluctance to bond with other humans and his link with a fellow orphan wolf cub, which leads to one of the friendships that shape the series. Torek is soon picked up by a travelling band of the hunter-gathering Raven Clan, including Renn, who becomes his best friend and fellow adventurer.
Each book covers a different part of the landscape which would be familiar in the Northern Hemisphere in the Stone Age, from the deep forests to the blinding whiteness of the tundra, illustrated in the beautiful maps at the beginning and end of the books. The details used in describing the landscape are vivid, but brief. Common plants and animal behaviours are described, and their uses explained, but unlike Auel, Paver expects her reader’s to simply accept and move on from details surrounding the day-to-day life of the Stone Age peoples without overlong explanations or justifications. The landscape is integral to the themes of the novel, and a heavy does of environmentalism runs throughout the books, eloquently showing to young readers how all life forms context to each other. Again, the reader is not invited to critique this attitude, merely accept it. Offering a piece of kill to the spirits and not hurting tress too much becomes obvious to the reader, to the point where, when the ‘baddies’ are baddies for refusing to follow these life-codes, we are equally appalled. Paver has created a world that relies on nature for survival without making a value judgement on how we live out lives now. I have been more conscious of how unconnected I am with the ways of animals and the healing powers of plants through reading these books, and I am sure that many younger readers would seriously consider changing their attitudes to nature through reading them.
The books are essential quest based, Torek, Renn and his Wolf (possibly my favourite character) find and fight the Soul-Eaters, former Mages of the clans who banded together to do evil deeds. Although the series is slightly formulaic- Soul Eater does Evil- Torek fights evil with help from Renn and Wolf- Torek learns valuable lesson about himself/ his family, the stories are so well written and, for want of a better word, exciting, this really doesn’t matter.
I have already bought the entire series for work and leant them to my teenage cousin, and I know they are heavily used by the Boys Into Books challenge, and well-loved by teen readers, but these books are worthy of a wider readership. Unlike other popular YA series, they do not turn into 500 page epics by the fourth book that take me months and months to chew through, each book is a treat, and I cannot recommend them highly enough.
Book titles in order
Soul Eater (my favourite)
And yes, I did cry at the end!
This month I have also been readeing and loving The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters which is proper spooky and good, though has possibly the most boring narrator ever written- to great effect! I have also finished American Gods which I have been reading as part of 1 book 1 twitter, of which more later, and the 3rd Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter book Circus of the Damned.