Viper’s Daughter by Michelle Paver
A big apology for this one, wild parents, but you’re going to need to buy this book and, unfortunately for your wallets, probably the previous six in the series if your offspring haven’t already read them! (links at the bottom)
Viper’s Daughter, by acclaimed author and Guardian Children’s Fiction prizewinner, Michelle Paver, is a children’s historical adventure fiction – is that a genre?! – of epic proportions, set in the snow-bound, far north clan-lands of Scandinavia 6,000 years ago.
Our copy arrived on the doorstep last week. Witness below 👇 the joy of a 10-year old on opening it, newly published and desperately awaited. Do I need to add much more to our book review than this?!
If you’ve read my recent list of brilliant adventure books for 8 to 12 year olds, you’ll know that we’re HUGE fans of Michelle Paver’s exhilarating six-book Wolf Brother/Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series (COAD).
Written between 2004 and 2009, we only discovered them last year and Caroline tore through all six in a matter of weeks (as did I!), loving every immersive minute. Caroline even named her new kitten Torak after the main character!
Fantastic as they are, the books in the Wolf Brother series leave one with a sense of melancholy at the end, since you don’t want to leave the world nor the characters behind! Consequently we sought out Michelle Paver’s monthly live youtube show to continue our escapism. That’s when we learnt of the April 2020 release of Viper’s Daughter (after an 11-year publishing gap since the last of the original Chronicles). Thank goodness WE didn’t have to wait that long for this next installment!
Caroline’s excitement at the prospect of the ongoing story has been palpable ever since; Michelle Paver’s writing really does have this effect.
Viper’s Daughter by Michelle Paver
Viper’s Daughter is the long-awaited sequel to the Wolf Brother series and to the delight of ardent fans it turns out to be the first in a trilogy!
In COAD we watched Torak grow from a Stone-Age boy of 12 summers to the teen that he is when Viper’s Daughter is set, two years after the the end of the last book, Ghost Hunter.
He lives and travels with Wolf, an orphaned wolf cub (who became part of his ‘pack’ in Wolf Brother) and a girl called Renn. As noted in my aforementioned book list, you’ll fall in love with the courageous trio from the outset!
The sequel finds Torak once again battling demons (literally and figuratively) on a quest to save Renn who has mysteriously disappeared. After six similar storylines (think Star Wars), the series could have been in danger of becoming formulaic but Michelle’s wolf-like nose for storytelling and faith in extravagant adventures results in yet another fresh, exciting and inspiring tale.
To review a children’s book properly one really needs to ask a child!
A 10-year old’s book review
So before you hear what I thought of the book, here is Caroline’s review, penned within hours of receiving Viper’s Daughter by post (and submitted to school via Google classroom, during the time of Coronavirus Covid-19!)
As with the previous books, there are dark, tense moments in Viper’s Daughter…
But don’t worry, no spoilers here!
“Viper’s Daughter ~ Michelle Paver, 2020
Viper’s Daughter is set in the Stone Age, in the forests of the northern hemisphere, about Torak, a boy, Renn, a girl, and Wolf – a Wolf! This is the seventh book in a series of nine, I’ve read the whole book in about ⅔ of a day (it arrived yesterday!)
The book can be read as a standalone story though I think it’s better to read the entire series! It’s actually quite hard to give the storyline of the book without giving any spoiler of the previous books. Let’s give it a go though:
It’s a historical adventure series about clans and bone-kin. In some of Torak’s first adventures he finds himself alone, his parents are dead and he has always lived apart from the clans. He happens upon a lone wolf cub and together they begin their journey to destroy demons and break the Soul Eaters, with the help of their Mage friend Renn.
I love the series so much, it’s all about adventure, friendships, clans, demons and Soul Eaters! I love it because I see myself a bit in all of the main characters – loyal, fun, adventurous, wild and slightly stubborn!
All the characters immediately feel real, so does their world. The stories are always twisty and exciting – you think the end is coming but no, more twists, more adventure!
The scenes are always set perfectly, I honestly don’t think I have a favourite one!
I often find the storyline can be a bit nerve wracking, though they generally have a really satisfying ending.
In conclusion I think this book (and all of her other books in the series) are always gripping and fun-filled at every turn of the page! I love them.
Five out of five stars!“
Thank you Caroline, I think that says it all!
After finishing Viper’s Daughter she’ll undoubtedly read it a couple more times in the coming months and she is now gutted to have to wait a year for the next book.
First Edition Hardcover
The hardback edition is bound in a lovely, matt-finished dust jacket with the series’ signature cave painting-style artwork by John Fordham embossed onto the design. Under the dust cover the book itself is navy with silver writing on the spine and a simple silver wolf design lightly embossed on the front.
Throughout the book there are stunningly detailed black and white illustrations by Geoff Taylor, cleverly evoking the overall feel of each chapter at its outset.
A nice touch is the inclusion of a matching silver-blue page-marker ribbon and, as with the previous books, there are endpaper maps of the world (also by Taylor) including the location of all the clan camps and an additional illustration of an ‘island at the edge of the world’…
Stone Age Education
One of the things I love about Viper’s Daughter is that Michelle continues the brilliant educational value within the storylines. Torak and his companions are fictitious but the pre-historic world they inhabit is painstakingly researched by the author’s first-hand exploration into similar landscapes in our own times. I’m not in any way in the slightest little bit at all jealous honestly…
The author’s notes at the back of the book are equally as interesting (and, frankly, envy-inducing) as the story itself. Michelle explains some actual pre-history and indigenous culture detail before describing her extensive travels in the name of research – northern Norway, Alaska, Greenland, Lapland and Siberia. What a way to write a book! Personally I feel certain that she would benefit greatly from two wild Mum & Daughter companions on her research trips for the next book, and I, of course, know just the pair! 😉
Michelle’s detailed investigation brings to life everything about the ancient culture of the story; the foods they eat, how they cook, their clothes, hunting techniques, the shelters they build.
Here are some stone age survival techniques your children can try at home, from a workshop we attended a few years ago, and you can read about the time I went snow hole digging in Scotland – the nearest I’ve come to one of Michelle’s own investigative expeditions.
Mammuts, Ice Caves & Magic
I thoroughly enjoyed my return to the world of Wolf Brother, though I took longer to read Viper’s Daughter than Caroline (Coronavirus lockdown, which resulted in the cancellation of Michelle’s in-person book launch, seems to have left me with less time rather than the expected more!)
It is a story of love and betrayal, nature, deception, destiny and ancient magic.
Viper’s Daughter transports us along with Torak & Co on a journey farther north than they have ever been before, to where the cold white sun never sets and the last mammoths are struggling for survival.
In fact my two favourite excerpts involve the mammuts; their communication is described as ‘sounding like two rocks talking to each other’, (an evocative noise I can easily imagine given that the the voices of our modern elephants are so deep they are often below the range of human hearing), and the poignant death of a bull elephant who’s disappearing spirit is witnessed through the eyes of Wolf – a Watership Down moment if ever there was one!
Michelle’s clean, simple descriptions of nature and the natural environment bring a gentle, comforting richness to the reading experience.
As Caroline says, the ending of Viper’s Daughter is ‘very satisfying’. The story is complete for those who prefer a standalone tale yet leaves plenty of room for continuation in the next book.
Here’s to Spring 2021 and the release of Skin Taker.
Oh, and the other big news? The entire Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series is to be made into a TV series. It’s going to be epic!
Meeting the ‘Real’ Torak
In a quirky turn of serendipity which we discovered only last month, I have coincidentally met the actual wolf, Torak, who was named after Michelle’s Wolf Brother protagonist’s name! In 2007 I went on a photography day at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust where Torak the wolf is homed – a photograph of him even appeared in a Kids of the Wild’s blog I wrote in 2017 about a Cherokee wolf proverb. It’s a small world!
Here’s my photo of Torak (on the right) with a wolf called Mai, who we think inspired the wolf character Darkfur in the books! Are we right Michelle??
The UK Wolf Conservation Trust is no longer open to the public but at the time of writing Torak is alive and well and living a very contented life. If only he knew how inspirational that life has been!
And this is the beautiful Michelle looking like she’s just got back from a trip to the island at the edge of the world…! An inspirational writer, intrepid explorer and bringer of great enjoyment to the lives of decades of children and adults.
Buy Viper’s Daughter
Click on the image to order your copy from Amazon NOW!
For the audiobook narrated by Sir Ian McKellen, click this image
Skin Taker – the follow-on (audio)
Wolf Bane – the finale! (audio)
And if you need to catch up on the original Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series click these;
Or the audiobooks, also by Sir Ian McKellan: –
Wild wishes to you all for an unforgettable reading expedition into the ancient world of Torak, Wolf and Renn!
For more book and outdoor gear reviews browse Kids of the Wild’s reviews section.
If you’re on lockdown while reading Viper’s Daughter, check out the official Wolf Brother website for an activity pack.
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NB Kids of the Wild received a copy of this book for the purposes of review. All views and observations are my own (and Caroline’s, aged 10). We had already purchased the original COAD series ourselves.