Torak’s sidekick Renn is charming and likable. She is feisty, capable, and talented; but also humble and grounded securely by morals. The use of Wolf’s voice as a character was absolutely brilliant. His keen mind and observations stripped away all labels. If you lived without books or school or written language, how would you describe things? Wolf’s point of view broke the world down to the barest level, observing rivers, snow, fire, humans, and even death by using only concrete ideas rather than abstract concepts.
Occasionally the transitions between viewpoints were rough and had confusing pronouns, but luckily the character voices are distinct enough to sort things out. I worried that the descriptions of survival (hunting, clothing, making arrowheads, etc.) would become long-winded, but Paver kept the details concise and interesting. I have to commend her for resisting the temptation of info-dumps, especially after all the research she did. (According to the book jacket, Paver ate lichens, chewed pine resin, and slept on reindeer skins in the forests of northern Finland during the research process. That’s what I call dedication.)
I was shocked that this novel functioned on so many levels all at the same time. Not only was it an exciting young adult fiction, it also touched the root of humanity and what it means to be a part of this blue planet. I started reading this book on Earth Day (by mere coincidence) and it turned out to be surprisingly apropos. Beneath the adventure and coming-of-age, it was a story about harmony with the world around us and harmony with each other.
If you enjoy Tamora Pierce, Brian Jacques, or even Jack London, Wolf Brother and the "Chronicles of Ancient Darkness" are right up your alley. It is more than just a fantasy novel or a coming of age story. The real magic in this story doesn’t come from potions or artifacts but from the world around us.