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Literature / The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness

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A series of books by Britain-dwelling writer Michelle Paver. It is set in northern Europe—most likely Scandinavia—six thousand years ago and widely concerns the hunter-gatherer clans that live in the Forest, but specifically concerns Torak note  of Wolf Clan, as well as his wolf 'pack-brother' Wolf and his friend Renn of Raven Clan. The books follow the three companions as they stop a group of evil Mages (shamans) gone rogue, called Soul Eaters. The series takes place over approximately four years.

There are six books, with the final one released in August 2009:

  • Wolf Brother
    • This is set almost entirely in the Forest, and largely serves as an introduction to the characters, the world, and the clan system. It begins with Torak's father being killed by an enormous bear-demon. Torak, surviving without his father for the first time, finds and pretty much adopts an orphaned wolf cub, who he appropriately names Wolf. The rest of the book is about Torak's quest (with Wolf and Renn) to hunt down and slay the bear. Soul Eater No.1, Torak's father the Wolf Mage, is killed. But we don't find out that he was a Soul Eater until the end of the next book.
  • Spirit Walker
    • This one expands the world a little: in it, Torak heads out to find a cure for a plague. His journey takes him to the islands west of the Forest and introduces us to the Seal Clan, where he meets a Seal Clan boy called Bale. Soul Eater No.2, Tenris the Seal Mage, is killed.
  • Soul Eater
    • The world is expanded again. This time, Torak and Renn travel to the tundra north of the Forest to rescue Wolf, who is kidnapped by the Soul Eaters. We are introduced to the Ice Clans, particularly the White Fox Clan. Soul Eater No.3, Nef the Bat Mage, is killed.
  • Outcast
    • Unlike its predecessors, this one takes place entirely within the Forest and particularly around a lake called Lake Axehead. Torak is thrown out of the Raven Clan for something that happened in Soul Eater. We meet more clans, including the Boar and the Otter clan. Soul Eater No.4, Seshru the Viper Mage—and Renn's mother—is killed.
  • Oath Breaker
    • Takes place mostly within the Deep Forest, amongst the mysterious Deep Forest clans such as Auroch, Forest Horse, and Torak's mother's clan, the Red Deer. Bale is killed by Soul Eater No.5, Thiazzi the Oak Mage. Torak, Wolf, Renn and Raven Clan chief Fin-Kedinn set off to get revenge, heading deep into the dark heart of the Forest and running afoul of the clans that live there. Except the Red Deer, who are strictly pacifistic. Soul Eater No.5, Thiazzi the Oak Mage, is killed.
  • Ghost Hunter
    • Mainly takes place in the High Mountains, with clans such as Mountain Hare, Rowan, Swan, and the mysterious Hidden People. It follows Torak's journey to confront the final Soul Eater, Eostra, after the latter spreads a mysterious disease and fear throughout the lands. Soul Eater No.6, Eostra the Eagle Owl Mage, is killed... and Torak. note 

A seventh book, Viper's Daughter, was released in April 2020.

Even if Stone Age-set adventures aren't your cup of tea, these are worth reading for the worldbuilding. Ms Paver has done a lot of research into the world she writes about.

Most of the the character tropes are on the character page.


  • And the Adventure Continues - Ghost Hunter ends with Torak and Renn leaving the Clans to explore the unexplored parts of the Forest.
  • Arc Villain:
  • Awful Truth: Several of these are found out throughout the series:
    • Spirit Walker: Tenris, the Seal Mage who has acted kindly towards Torak for the entire book, reveals himself to be a Soul Eater who wants to kill him in order to gain his power as a spirit walker. He's also the one who created the plague and just to experiment it, used it to kill four Seals, including Bale's little brother. If that wasn't bad enough, he reveals himself to be the Soul Eater who created the demon bear that killed Torak's father in the previous book (which was precisely what the bear was created for). To further add insult to injury, he's also the brother of Torak's father and therefore Torak's uncle. In the last chapter of the book, Torak finds out from Fin-Kedinn that his father was killed by the Soul Eaters for being their former member.
    • Outcast: Seshru reveals Torak that his best friend Renn is her daughter in order to alienate them from each other. She also reveals Renn that she birthed her only so that she could make her infant a tokoroth, when Renn had been told that Seshru had intended to sacrifice her.
  • Back from the Dead - Happens to a few characters in Ghost Hunter, including Torak.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Being the Stone Age, hunting for food is mundane, but the prey is respected through proper homages and by using what's not eaten in toolmaking. There are also reserves for hunting predators. Several times the Soul Eaters perpetrate the crime of hunting down predators, killing them for certain parts and leaving the rest to rot. Thiazzi in particular enjoys torturing Wolf and the other caught predators in Soul Eater and slowly killing others with fire in Oath Breaker. The Crippled Wanderer traps a demon in a bear's body, and by the time of Ghost Hunter, Eostra has corrupted a pack of dogs as her bloodthirsty minions. The only Soul Eater to show reserves in animal cruelty is Nef who also performs a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Bears Are Bad News - In Wolf Brother and Soul Eater.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension - Oh god, Torak and Renn.
  • Beta Couple - Wolf and Darkfur
  • Betty and Veronica - Gender flipped: Renn (Archie), Torak (Veronica), Bale (Betty)
  • Berserk Button - Don't ever, ever, ever lie or keep things from Torak. Ever. And don't even think about hurting someone he loves.
    • And DO NOT EVER think of damaging, breaking, maiming, buffeting or in any way hurting Renn's bow and quiver of arrows.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead - Bale is the blonde, Torak is the brunette, and Renn is the redhead. But none of them entirely fit the stereotypes—in the Forest, Bale's a bit of a klutz since he doesn't know how to manage, but at the Sea he goes so far as to be an Insufferable Genius. Torak is clever enough (more than clever enough when it comes to tracking, where he is a Scarily Competent Tracker,) but he can be incredibly stupid and impulsive. Renn is definitely a Fiery Redhead, but she's also the calm, practical and rational one.
  • Call-Forward: When Bale first sees Torak's clan totem (a wolf skin) in Spirit Walker, he thinks that a wolf must be a miserable creature. Torak responds that his tone would be different if he'd seen one living wolf. When Bale sees Wolf in the book's end, he's immediately humbled.
    • In the same book, when saying farewells to Torak, Bale says that he might visit the Forest after all one day: there's been a wolf in a kayak, so why there couldn't be a seal in the Forest. This eventually happens in Outcast.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Torak in Ghost Hunter, but it ends well.
  • Character Development
  • Chekhov's Gun: Fa's knife. While it's a beautifully-made thing, it's also unwieldy for a boy of Torak's age when he first gets it. It holds a fragment of the fire opal.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Walker, a.k.a. the seventh Soul Eater, who was said to have died in the Great Fire.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Pretty much the point of Outcast
  • Creepy Twins: The Otter Mage(s). They're two children, a boy and a girl, but are considered and even called as one.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: I'm sorry. Aside from that, the Raven Clan are pretty nice people on the whole.
  • Death By Child Birth: Torak seems to believe that his mother died this way, until Spirit Walker. Renn claims that her mother died during her birth, but she is lying.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Nef.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Bale, poor guy.
  • Determinator: Darkfur in Ghost Hunter. Oh boy.
  • Disney Villain Death: Several characters — good or evil — meet their demise this way.
    • In Wolf Brother, the demon bear and Hord are engulfed by an avalanche.
    • In Soul Eater, Nef deliberately jumps into a crevasse in order to destroy the first Fire Opal fragment as atonement.
    • In Oath Breaker, Bale is thrown down the Crag by Thiazzi, while Thiazzi himself falls from the top branch of a large oak when he's ignited.
    • In Ghost Hunter, Eostra falls into a chasm created by the Hidden People summoned by the Walker. Torak falls along with her, but he gets better.
  • A Dog Named "Dog" - Wolf. A wolf named Wolf. Torak was recently orphaned when he named him, and presumably wasn't in a good state of mind to come up with something more imaginative.
  • Doom Magnet - Torak! And Dyrati accuses Renn of this. Renn denies it, but later wonders if it's true. And for a supporting character, Aki never seems to catch a break.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: In Soul Eater, while in pursuit of Wolf, Torak dreams of a suffocating tree, the beat of leathery wings, creatures that slither beside him, and the ominous call of a bird. He later meets the last Soul Eaters: Thiazzi the Oak Mage, Nef the Bat Mage, Seshru the Viper Mage, and Eostra, the Eagle Owl Mage.
    • Renn, as a potential mage, gets this too. She has a dream of Torak raising his axe to kill Wolf—but it doesn't come to pass because while he really intended to cut off the part of Wolf's tail that was infected, he couldn't bring himself to do it.
  • Dream Weaver - Seshru. In Outcast, she sends Torak a dream to meet her at a spring. At the time, he believes it was Renn who was in the dream, hinting the resemblance between Renn and Seshru.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: With equal parts Bittersweet Ending. The Soul Eaters are defeated, but Torak finds himself unable to live with the clans after all that's happened. At least Renn goes with him, even though it means leaving her beloved uncle and Torak's foster father behind. And of course, Wolf, his mate, and their last-surviving cub go with them, along with Rip and Rek.
  • Even the Rats Won't Touch It: The demon bear is so corrupted that scavengers avoid everything it kills.
  • Everyone Can See It - In Outcast Seshru uses this to bait Renn into telling Torak that Seshru is her mother. In the beginning of Ghost Hunter, Fin-Kedinn does everything he can to keep Torak and Renn away from each other, because he know if they became mates that they would leave the Raven Clan. It ends up happening, but he's alright with it. Later in the book, Dark asks Torak if he and Renn are mates, without even meeting her.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • The Crippled Wanderer (AKA Tenris) to Torak's father (his younger brother) and Fin-Kedinn (his childhood friend). Like the former, he was devoted to Magecraft in his childhood, but while Torak's father wanted to learn about the world and help people with his talents, Tenris has always wanted power to dominate others. These opposing motives were their reasons to join the Healers (the future Soul Eaters). Both are also skilled in remaining beneath notice and covering their tracks. Like Fin-Kedinn, Tenris is a highly influential man in his clan and the region they live in, even though they're scarred/injured. While Tenris plays nice with Torak, the boy considers him to be a more friendly and less distant Fin-Kedinn, but he's ultimately proven to be much more heartless and dishonorable. Both of them have lost a brother, but while Fin-Kedinn takes care of his brother's children Renn and Hord, Tenris tries to kill for power his nephew Torak whom Fin-Kedinn eventually adopts.
    • Seshru to Renn. Both are clever and secretive like their clan totems (viper and raven), display similar abilities in Magecraft, and are willing to break the clan laws in the name of their goals (Renn's goals just aren't selfish). Like the evil mother, like the good daughter.
    • Eostra to the Walker. Both are outwardly cadaverous, refer to themselves in the third person and display mental illness. The Walker is irritant and threatening, but he's ultimately harmless as long as he's left alone and will help people who help him. Eostra in turn is unquestionably heartless and dangerous to everyone and everything. The Walker treats affectionately the little animals he keeps as pets, while Eostra treats as tools the animals she has corrupted into monstrous minions. Both are rather powerful for mages, with the Walker having some kind of a connection with the Hidden People and Eostra being a necromancer. By the end of the series, they are all that's left of the seven Soul Eaters until the Walker plays a pivotal role in Eostra's destruction.
  • Face–Heel Turn - Hord. Also, Dyrati, kind of, although Renn could be right, maybe she's just a bitch.
  • The Fair Folk: The Hidden People are this kind of fairy - they're essentially huldra.
  • Fatal Attractor - If Bale hadn't fallen for Renn, then he and Torak wouldn't have argued, Torak wouldn't have stormed away from Bale, and Bale wouldn't have been murdered by Thiazzi.
  • Flat World - Though the series takes place in our world, it is set 6,000 years ago. Naturally, their beliefs are different, and it is suggested that they believe the Earthy is flat. In Soul Eater, when Torak and Renn travel to the Far North, Renn is anxious that they might accidentally miss the end of the world.
    It's the end of the world. What if we fall off?
  • Foil: The female Soul Eaters Seshru and Nef. The Viper Mage is lithe and beautiful, while the Bat Mage is more plain-looking, thickset and bow-legged. Seshru desires to subjugate all to serve her and enjoys causing discord and pain. Nef in turn wants power to unify everyone for a better future and doesn't do cruelties for the sake of sadism. Both turn out to be parents, but different kind of parents. Nef misses her deceased son and acts like a demanding yet caring mother toward Torak. Seshru in turn is revealed to have abandoned Hord to join the Healers and given birth to Renn only to make her newborn a tokoroth. Discovering her teen-aged daughter years later doesn't awaken maternal instincts in her at all.
  • Foreshadowing: Some very subtle ones.
    • When Torak puts the Death Marks on Fa, he only awkwardly manages to put the mark over his heart because of an old scar Fa had. That's where he cut out the mark of the Soul Eaters, which Torak later forcibly receives in Soul Eater.
    • In Wolf Brother, when Fin-Kedinn tells Torak of the Soul Eaters for the first time, he describes each shortly, but deliberately leaves two of them without description. It ultimately turns out that those two Soul Eaters were Torak's father and the Walker, the only members of the group who didn't turn evil, and also the two whom Torak has already met.
    • In Wolf Brother, Fin-Kedinn pales when he notices Torak's medicine horn. That's because it's his mother's, who Fin-Kedinn was in love with when he was younger.
    • Torak nearly drowns in Wolf Brother. He finds it very painful and wonders if that's how death feels. Turns out no, it's what spirit walking feels like.
    • In Wolf Brother, Wolf doesn't return anything Torak throws. He finally decides to return something when Torak throws the Macguffin of the story.
    • In Soul Eater, Seshru's voice reminds Wolf of Renn's voice.
    • In Soul Eater, when Seshru mocks Nef for her protectiveness towards Torak from Thiazzi's bullying, claiming that she's always eager to act as a mother, the Bat Mage retorts by asking what does the Viper Mage know about motherhood. In Outcast it turns out that Seshru abandoned her son Hord in order to join the Soul Eaters and later got herself pregnant with Renn only so that she could have her own Tokoroth.
    • In Outcast, the Otter Mage tells Bale that he needs to use his time wisely. He dies in the next book.
    • When Torak, attempting to get the stone tooth in Wolf Brother, is assaulted by a small demon, he slashes at it with Fa's knife and it immediately flees. The knife contains a shard of the fire opal, which can be used to command demons.
    • Torak and Renn encounter the Walker again in Soul Eater, who is very unhappy at having lost his pet mouse Narik since the first book. Torak worries about him some, but Renn tells him to forget about it because "Narik's dead."
  • Generation Xerox: Torak and his dad. This cannot be overstated.
  • Ghost Amnesia: If one loses one's name-soul due to not getting the proper rites, one becomes a ghost, forgetting identity, name, and all memories of one's life.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: The good guys get scars they can hide under their hair or clothing, while the bad guys are injured on faces and hands. They're all plot-important anyway, though.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Torak faces the dangers of this trope when he seeks revenge against Thiazzi in Oath Breaker for Bale's death. Fin-Kedinn lampshades it.
    "Torak... You seek vengeance. But don't let it take over your spirit. Vengeance burns, Torak. It burns your heart. It makes the pain worse. Don't let that happen to you."
  • Heel–Face Turn - Nef at the end of Soul Eater, and Aki at the end of Outcast.
  • Heroes Want Redheads - The only person other than Renn that Torak ever feels attracted to is Renn's mother. Clearly, Torak is Rennsexual.
  • Heroic BSoD - Renn gets this pretty bad in Ghost Hunter after Torak dies. It ends quickly, however, when he comes back to life.
  • Horrifying the Horror: Thiazzi the Oak Mage is the strongest man of the Forest and an extremely sadistic and violent sociopath... yet even he is afraid of Eostra the Eagle Owl Mage.
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The four Soul Eaters who serve as the primary antagonist of one of the books share their attributes:
    • Tenris is Disease. The disease caused by his Tokoroth poisoning juniper berries is at the centre of Spirit Walker's plot.
    • Seshru is Famine. Her magic dries up the lake and corrupts the creatures inside it (only the latter is true), cutting off the main food source of the Otters.
    • Thiazzi is War. He is the largest and strongest of the Soul Eaters, and the most physical threat. He starts a war within the Deep Forest, then unifies both sides in war against the Open Forest.
    • Eostra is Death. She has always been obsessed with the secrets of the dead. In her youth she resurrected a boy, and in the last book she summons the spirits of the deceased Soul Eaters.
  • Immortality Seeker: In Ghost Hunter, Eostra plans to steal Torak's spirit walker power and use it to live forever by using one body after another.
  • Insane Equals Violent: The Walker.
  • Insufferable Genius - Bale, at least when he's in his homeland by the Sea; in the Forest he tries to be one in the beginning, but Renn quickly puts an end to that.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold - Torak, when he's not being just a jerk
  • Knight of Cerebus: The mere mentioning of the demon bear is serious business. There's also Eostra, the perpetually masked necromancer whom even all the other Soul Eaters fear instinctively.
  • Last of His Kind: Both Thiazzi and Eostra are last living members of the Oak clan and the Eagle Owl clan, respectively. The last book also states that all humans used to be spirit walkers, but Torak is the last one to ever exist and that all the future generations will have to remember spirit walkers from is their companionship with dogs.
  • Laughing Mad - Torak suffering from soul-sickness.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father - Double gender flipped, and averted becauseRenn already knew that Seshru was her mother. Seshru and Torak didn't find out until Outcast and, oh boy, there was hell to pay.
  • Man on Fire: In the backstory, Tenris survives it; Narik does not.
  • Non-Human Sidekick - Wolf, Rip, and Rek
  • No Periods, Period - Averted. When Renn began menstruating in Outcast a red bar was tattooed by the clan tattoo on her face.
  • No Social Skills: Torak. This gets him in trouble with pretty much all the clans he stumbles into since he's completely unaware of their traditions, having been kept away from them his whole life.
  • Noun Verber: The titling scheme.
  • Now or Never Kiss - Torak and Renn in Ghost Hunter.
  • Official Couple - Torak and Renn. Oh, the rage on the fan boards, when Bale told Torak that he was going to ask Renn to be his mate in Oath Breaker. It turned to delight when he died horribly. Poor guy.
  • Ominous Owl: Only applies to eagle owls. This is presumably because the entire Eagle Owl clan was wiped out because their last mage Eostra performed a forbidden rite by resurrecting one of their members.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: Torak's dad gives him his knife before he dies. Which is kind of two trinkets in one, because it also contains a chunk of fire opal.
  • Our Liches Are Different: Eostra is a very corpse-like mage and a necromancer who desires to live forever and rule everything forever.
  • Our Souls Are Different: To start with, everyone has three: the name-soul, clan-soul, and world-soul. They seem to align roughly to one's identity, one's conscience, and one's ability to interact with the world, respectively. Nobody can go to the afterlife unless they have all three still together.
  • Papa Wolf - Wolf, of course. When he becomes a papa.
    • In humans, Torak's father dies for him, Fin-Kedinn (though technically an uncle) is hugely protective of Renn (and later Torak as well), and Narrander gets to avenge his son as well.
  • Power Trio: Torak, Renn and Wolf. They get things done.
  • Prongs of Poseidon: Type 2. A three-pronged fork is normally a healer's tool used in fetching souls of sick people. However, it is also the symbol of the Soul Eaters, adopted during their time as the Healers. They each have the fork tattooed on their chests. In the last book, Eostra wields a three-pronged spear which she uses to capture other creatures' souls.
  • Prophet Eyes - The girl half of the Otter Mage.
  • Red Herring - Torak's ability to spirit walk is this in the final book. He carries the root that allows him to do so all book long, until the final confrontation, where he spirit walks into Eostra herself... To absolutely no effect. Her will is far too strong for him to make her do anything, and he has a hard time escaping from her mind.
  • The Reveal - At least one big one per book.
  • The Rival - Bale. Until he dies. Though, really, Torak forgives him super-fast.
  • Running Gag - No one can stomach the mash that the Otter Clan makes. Except Bale.
  • Secret Test of Character: In Wolf Brother, Fin-Kedinn decides to see if Torak can use his head after learning his father's identity. That's why he proclaims that the boy shall be killed, leading him to duel with Hord. He also leaves Torak under not heavy guard and allows him to retain Wolf.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss - Torak and Renn. Twice.
  • Ship Sinking - Renn and Bale. Not too many fans were upset.
  • Sibling Murder: Turns out Tenris specifically created the demon bear to kill his brother, Torak's father.
  • Tattoo as Character Type: Mostly of the cultural type. Each clan has their distinct tattoos to mark their members with. Depending on the clan, these tattoos situate somewhere in the neck, face, hands or arms. There's also protective tattoos, like the lightning marks Renn receives during Soul Eater. The Soul Eaters have tattooed on their chests their symbol, the black healer's fork. Outcasts forcibly receive a black ring on their foreheads to mark them as obligable to be killed on sight.
  • Tell Me About My Father - Torak to Fin-Kedinn. In Oath Breaker he gender-flips it while talking to Durrain.
  • Two Guys and a Girl - Torak, Bale, Renn in Spirit Walker, Outcast and then a little in Oath Breaker. It doesn't end well...
  • The Un-Reveal - Despite a fair bit of build-up, we never find out what Torak's father was called.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: the murderous bear possessed by a demon. In its very first scene, it mortally wounds the main Kid Hero's father, and a mere mentioning of it is related gravely. Afterwards only Eostra — the most powerful Soul Eater feared even by the rest of them — comes close enough to qualify as well.
  • Wham Line: Several throughout the series.
    • Spirit Walker:
    Torak: He was my father.
    Tenris: He was my brother.
    • Outcast:
    Seshru: She (Renn) is my daughter!
  • We Used to Be Friends: Fin-Kedinn with Torak's father... and Tenris... and the Walker, considering what they have now can hardly be called friendship.
  • What Happened to the Mouse? - Aki, Sialot and Poi get the 'shadow sickness' in Ghost Hunter, as part of Eostra's spell, and we never find out if they get better. Sialot and Poi are mentioned a few times through out the books, but the reader never meets them. Aki, however, is mentioned several times, but also appears a lot through out the books, and he is an important character in Outcast.
  • World of Ham - When the four remaining Soul Eaters were gathered together is the third book... Soul Eater, they were this trope. Except Nef.


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