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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" called 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
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    • 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
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    • 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 eastern 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 

In 2019, Paver decided to write three sequels set after Ghost Hunter. The first sequel, Viper's Daughter, is set two summers after Ghost Hunter and was released in April 2020. The second one, Skin Taker, is scheduled to be released in 2021.

  • Viper's Daughter
    • This book returns us to the arctic north, expanding the lives of the Ice Clans, particularly the Narwals, further. Renn has a troubled feeling that she's somehow going to hurt Torak, so she sets out north alone to find a solution. Torak and Wolf chase her down all the way to an island in the northern sea that's called the Edge of the World. The antagonist is Naiginn, the demon-son of Seshru and Tenris.

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. She has also written a series set in the same time period but in archaic Greece, called Gods And Warriors.

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


Examples:

  • Achey Scars: In Viper's Daughter, Torak, Renn and Wolf feel the scars they received in the previous books from tokoroths and the demon bear itch when they're in Naiginn's presence. It's the only warning they receive of his demonic nature before he reveals his true colors.
  • Adult Fear: There are children being frequently put in danger, and sometimes killed. There's the woman in Oath Breaker who miscarries. There's children being radicalized into cults, the inability to provide for one's loved ones, and ostracism from the community. The Soul Eaters are essentially a Stone Age terrorist group, with the random civilian attacks that would imply.
  • Anatomy of the Soul: All humans (and presumably animals, trees, and geologic features) have a name-soul, a clan-soul, and a world-soul. Part of their death rites involves drawing circles made of red ochre on the dying person's feet, chest, and forehead, to ensure their souls don't become separated. These souls can also be corrupted by soul-sickness, as happens to Torak in the fourth book. If the name-soul is missing or sick, the person becomes a ghost, forgetting their identity. If the clan-soul is missing (or if the three souls are scattered), a demon is formed (though the clan-soul becoming sick just makes someone lose their connection to nature). The most powerful demons, Elementals, are formed when a geologic feature like a waterfall "dies" and its souls are scattered.note  If the world-soul is lost, the owner becomes a Lost One, trapped forever in a dark void.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Ghost Hunter ends with Torak and Renn leaving the Clans to explore the unexplored parts of the Forest.
  • Arc Villain:
  • An Arm and a Leg: In Oath Breaker, Gaup of the Salmon Clan has his hand cut off by the Aurochs who then place it at the border of the Deep Forest as a warning to stay away. Fin-Kedinn tells that cutting off hands was a punishment practiced during the bad times that followed the Great Wave, and the Clans forbade it long ago.
  • Artifact of Doom: The fire opal, the source of the Soul Eaters' power. It's a red glowing stone that's said to be light from the eye of the Great Auroch, the most powerful demon ever. Whoever wields it can control demons. When Torak's father scattered the Soul Eaters in the Great Fire, he shattered the fire opal into three pieces which the heroes need to find and destroy one by one. The problem is that their power can be extinguished only by being buried under earth/stone, and a living creature must die at the same time.
  • 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 deserting them.
    • Outcast: Seshru reveals to Torak that his best friend Renn is her daughter in order to alienate them from each other. She also reveals to 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 into 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: The main antagonist of Wolf Brother is a brown bear that has been turned into an Ax-Crazy monster by the demon trapped within its body. In Soul Eater and Viper's Daughter, the heroes are several times troubled by polar bears.
  • 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.
  • Beware of Vicious Dog: In Ghost Hunter, Eostra has captured seven dogs from the Mountain Clans and turned them into a pack of bloodthirsty minions.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The heroes aren't perfect and do some unsavory things, which is partly justified by the harsh setting they live in. The Soul Eaters and demons, on the other hand, don't care about anything but their own destructive desires.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Bale is the blonde, Torak is the brunette, and Renn is the redhead. However, 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 being an Insufferable Genius. Torak is clever enough (more than clever enough when it comes to tracking since 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.
  • Braving the Blizzard:
    • In Wolf Brother, the heroes are surprised by a snowstorm when they're searching for the last Nanuak piece on an ice river. Renn is separated from Torak and Wolf and ends up almost dying before the latter two find her.
    • In Soul Eater, Torak and Renn are surprised by another snowstorm in the Far North. Inuktiluk comes to their rescue.
    • Renn is once again almost killed by a blizzard in Ghost Hunter, only for Torak to save her again.
  • Call-Forward: While saying farewells to Torak in Spirit Walker, Bale says that he might visit the Forest after all one day; since Wolf has traveled in a boat, why couldn't a Seal visit the Forest? This eventually happens in Outcast.
  • Cannibalism Superpower:
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Torak in Ghost Hunter, but it ends well.
  • 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.
    • In Spirit Walker, Torak draws his clan-tattoo in great detail (including the small scar cutting through it) on a white pebble and leaves it for Renn to tell her that he's left to search for a cure to the sickness. In Outcast, Seshru gets the pebble in her hands and uses it to work her magics on him.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Walker, a.k.a. Narrander, the seventh Soul Eater who was said to have died in the Great Fire.
  • The Clan: Everyone (except Torak) is a member of a clan named after an animal totem (though sometimes it's a species of tree). Some are nomadic, like the Wolf Clan, while others are seasonal migrants, like the Raven Clan. The clans of the Seal Islands and the Otter Clan of Lake Axehead are sedentary, since they live in places rich enough in food that they don't have to migrate (and in the case of the islanders, there's nowhere to go except the other islands). Each clan has a leader and a mage, and there doesn't seem to be a bias towards intra- or inter-clan marriage (when inter-clan couples have children, they choose one of the clans for their child, and can choose the other for a different child).
  • 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.
  • Dead Person Conversation: In Viper's Daughter, Renn has two dreams in which Seshru (who's been dead since Outcast) mocks her that Renn can never escape from how similar she's to her Soul Eater mother.
  • 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 the Bat Mage sacrifices her life to destroy the first fire opal fragment in order to repay her debt to Torak's father.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Bale is murdererd by Thiazzi in the beginning of Oath Breaker shortly after he has told Torak that he intends to ask Renn to be his mate.
  • Demonic Possession: With powerful dark magic, demons can be summoned from the Otherworld and trapped inside the bodies of living creatures. The host body's souls are then trapped inside with no possibility to be freed unless the host is killed. The demon bear from the first book is created by Tenris trapping an elemental, the most powerful type of demons, inside a bear's body. Tokoroths are created by trapping demons inside the bodies of young children that have been reduced into Empty Shells. Naiginn from Viper's Daughter is revealed to be a grown-up tokoroth.
  • Determinator: Darkfur in Ghost Hunter. Oh boy.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin:
    • Before Torak can go to the Mountain of the World Spirit in Wolf Brother, he must first find the three strongest pieces of the Nanuak (a flowing life-force that every living creature has) and offer them to the World Spirit so that its anger over the demon bear's creation will dissipate enough for it to destroy the bear.
    • The Fire Opal was shattered into three pieces during the Great Fire, so each piece must be found and destroyed separately.
  • Disney Villain Death: Several characters — good and 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 the Great 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! In Outcast, 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 of Bittersweet Ending in Ghost Hunter. 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.
  • Eskimo Land: The Ice Clans of the Far North have been influenced by real-life Inuits. It was also the Chukchi people's traditional ways that gave Paver ideas for the Narwal Clan's lifestyle.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Nef the Bat Mage is devoted to the Soul Eaters' seemingly noble cause, but she hates it when Thiazzi tortures the captured predators and Torak just out of sadism.
    • The mad Red Deer Woman calling herself the Chosen One unleashes a wildfire in the Deep Forest and leaves Torak trapped to offer him to the fire. When he manages to escape and survive, the Chosen One believes that since the fire let him live, he's blessed. When he's held captive by the Deep Forest Clans who intend to kill him, the Chosen One thinks they have no right to kill the one spared by the fire, so she puts sleeping-potion in their drinks so that Renn can free Torak more easily.
  • 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 knows that if they became mates, 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 at 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 unambiguously 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 her 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.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: The Soul Eater who trapped an elemental demon inside a bear's body was unable to control the beast that went rampage across the Forest. In Soul Eater, Seshru lampshades this.
    Seshru: The mistake others made in the past was to overreach themselves. Our brother who is lost summoned an elemental and trapped it in a great bear. Of course he couldn't control it. It was a magnificent madness.
  • 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. In Viper's Daughter, the closest they come to the Edge of the World is the volcanic island in the northern sea.
    Renn: It's the edge of the world. How far does it go on? What if we fall off?
  • Foil: The female Soul Eaters Seshru and Nef. The Viper Mage is lithe and beautiful, while the heavier Bat Mage is squat and bow-legged. Seshru desires to subjugate all under her service 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 towards Torak. Seshru in turn is revealed to have abandoned Hord to join the Healers, given birth to Renn only to try to make her newborn a tokoroth, and actually managed to do that to Naiginn. Discovering her teenaged daughter years later doesn't awaken any maternal instincts in her.
  • 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 and later cuts away in Outcast, receiving a similar scar.
    • In Wolf Brother, when Fin-Kedinn tells Torak about 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.
    • 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 at the book's end, he's immediately humbled.
    • In Soul Eater, Seshru's voice reminds Wolf of Renn's voice.
    • In Soul Eater, Seshru mocks Nef when the latter defends Torak from Thiazzi's bullying, claiming that she's always eager to play the mother. The Bat Mage retorts by asking what does the Viper Mage know about mothering. 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. And later in Viper's Daughter, she's revealed to have birthed Naiginn and actually succeeded in binding a demon in her infant.
    • 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".
    • There are some hints to Naiginn's true nature as a demon before it's revealed. For example, when he says to Renn that if he could do Magecraft, he would have used it to throw Torak and Wolf off the trail. When she insists that he wouldn't have because of their mother Seshru, he snaps that yes he would have.
  • 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.
  • Had to Be Sharp: The Narwal Clan from Viper's Daughter lives northernmost in the Far North, so they raise their children in extreme strictness so that they can survive there. Because of this upbringing, they consider themselves superior to the rest of the Ice Clans, and especially to the Forest Clans (whom they call Softbellies).
  • 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 warns him about it.
    Fin-Kedinn: 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.
  • Honorable Elephant: The mammoths on the Island at the Edge of the World are not aggressive towards the heroes unless their young are involved. One bull does attack the other mammoths and Torak, but only because it's been shot with a poisoned arrow. After it's killed, the entire herd mourns for it while giving it a touching burial. When demons attempt to escape from the Otherworld onto the island, the spirits of the deceased mammoths keep them contained.
  • 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: Four of the Soul Eaters can be compared to the Four Horsemen by their personal attributes and the plots in the books they serve as primary antagonists.
    • The Crippled Wanderer (Tenris) is Pestilence (an alternative interpretation of Conquest): the sickness he created and had his tokoroths spread is the driving plot point of Spirit Walker. In addition to that, the demon bear he created runs rampage across the Forest and grows more powerful in Wolf Brother. (If the bear hadn't been killed before the zenith of the Great Auroch's red eye, it would have become invincible.) Tenris has also won complete trust of the Sea clans over the years, making him the real authority figure of the Seal Islands.
    • Thiazzi is War: not only he's the strongest man of the Forest and the most violent Soul Eater, but in Oath Breaker he drives the Deep Forest clans into warring among each other, and then he unites both sides and nearly leads them into war with the Open Forest clans.
    • Seshru is Famine: in Outcast, she causes Lake Axehead to gradually dry and grow sick with deformed and inedible fish (with only the latter being true), which are the main food source of the Otter Clan.
    • Eostra is Death: she has always been obsessed with the secrets of the dead and even resembles a corpse. In her youth she resurrected a boy, and in Ghost Hunter, she summons the spirits of the deceased Soul Eaters.
  • Human Sacrifice:
    • Discussed in Wolf Brother; the prophecy concerning the demon bear states that the Listener will give his "heart's blood" to the Mountain of the World Spirit so that the latter will destroy the bear. One interpretation of the prophecy is that Torak must be sacrificed as an offering for the Mountain. Hord in particular advocates for this alternative. The prophecy actually means that Wolf must stay at the Mountain.
    • In Soul Eater, human is one of the nine hunters the Soul Eaters intend to sacrifice to create protective charms against demons. That's why they allow Akoomik's son (whom Torak impersonates) to become their apprentice.
    • Fin-Kedinn tells that during the dark times that followed the Great Wave, clans used to sacrifice other hunters, including humans.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: While at Waigo in Viper's Daughter, Renn is given green sludge to eat. She spits it out when she's told it's ptarmigan droppings, something the Narwal men think is appropriate to feed their women with.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: In the climax of Soul Eater, Torak, controlling the body of a polar bear, has Thiazzi at his mercy and wants to kill the Soul Eater. However, Wolf's gaze convinces him to spare Thiazzi because he doesn't want to become like the Soul Eaters anymore than he already has.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Island of Mystery: The Island at the Edge of the World in Viper's Daughter. It has a volcanic terrain and is said to be guarded by the spirits of mammoths that keep demons trapped in the Otherworld. It also turns out to be the last domain of the remaining living mammoths. Seshru gave birth to Naiginn under the island's ice mountain after the Narwal Mage Marupai, the only man to have found the island, took her there, and she trapped a demon inside her infant. Since that's the only place where the masking spell of the past Viper Mage can be undone by a Mage related to Naiginn, he takes Renn there. After both Marupai and Naiginn die, Torak destroys the map to the island so that the last mammoths can live in peace without humans hunting them.
  • Kinslaying Is a Special Kind of Evil: The seventh book states that killing one's bone kin would be breaking one of the oldest laws and results in being permanently cast out. That's why Renn tells Torak that he can't kill Naiginn who's Renn's half-brother as well as the son of Torak's Evil Uncle Tenris.
  • 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:
    • Thiazzi the Oak Mage and Eostra the Eagle Owl Mage are the last living members of their respective clans, with the others having died out of sickness. It's also stated in Ghost Hunter 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.
    • The mammoths living on the Island at the Edge of the World are the last ones of their kind. In real life, the last known mammoths lived on Wrangel Island until 4,000 years ago.
  • Laughing Mad: Torak while he's suffering from soul-sickness.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Double gender flipped, and averted because Renn already knew that Seshru was her mother. Seshru and Torak didn't find out until Outcast and, oh boy, there was hell to pay.
  • Mammoths Mean Ice Age: The series takes place long after the latest ice age of the northern Europe (remembered as the Great Cold in the series), with the stories telling how the humans' ancestors drove the mammoths to extinction in their greed. The Narwal Clan in particular holds the mammoths sacred, using their bones to build their shelters and occasionally finding a frozen carcass in the ground of the Far North. The last mammoths are living on the Island at the Edge of the World (in real life, the last mammoths are known to have lived on Wrangel Island until 2500–2000 BC).
  • Man on Fire: In the backstory, Tenris survives it; Narik does not.
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The three fire opal pieces are shining red stones.
  • Nephewism:
    • After Renn and Hord's father died when Renn was seven summers old, their parternal uncle Fin-Kedinn took them in.
    • In the Narwal Clan, boys are raised by uncles instead of fathers because they don't think fathers are strict enough.
  • Non-Human Sidekick:
    • Wolf to Torak. In Outcast, he and Renn receive the ravens Rip and Rek.
    • The albino boy Dark has the white raven Ark.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. When Renn begins menstruating in Outcast, a red bar is 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.
    • Dark in Ghost Hunter. Justified since he has lived in the Mountains with the white raven Ark as his only (living) company after the Swan Clan left him to die at the age of eight.
  • No Woman's Land: The Narwal Clan from Viper's Daughter is highly oppressive of their women. The men call women "half-men", provide them with less suitable food, clothing and shelter, believe they can't be mages or archers (they think Renn is capable of Magecraft only because she has the souls of a man), and punish them violently if they think they're acting out of line. The Narwals have to buy women from other clans that aren't nearly as chauvinistic as them.
  • 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 Demons Are Different: In this setting, a demon is a deceased creature that has lost its clan-soul out of its three souls. As the result, it has no sense of right and wrong, and it hates all living things, wanting to destroy them. An elemetal is the most powerful type of demon that can be born out of something as hugely powerful as an ice river or a waterfall. Demons can also be invoked from the Otherworld and bound in living things.
  • 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.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Losing one's child too early is expectable in a stone-age Europe.
    • During Wolf Brother, Oslak and Vedna's son is killed by the demon bear.
    • The Seal Clan's leader Islinn lost his son to the sickness of Tenris three years before Spirit Walker.
    • Akoomik from the White Fox Clan lost her infant son only one month before Soul Eater.
    • Nef's son starved when the prey fled their part of the Forest. She tried to commit suicide, only to be saved by Torak's father.
    • Seshru lives longer than Hord by a year and a half.
    • In Oath Breaker, Bale's father has to send his murdered son on the Death Journey. Only a few years earlier, his younger son was killed by Tenris' sickness.
    • When the mad Red Deer woman calling herself the Chosen One was struck by lightning, her unborn child died.
    • The Mountain Clans are so used to child mortality that they don't give them names if they don't reach the age of eight years.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Wolf, of course. When he becomes a papa.
    • Among humans, Torak's father dies for him, Fin-Kedinn is hugely protective of his niece Renn (and later Torak as well to the point of fostering him), and Narrander gets to avenge his son Narik as well.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Tokoroths are demon-possessed children that are created as underlings of evil mages. Young enough children are trapped in darkness and isolation for months until they become Empty Shells, after which demons are conjured and trapped inside the children. Renn was birthed by Seshru for this purpose only, but Saeunn saved the baby in time. Seshru nonetheless got her wish after giving birth to Naiginn, and thanks to her masking spell, he's a rare example of a grown-up tokoroth.
  • Power Tattoo: In Soul Eater, Renn gets lightning bolt tattoos on her arms to protect her against evil.
  • 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 Ghost Hunter, Eostra wields a three-pronged spear which she uses to capture other creatures' souls.
  • Prophet Eyes: The girl half of the Otter Mage.
  • Raised as a Host: It's revealed in the fourth book that Seshru gave birth to Renn only in order to create a tokoroth out of the newborn. Fortunately, Saeunn rescued the baby in time. Unfortunately, Seshru went on to give birth to Naiginn, and no one stopped her from trapping an ice demon in him.
  • Red Herring: Torak's ability to spirit walk is this in Ghost Hunter. 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 once per book.
  • The Rival: Bale. Until he dies. Though, really, Torak forgives him super-fast.
  • Running Both Sides: In book 5, Thiazzi the Oak Mage has killed the Forest Horse Clan's mage and become the new mage (or impersonated the old one), riling up the clan against the Auroch Clan to start a clan war. Renn goes to reveal this to the Auroch Mage, only to find out that Thiazzi is the Auroch Mage as well.
  • Running Gag: No one can stomach the mash that the Otter Clan makes. Except Bale.
  • Secret Test of Character: Near the end of Wolf Brother, Fin-Kedinn reveals that he wanted to see if Torak can use his head after learning the identity of the boy's father. That's why he proclaimed that the boy shall be killed, leading him to dueling with Hord. He also left Torak under not-so-heavy guard and allowed 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.
  • A Storm Is Coming: At the ending of Viper's Daughter, the characters see signs that a specially bad winter will come up, foreshadowing the setting of Skin Taker.
  • 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.
  • Third-Person Person: The Walker, Eostra (though only in Ghost Hunter) and the pyromaniacal Red Deer woman from Oath Breaker.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: In Oath Breaker, Thiazzi impersonates the Wild Horse Mage and the Auroch Mage.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Torak, Bale and Renn in Spirit Walker, Outcast, and then a little in Oath Breaker. It doesn't end well…
  • The Unreveal: 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 whom even the rest of them fear — comes close enough to qualify as well.
  • Villainous Legacy: Even after the villains have been killed, their evil actions leave marks that are regularly referred to. For example, the plot of Viper's Daughter is driven by Naiginn, the demon-possessed son of Seshru and Tenris (who are both long dead at this point), trying to make Renn break the masking spell which their mother cast on him and can only be broken by a Mage related to Seshru.
  • 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!
    • Viper's Daughter:
      Naiginn: What do you call a tokoroth when it grows up?
      Renn: That's never happened.
      Naiginn: But what if it did? And what if, instead of a tokoroth — instead of some feeble little demon trapped in the worthless flesh of a childwhat if you found yourself face to face with an all-powerful ice demon in the body of a grown man? What would you call that, sister? Me.
  • 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.
  • What Would X Do?: When Renn is brought to the Island at the Edge of the World by Naiginn, she finds herself asking what would their mother Seshru do. Renn ends up lying to Naiginn like Seshru would.
  • World of Ham: When the four remaining Soul Eaters were gathered together in Soul Eater, they were this trope. Except Nef.
  • Wrecked Weapon: When Thiazzi captures Renn in Oath Breaker, he snaps her beloved bow in two. Since Fin-Kedinn made it for her and he was badly injured the last time she saw him, she takes it as an omen of his death. She's wrong.

Alternative Title(s): Chronicles Of Ancient Darkness

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