If you haven’t read Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother, I am jealous. Very jealous. It’s part ancient historical fiction, part adventure, with some fantastical elements woven in for good measure. The story is set in the Stone Age, in a world that is divided into clans, represented mostly by animals. Each clan has a particular gift that its members inherit, making them experts in a certain skill necessary for survival in their environment. The story opens with a young boy, Torak, witnessing the death of his father by a giant, otherworldly bear. As his father lies dying, he communicates to Torak that Torak is destined for an important task, a task that will save the forest and the clans from destruction. At the beginning of his journey, Torak stumbles across an orphaned wolf cub, and he wonders if this cub has some role to play in his mysterious destiny. There’s only one word for what comes next: wow.
Some of you are probably already saying, “No thanks. Giant bears possessed by spirits? Animal clans? A mysterious epic journey? Sounds a little too classic weirdo-fantasy for me.” Well just give it a try. Fantasy is not my #1 genre, but this book is too good to miss. Wolf Brother is the first in a series of what will be 6 titles (the 4th, Outcast, comes out in the fall). And if fantasy is really not your bag, you should read this book simply for its impressive power to immerse you in an ancient world. This believability did not just happen by accident. Michelle Paver devoted a great deal of time to researching the Stone Age – its housing, hunting methods and weaponry. Also, she researched more recent hunter-gatherer and indigenous cultures, traveling around the world to learn about their societies first hand. I mean, come on – how many authors go to Lapland to sleep on reindeer hides and learn about how to transport fire? I guess dining on elk-heart is what it takes to write a best-seller.
Now… I’ve saved the best for last. Sir Ian McKellan (of Gandalf fame) narrates the audiobooks for the series (and does a mighty fine job of it). As a special summertime treat, the Guardian is offering a FREE podcast of Wolf Brother. They’re presenting it in episodes, and all of them are available at Wolf Brother Podcast.