This popular Young Adult series has been on my radar for a while, but when I won a copy of this book in a raffle, I was delighted to finally dive into Paver’s historical fantasy world.
Torak is a boy apart: a boy who can talk to wolves. As the clans fall prey to a horrifying sickness, only he can find the cure. His quest takes him to the perilous islands of the Seal Clan, where he battles an unseen menace – and uncovers a shattering betrayal.
Paver’s vivid, straightforward style has this Bronze Age historical adventure bouncing off the page. Her skill is in powering the narrative ever forward, with a cast of interestingly nuanced characters in her detailed, rich landscape with the minimum of fuss or stylistic tricks. Given that she has set her book in distant prehistory, so there are relatively few reference points that her readers can latch onto and identify with, she provides a wealth of enjoyable details about food, clothing and their attitudes. This is a period that Paver has clearly extensively researched, and while Spirit Walker is crammed with all sorts of relevant details, at no time did I feel that I was being given a history lesson. The dialogue – both spoken and internal – are well conveyed and convincing.
This is a deal more difficult than Paver makes it look. Given that her readership is young and relatively inexperienced, the moment she wanders away from the storyline, or tries to pad her characters with too many gestures or long speeches, she’ll lose her audience. And she doesn’t. This series had been an international success, selling over a million copies in Britain alone and the last and sixth book in the series, Ghost Hunter, won the 2010 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. The only surprise for me is that no one has snapped it up yet with a view to making the series into a film or films.
Paver manages to throw in a number of plot twists that I really didn’t see coming – not that I was straining overmuch to try and second-guess her. When an author writes with Paver’s quiet authority, I tend to relax and just enjoy. Am I going to go to the bother of tracking down the other books in the series, to read to my granddaughter in due course? Absolutely. This book certainly lives up the hype and I recommend that you get hold of it for the youngster in your life – but before presenting it, give yourself a treat. Read it first…