Chronicles of Ancient Darkness #5: Oath Breaker by Michelle Paver
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
In my review of Outcast (or was it Soul Eater? They’re all kind of mushing together in my head now), I said that I hoped the series would turn into more of a coming-of-age story. In Oath Breaker, it has—with a vengeance. Everyone is coming of age in this book—Torak, Renn, Wolf.
The plot in this one is a little less engaging (and a little more confusing) for me. Paver’s descriptions of the forest are less vivid, and I didn’t feel as much of a connection to the setting as I had in earlier books.
The characters’ motives are a little flimsy, too. There was this whole vengeance-oath thing that felt pretty red-herringy, and I couldn’t get a good feel for why anyone was doing anything they were doing. Some parts reminded me of the episode of The Simpsons in which the teachers (represented by Mrs. Krabappel) are trying to get more funding for the school and Principal Skinner is saying there’s no money for it. When both spoke at a very well attended PTA meeting, the audience would get 100% behind the viewpoint of Skinner when he was at the podium, and then swing 100% to the other side when Krabappel stepped up to the microphone. The Aurochs and the Forest Horses seemed a lot like that in this book. “Let’s fight each other!” “Let’s fight the Open Forest!” “Let’s fight the outsiders!” “Let’s just go home!” I basically didn’t connect with any of the characters really well.
There’s also something vaguely sexual about spirit walking in this book, which I hadn’t noticed in the previous books. Maybe it was played up here for the coming-of-age aspect, or maybe I’m just noticing it now and it was there all along. Or maybe it’s all in my dirty mind and isn’t in the books at all. Whatever it was, I didn’t like it so much.
But I liked the ravens in this one (the bird ravens, not the Raven clan, who don’t put in much of an appearance), and the wolf pups were pretty sweet. And Renn’s kind of coming into her own, which is nice.
One more book to go, and I’m done with this series. I think I’ll encourage my daughter to go for some Beverly Cleary books next and get a little break from vengeance and dismemberment and battles to the death. I’ve not read all of the Henry Huggins books, and I suppose there could be some of that in the later books—Ribsy does seem like a bit of a loose cannon—, but I would be surprised.