Ghost Hunter by Michelle Paver

Ghost Hunter (Chronicles of Ancient Darkness #6)
Ghost Hunter (Chronicles of Ancient Darkness #6) by Michelle Paver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, this book totally redeems the series. It is at least as well done as the first book of the series (Wolf Brother).

With as little as I liked the fourth and fifth books in this series, I wonder if I just don’t like middle books. I’m one of those people who thinks The Empire Strikes Back is incredibly boring, and I’d just rather get to the Ewoks, thank you very much. (Incidentally, I also still think of the Star Wars movies as a trilogy. They start with IV and end with VI, and that’s enough for me.) It’s possible that’s what’s gone on with this series for me.

So, what do I think is better about this book?

More vivid descriptions. I was able to visualize the setting again like I wasn’t able to when I read the fourth and fifth books. The moths, the ice storm, the craggy mountain trails, the forest, the reindeer…I could see them all.

Tighter plot. Maybe it’s because Paver knew she was wrapping up the series with this book, but it’s just put together better than the book before it. I could see the trajectory of the story and there didn’t seem to be as many distractions. And Paver brought back elements from the first books and kind of tied things together, which can sometimes be cheesy or tedious, this was neither tedious nor cheesy. Except for one character towards the end who seemed a little tacked on, Paver showed in an un-forced way how things all fit together.

Of course, this might be a bit misleading for younger readers because it implies that greater clarity comes with age, which I’ve not found to be the case, at least not in any dramatic way. But that’s a flaw of many books for teens/young adults. And what’s really the alternative? A book that admits that the confusion and fear kids feel isn’t likely to go away, but instead just morph as time passes? That no answers are revealed when they pass through the veil to adulthood? That there in fact isn’t even a veil to pass through and you don’t even know you’re a grown-up until suddenly one day you realize you have been for a while now and you totally missed the transition? Even I wouldn’t read a book like that. Or I guess I would—it’s actually the kind of literary fiction towards which I usually gravitate—I just wouldn’t read it to my eight-year-old.

Better characterization. I think this is mostly because there are fewer characters in this book. We’re back to, mostly, the primary characters of the series, and Paver does a very good job showing the motivations behind their actions (or inaction). I wanted to find out what they were going to do and I cared what happened to them, which is always a good quality for a book. And I loved the role Fin-Kedinn played in this one. He’s a class act, that one.

Reading Oath Breaker, I was motivated to read quickly because I just wanted to finish it (which I know is a horrible thing to say about the hard work of an author, but that was my experience). With Ghost Hunter I read it quickly because I was drawn from one chapter to the next. I didn’t want to put it down until I’d read the whole story. It was a strong way to end the series. Even if it did mess up my bed time.

View all my reviews

Oath Breaker by Michelle Paver

Chronicles of Ancient Darkness #5: Oath Breaker
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.

View all my reviews

Soul Eater by Michelle Paver

Soul Eater
Soul Eater by Michelle Paver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My daughter had four of the six books in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series out from the library at the same time, rushing through one after another. I’ve been trying to catch up with her, so when I finished Spirit Walker (book 2), I picked up Outcast, thinking it was book 3.

As I read, I had a feeling that something was missing, that Paver was making references to things I didn’t remember, but I thought maybe she was just changing up the formula a bit, keeping the reader in suspense and planning to reveal the rest of the story later. I was 90 pages into Outcast when I finally looked at the spine of the book and saw that it was book 4, not book 3. So, I set Outcast aside and got Soul Eater from my daughter. Read More

Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver

Wolf Brother
Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A friend from college recommended this series for my eight-year-old daughter. I’d intended to preview it before introducing it to my daughter—I don’t censor for content, but I do try to keep her away from bad writing—but as often happens, she got to it before I did. She read Wolf Brother over the course of about a day and a half over vacation, and raved about the book. Once we got home, I had to play catch-up.

I finished the book last night, and it was pretty good. Read More