Monday, March 25, 2013

Outcast by Michelle Paver

Premise: This is the fourth book in the wonderful series that began with Wolf Brother. The story picks up right where book 3, Soul Eater, left off without any annoying recap. Torak is quickly outcast from the clans because he bears the mark of the Soul Eaters. Being an outcast is worse than it sounds, by law anyone who sees Torak is now obligated to kill him. On the run, Torak is pursued by the clans, but also by a Soul Eater who is desperate to use his spirit walker power.

Title: Outcast
Author: Michelle Paver
Length: 319 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Series or Stand-Alone: Book 4 of 6 in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness
Content Appropriate for: Grades 5-8

3 adjectives that describe this book are: dark, gripping, page-turner

Although I read a lot of series, I usually lose interest after just 2 or 3 books. Often the plot becomes predictable and the writing more haphazard. Not so with Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. Outcast is the fourth in the series and my favorite so far.

I found this installment to be intriguing and well-paced, with lots of Paver's incredible world building and character development. Each book reveals more and more about the clans and their belief systems. This time we meet a new clan, The Otters, who have a unique culture dictated by the lake upon which they live. The Stone-Age religion of the clans also plays a major role in the story and is beautifully developed by Paver. The concept of soul-sickness is especially interesting in this book since it causes Torak to forget everything he has ever known about survival in the forest, a major part of his identity.

Character development has always been one of the strengths of this series. Although the characters are complete, their development is subtle and doesn't get in the way of the plot. The protagonists Torak, Renn, and Wolf have never become static, even after 4 books. This book does an especially wonderful job of exploring the developments of Renn and Wolf. I enjoyed the shocking revelations about Renn's past and seeing Wolf enter adulthood - caring for wolf pups and enjoying the company of a potential mate.

Most important, though, was the plot. This series is dark and Outcast is no different. Although the darkness was less oppressive than in the previous title, Soul Eater, the villain of the book is still incredibly scary. The protagonists are genuinely struggling for survival and I found myself holding the book tightly, worrying over what would happen to these characters I've come to love.

5 stars

If you haven't read any of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness books, I highly recommend them!
Other books in this series:
Wolf Brother (book 1)
Spirit Walker (book 2)
Soul Eater (book 3)
Oath Breaker (book 5)

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