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Literature / The Wolf Chronicles

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What is the promise of the wolf?
Never consort with humans.
Never kill a human unprovoked.
Never allow a mixed-blood wolf to live.
The Wolf Chronicles is a trilogy by Dorothy Hearst, consisting of the books Promise of the Wolves (2008), Secrets of the Wolves (2011), and Spirit of the Wolves (2014). The author has also written a few short tie-ins on Wattpad: The Huntsman's Vow, which is from DavRian's point of view and takes place during the second book; The Wolf Pit, which takes place immediately after the end of the second book; and The Atonement of Clendru, a prequel about a ghostly character that appears in the third book.

14,000 years ago, the promise mentioned above is what the wolves of the Wide Valley believe. Many thousands of years before their time, however, wolves and humans formed a bond with each other, and this changed them. The Ancients nearly killed both species, until the wolves made the promise.

Young wolf Kaala is a mixed-blood wolf, with her mother having taken a mate from outside the Valley. Her littermates are killed because of their birth, but her life is spared by a pair of Greatwolves - a large species of wolves that enforces the rules of the valley and speak to the Ancients.

Kaala's mother is banished from the Valley as punishment, and so Kaala must find her own way in the pack, growing up with the leaders' pups and trying to be accepted by the leaders. As she grows, she proves to be a strong, capable wolf, but in addition to her mixed blood they are uncertain about her because she was born with a crescent-moon-shaped mark on her chest, signifying that she is either very good or very bad luck.

Kaala does her best to be accepted by the pack, but as she learns about the humans, she feels drawn to them... With her adopted littermates Marra and Ázzuen, and a feisty raven named Tlitoo, Kaala begins to learn that perhaps wolves and humans being apart isn't the best way to go, and that perhaps the Greatwolves have some secrets of their own...

This trilogy provides examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: In the third book, DavRian poisons some meat with gallin leaf in an attempt to kill the wolves, but instead it is eaten by the child JaliMin (who was used to being brought food by the wolves), resulting in the boy's death. This gives DavRian the idea to intentionally kill others and place the blame on the wolves.
  • Action Prologue: Book 2 opens with Kaala and her friends running from the Greatwolves for an initially unexplained reason.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Kaala's pack and her ancestor Lydda occasionally call her "Kaala Smallteeth", and Tlitoo usually calls her "wolflet".
  • After Action Patch Up: TaLi heals Rissa and Pell after the almost-battle and elkryn stampede at the end of the first book.
  • Almost Dead Guy: In the second book, Trevegg lives long enough to tell Kaala what happened to him and NiaLi.
  • Alternate Animal Affection: Wolves tend to show affection to a mate or family member by resting their head on the other's neck. They'll also exuberantly greet packmates, including their human companions, by licking them.
  • Alternative Calendar: Wolves measure time in moons instead of months, and winters instead of years. Interestingly they still use hours and minutes (e.g. "a half hour's run away", "we'll be there for ten minutes").
  • Always Second Best:
    • According to Yllin, Ruuqo always felt that he was this compared to his brother, Hiiln - even his name means "second son" - so he's somewhat insecure despite being pack leader.
    • Neesa felt like this compared to Rissa, and this was one of the reasons she intended to leave the pack as a youngwolf.
  • Ancient Keeper: The old raven, Hzralzu, who happens to be a shapeshifter who can appear as a human, an old krianan named RalZun. He was the raven king in Indru's time, and Nejakilakin, and has remained alive in the thousands of years since.
  • Animal Talk: All animals have their own language, but as they're all based on Oldspeak, they're all similar enough that they can understand each other. Wolves can also understand humans for this reason, but humans cannot understand animals (aside from the rare few that Speak Fluent Animal.)
  • Apologetic Attacker: When Ruuqo kills Kaala's littermates and is about to kill her, he apologizes to her and says that he is only doing his duty and what is right for his pack.
  • Arranged Marriage: TaLi's tribe leader and aunt/caretaker want her to marry DavRian, because he can bring more expensive gifts and because he does not believe that the tribes should listen to krianans and follow the old ways anymore, even though TaLi wants to marry BreLan.
  • Ascended Fanboy: The Vole Eater pups, Prannan and Amma, are in awe of Kaala and what they have heard about her keeping the Promise. They end up helping her out and joining her "pack".
  • Asleep for Days: Kaala usually sleeps for a full day or two after visiting the Inejalun, even if she was only there for a few moments. It is not a place for living wolves.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: The pack leaders are generally the best fighters of the pack, since they must be able to withstand direct challenges to their leadership (which are typically done by fighting). One big reason that the packs cannot defy the Greatwolves is because the Greatwolves are so much bigger and impossible for a normal wolf to defeat in battle.
  • Ax-Crazy: DavRian eventually becomes this, killing several people in the village of Kaar and then setting a fire that kills most of the remaining village, just so that he can blame the wolves, TaLi, and BreLan.
  • Badass Boast: In the third book: "I am the drelwolf. We are the Nejakilakin."
  • Bears Are Bad News: The wolves tend to avoid bears because they're dangerous, but they aren't above stealing prey from them (especially young ones).
  • Berserk Button:
    • For Kaala, it's TaLi being threatened.
    • Ázzuen gets pissed when another male wolf asks Kaala to be his mate.
  • Betty and Veronica: Ázzuen is the Betty, Pell is the Veronica. Kaala eventually chooses Ázzuen.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Ravens are often known to be tricksters who love jokes and who often can't be taken seriously. In the third book they show just how dangerous they are when a flock of them tears a pack of Greatwolves to shreds.
  • Bird-Poop Gag: In the first book, after Borlla taunts Kaala, Tlitoo lets loose on Borlla's head, complete with an accompanying haiku:
    Pup looks better now.
    Dirty fur is nice and white,
    Thanks to raven's help.
  • Birthmark of Destiny: Kaala and Tlitoo both have the mark of the crescent moon on them. Kaala is the current Moonwolf and Tlitoo is the current Nejakilakin raven; they will destroy or save their respective clans. Lydda, Kaala's ancestor, also was marked with the crescent moon.
  • Bitch Alert: The first thing Borlla does upon meeting Kaala is poke her painfully hard and comment to Unnan that it doesn't look like "it" will live long.
  • Break the Haughty: Reel's death does this to Borlla. Being kept as a slave by the Greatwolves, and thinking her family didn't try to find her, breaks her further.
  • Breeding Slave: In the second book, Kaala discovers that when Borlla had vanished in the first book, she had not died as her packmates thought, but instead was being kept as a slave by the Greatwolves to breed with so that the Greatwolves don't become too inbred. A few other young wolves, including males, are also being kept by them for the same purpose.
  • The Bully: Minn (according to Kaala, since he helped drive away her mother, though we don't really see him behaving that way), Unnan, Borlla, and to a lesser extent Reel (although Kaala admits that he seems like a decent wolf on his own without Unnan and Borlla around).
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Dogs/Wolfdogs are "streckwolves".
  • Call-Forward: Toward the start of the first book, Tlitoo tells Kaala that he has heard the Greatwolves say she is not a true wolf, and that she is more and less than wolf. It could be a hint about her being a wolf of destiny, but also a reference to the third book and the reveal that she is a wolfdog.
  • Canis Major: The Greatwolves are almost twice as large as a regular wolf and live much longer as well. They may be a reference to the prehistoric dire wolves, if not a fictional version of the real animal. However, the book is set in Europe, and dire wolves only ever lived in the Americas.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The stampeding herd in the first book. Earlier in the book, Kaala and the other pups accidentally cause the horses to stampede, and this results in Reel's death. Toward the end, in an effort to try and keep the humans and wolves from fighting during the elkryn hunt, she, Marra, and Ázzuen remember how unstoppable a stampede is and intentionally cause one.
    • Torell's aurochs-hunting method in the second book - enraging them to the point that they stop thinking rationally and get clumsy - comes in handy later when they use it against Greatwolves.
  • Child Hater: Werrna is mentioned as not having much patience with pups and being the only one who doesn't play with them. A possible reason for that is revealed in the second book: she once had a mate, but he was killed.
  • Clever Crows: Ravens are tricksters. When they're being especially mischievous, they tend to speak in haiku.
  • Cool Big Sis: Yllin, one of the yearlings, is this to her younger siblings and Kaala. While Minn remains aloof, Yllin plays with the pups and supports them. One of her notable moments was when the pack was taking the pups to their summer gathering place and Kaala felt like she couldn't go on much farther, and Yllin defied Ruuqo's orders by going over to Kaala and whispering encouragement in her ears: calling her "sister" and saying that she'll need a secondwolf when she eventually becomes pack leader.
  • Cool Old Guy: Trevegg, the oldest wolf in the pack, who is always friendly to the pups and serves as a mentor to them.
  • Covered with Scars: Werrna is mentioned as being very scarred and a strong warrior. Torell is also described as his face basically being one big scar.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: DavRian is willing to go as far as murdering a whole village to place the blame on TaLi and the wolves in order to get revenge on TaLi for rejecting him and choosing BreLan.
  • Crisis of Faith: Essentially what's going on in the human village. Half still want to follow the old ways, half do not and believe they should no longer have krianans (or if they do, they should be krianans in name only who do not care about the Balance).
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: In the third book, Milsindra, Kivdru, and the other Greatwolves. They're literally torn to pieces by the ravens.
  • Dead Guy Junior:
    • Ázzuen is named for his grandfather, Rissa's father.
    • Tlitoo is named for his ancestor, Tlitookilalin.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Kaala's conversations with Lydda and Indru, and also her and Neesa's discussions with the shadow wolf.
  • Death of a Child:
    • In the first chapter Kaala witnesses the deaths of her siblings and is nearly killed herself.
    • In the middle of the first book, Reel is trampled by horses.
    • Toward the end of the the third book, the human child JaliMin is accidentally poisoned by DavRian.
  • Debt Detester: Borlla hates Kaala and doesn't want to help her at all, but she reluctantly tells Kaala about the Greatwolves because Kaala helped her - Borlla even points out herself that she wouldn't have done it otherwise.
  • Defiant to the End: Even as a tiny pup, Kaala vowed to not go down without a fight.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: Happens in the wolf packs sometimes. At one point when Ázzuen disobeys Ruuqo he has to feed himself on smallprey because he knows Ruuqo won't let him eat much of the pack's kills for a while.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Kaala runs into them several times, but the biggest is toward the end of the third book, when she and the other wolves have failed in the Promise and the Kaar village has burned to the ground, and RalZun and HesMi, among others, are dead.
  • Didn't See That Coming: The climax of Promise of the Wolves turns around one of these: the characters were so focused on the coming battle between the wolves and humans that nobody noticed the elkryn were also planning something. In retrospect, they should have: the humans had been hunting more and more elkryn since settling, and the wolves hadn't been letting up either. It was only a matter of time before they were backed into a corner and lashed out.
  • Disappeared Dad: Kaala's father is not present, as he not only is from outside the pack, but outside the Valley altogether.
  • Distant Finale: The epilogue of the third book takes place in the future (over 14,000 years after the events of the story).
  • Distant Prologue: The prologue of the first book takes place 26,000 years prior to the events of the story.
  • Don't Wake the Sleeper: Kaala sneaks up on the sleeping Greatwolves during their dream-sage ceremony, intending to try and share the dreams of one. She accidentally slips and wakes Zorindru, who instead of alerting the others merely looks at her, smiles, and goes back to sleep. Kivdru also wakes up later, but due to Kaala hiding her scent with uijin and the fact that he is still under the effects of the dream-sage, he thinks that she's simply part of his dream.
  • Downer Ending: The most frequent complaint about the third book. The wolves fail in the Promise, leaving it up to the streckwolves to succeed where they failed; most of the Kaar village is dead; DavRian makes it to the Laan village before Kaala and friends do, making them turn against the krianans, TaLi, and the wolves; Kaala dies. In the Distant Finale, the ice caps have melted and polar bears and other creatures are extinct, and the world is hot and desertlike.
  • Dream Spying: In the second book, Kaala learns that she can do this with the help of Tlitoo. She does it to TaLi, Ázzuen, and Ruuqo, and attempts it with Kivdru.
  • Ear Notch: Frallin, the secondwolf of the Tree Line pack, has one, which he got protecting his pack's pups from a bear.
  • Excessive Mourning: Borlla after Reel's death. While the others are sad for a while, she only eats very little afterward and just spends her days going out to the spot where he died, and after being brought back (sometimes forcefully) just sitting around grieving until she gets a chance to slip away again.
  • The Exile: Kaala is briefly exiled from her pack in the first book.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: At one point someone says something to the effect of "this is the wolf we've heard so much about?"
  • Extinct in the Future: In the Distant Finale epilogue of the third book, it is mentioned that the ice caps have melted and polar bears have gone extinct.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: In the third book, the deaths of Milsindra and the rest of her group of Greatwolves. When the ravens are done with them, the narration mentions that all that's left of them is basically shreds of fur, blood, and scraps of flesh.
  • Fantastic Drug: Dream sage, which causes hallucinations. Greatwolves use it in what is essentially a religious ritual, and DavRian chews it too and TaLi scornfully tells the Kaar village that he does so in order to discredit one of his claims.
  • Fantastic Measurement System: Distance is measured in wolflengths, but for some reason the wolves understand terms like minutes and hours (at a time in history when even humans didn't have clocks!).
  • Fantastic Naming Convention: Both wolves and humans have name patterns. Normal wolves' names have a double letter in them - Kaala, Rissa, Trevegg, etc. Greatwolves' names end in -dru or -dra (Frandra, Zorindru, etc), which according to the author is an homage to their ancestor, Indru. Humans have compound names such as TaLi and MikLan; the last half signifies their gender and which tribe they are from (for example, TaLi's tribe is the Lin tribe, so all males have the ending "Lin" and all females have the ending "Li").
  • Fantasy Pantheon: Sort of a combination of Nature Spirit/Anthropomorphic Personification and The Lifestream: the wolves (and humans, at least the krianans) worship the Ancients - Sun, Moon, Earth, and Sky - who are said to have created all creatures as well as the Balance, which connects all living things. They are said in legends to have spoken to Indru, and as seen in The Atonement of Clendru they used to speak to the Greatwolves as well.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: In the second book, Kaala has a chance to kill DavRian, the human who's been nothing but trouble and a danger to the wolves for the whole book: he'd fallen down a hill and gotten pinned by debris on the edge of a cliff, and all Kaala would need to do is push him and Make It Look Like an Accident. When the opportunity is offered, she refuses because it would go against the Promise and it's just wrong. He repays her by killing TaLi's grandmother and framing the wolves for it.
  • Fictionary: The wolves' and humans' language. There's a common, universal language that all others are based on, and that's how the wolves understand the humans (though not vice-versa); Ruuqo and Rissa insisted they be taught it.
    • Some of the wolf words include their names ("Kaala" means "Daughter of the Moon", her brother Triell was named for the dark of a moonless night and sisters Onna, Tannla, and Suuna were named for flowers, and "Ruuqo" means "second son"), romma (the mark of pack acceptance), ilshik ("wolf killer"), drelshik ("cursed wolf"), drelshan ("savior wolf"), streck (weak prey that doesn't even fight for life), and greslin (the tastiest, best parts from a kill).
    • Two of the human words are krianan, which basically means "shaman", and uijin, the name of a mixture that hides scent. The short story "The Wolf Pit" also adds grattil, which Kaala doesn't know the meaning of, but it seems to be a curse or derogatory adjective.
  • First-Person Perspective: The series is told as Kaala speaking to the reader.
  • Forbidden Friendship: Kaala and TaLi in the first book.
  • Forgets to Eat: Borlla, after Reel's death.
  • Freakiness Shame: Kaala feels this at times in the third book about her ability to travel to the spirit world with Tlitoo.
  • Freudian Trio: Kaala/Ázzuen/Marra. Kaala is the Id, with her temper and impulsive behavior, Ázzuen is the Superego, often pointing out the problems with her ideas, and Marra is the Ego, balancing them out (especially when it comes to pack dynamics).
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: "Mixed-blood wolves" - those with a parent from outside the valley - are not allowed to live because they're considered dangerous and unstable: some break the covenant of the Valley by either by being completely drawn to humans or compelled to kill them, and some just go mad. Kaala faces some discrimination, particularly from Unnan, Borlla, and Ruuqo, because of this.
  • Happily Adopted: Kaala is treated like a daughter by her aunt Rissa. (Not so much by Ruuqo.)
  • Healing Herb: TaLi often uses them, as she was trained to be a healer.
  • The Hero Dies: At the end of the third book, Kaala is weakened by traveling to the Inejalun four times in a row, but insists upon doing it one more time so that she can speak to TaLi. This proves to be too many times, and she realizes that she cannot return.
  • Humans Are Bastards: They frequently get too strong and try to control everything. The "paradox" between wolves and humans is that the wolves are drawn to the humans and want to be with them - and they must in order to fulfill the Promise - but that humans dislike the wolves' wild nature and often end up killing them eventually out of fear if they cannot domesticate them/rid the wolves of said wildness.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When the pups first get fresh meat and Kaala unintentionally becomes aggressive, Yllin speaks to Kaala about how she must fight for what's hers but not become a bully, and says that a leader cannot let anger and greed overcome her. Kaala points out Yllin's hypocrisy in the narration:
    Yllin's argument would have been more convincing if she had not growled so ferociously at me earlier, and if she did not immediately trot over to the carcass, bite Minn on the leg, and take his place.
  • I Can't Feel My Legs!: Said by Navdru when Kaala brings him to the Inejalun in the third book, although it doesn't mean he's paralyzed, it's just a sign of how the place sucks life out of the living wolves who travel there.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Ruuqo says this about killing Kaala's littermates.
  • Idiot Ball: One scene in the third book. Okay, so we need to gain the humans' trust especially since DavRian is trying to convince them we're killers/supernatural/etc and things are particularly tense at the moment. Sounds like a perfect time to pretend we're ghosts! Never mind that Ázzuen is pointing out that that's the exact opposite of what we need and that he tends to be right about such things; it'll be fun, and the humans will think that's hilarious!. Naturally, this ends about as poorly as one might expect.
  • Informed Attribute: Minn is frequently referred to as a bully - not only by Kaala but other characters like Minn's littermate Demmen as well - but we don't really see him actually doing anything bully-like aside from helping Ruuqo chase away Kaala's mother at the start of the first book, which some other wolves do too, and laughing at something Kaala says once.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Borlla refers to Kaala as "it" when Kaala is first taken in by Swift River.
  • It's All My Fault: Kaala after Reel's death, even though she knows he might not have survived anyway. Trevegg points out that Rissa does not let grief get in the way of her duties, and that they should be grateful that the rest of the pups still live since other packs rarely can keep so many alive, and that some of the other pups would certainly have died without Kaala's intervention.
  • I Was Named "My Name": Played with. Kaala's name is wolf-speak for "Daughter of the Moon". Her human friend names her Silvermoon, and Kaala is pleased that it's so close. It's a minor case of Fridge Brilliance: Kaala has a birthmark on her pelt in the rough shape of a crescent moon, and that was how her mother chose her name when she was born. It makes sense that TaLi would also see it and think the same way.
  • Jerk Justifications: Ruuqo is a Jerkass to Kaala and makes it clear that he only allowed her to live as a pup because the Greatwolves made him, and the only reason he's not directly driving her away is because the pack would turn on him. This is because he thinks it's wrong for her, as a mixed-blood wolf, to have lived despite the Greatwolves' orders, and because she bears the mark of the crescent moon, which means that she has a chance of bringing bad luck to and destroying the pack. Her inadvertently causing the death of another pup, who happens to be his son, doesn't help either. He also refuses to let her join in the hunt, one of the requirements to become a full pack member, because if she does become a full member and it turns out she is indeed bad luck, she will carry the Swift River scent with her wherever she goes.
  • Kid Hero: The series begins when Kaala is just a small pup.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Borlla, Unnan, and Reel, as pups, taunt the weaker pups, try to keep them away from food, and even once attempt to directly kill them.
  • Kill on Sight: When Kaala is (temporarily) exiled from her pack in the first book, Ruuqo informs her that if she's found in the territory after that, she'll be killed on sight.
  • Legacy Character: The ravens have a special raven called the Nejakilakin that is born whenever there is need, who can travel between life and death and can see the memories of others. Likewise, whenever there's a Nejakilakin, there's also a Moonwolf - a wolf with the mark of the crescent moon. Nejakilakin can travel in the spirit world alone, but he cannot view memories without Moonwolf, and Moonwolf cannot go into the spirit world without Nejakilakin. Tlitoo is the current Nejakilakin, and Kaala is the current Moonwolf though later they learn that "Nejakilakin" actually refers to both of them together, working as one soul.
  • Letter Motif:
    • All regular wolves' names have a double letter in them - Kaala, Rissa, Trevegg, Ázzuen, etc - but the Greatwolves' names, however, do not. (Their names, actually, end in either "-dru" or "-dra" as an homage to their ancestor Indru.)
    • Also, all humans have compound names such as TaLi and MikLan; the last half signifies their gender and which tribe they are from (for example, TaLi's tribe is the Lin tribe, so all males have the ending "Lin" and all females have the ending "Li").
  • The Lifestream: The Balance. It is said to connect all living things, and when a creature dies they are said to have returned to the Balance.
  • Life Will Kill You: Mentioned by Kaala in the third book. She can't believe that after Hzralzu has been alive for tens of thousands of years, he's died in something as ordinary as a fire.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Kaala thinks Milsindra is trying to do this when the Greatwolf drives a rhino toward her. She's actually driving it to Kaar village.
  • Malicious Misnaming: The ravens refer to the Greatwolves by names such as "Grumpwolves" and "Greatworms".
  • Mark of the Supernatural: Kaala visits the spirit world in the second book and meets Indru himself, noting that he has strange silver eyes. He shows her a memory of him first making the Promise, and he has yellow eyes in the memory; therefore, silver eyes represents the spirit world.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: In the second book, Trevegg and NiaLi are both killed.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: The books are set in Europe, yet feature dire wolves and Smilodon, animals that only ever lived in the Americas.
  • Moment Killer: Pell tries to convince Kaala that they should be mates and that now's their best chance... Kaala finds herself drawn to him and getting excited... and then the Vole Eater youngwolves burst in to ask to join Kaala's pack.
  • Mooning: Kaala occasionally mentions turning away from someone and lifting her tail to show her rear as a sign of contempt.
  • Morality Pet: Reel is one for Borlla. While normally she looks down upon weakness and is perfectly content with bullying Kaala, Ázzuen, and Marra (and even tried killing some of them), she only shows kindness to her weaker sibling Reel, protecting and helping him.
  • Mysterious Parent: Kaala knows nothing of her father except that he was from outside the Valley. She later learns that her father is Gaanin, a streckwolf (wolfdog). Her mother, after dreaming of having pups that would save wolfkind, mated with him in the hope that the pups with his genes would be the ones. He hoped the same thing, but had had many other pups for the same reason, and viewed it as more of an experiment than having any emotional attachment.
  • Naked People Are Funny: The wolves laugh when Trevegg describes humans as "half-naked" compared to animals fully covered with fur.
  • Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom: Long-fang names are a bit like this - for instance "Fierce Hunter of the Golden Plains" (aka "Gold"), a cub.
  • Naming Ceremony: There is a small naming ceremony when pups are named, and this signifies that the pack is pledged to protect the pup: if a pup is not expected to survive, it might not be given a name until later, if at all. Ázzuen is one such example: he was the only one of his litter to not receive a name, but he is given one later: the name of his grandfather, who was a great warrior.
  • Never Found the Body: Halfway through the first book, Borlla vanishes and her scent trail disappears just as abruptly. The pack assumes that a predator of some sort has gotten her even though they cannot smell any other creature there. In the second book, Kaala discovers that Borlla was taken away to be made a Breeding Slave by the Greatwolves.
  • Nice Guy: Ázzuen is generally friendly to all.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Kaala is shocked the first time Ázzuen is genuinely angry at her.
  • Pair the Spares: After Kaala and Ázzuen decide to be mates, Pell and Marra end up together.
  • Please Wake Up: Borlla doesn't understand at first that Reel is dead, shoving him and impatiently telling him to get up as the pack realizes what has happened and begins to grieve.
  • Precision F-Strike: Unnan calling Kaala ilshik, or "wolf-killer", is basically treated like the ultimate swear/insult.
  • Prequel: The "Atonement of Clendru" short story, which is about a Greatwolf in Lydda's time that becomes the shadow wolf in the third book.
  • The Promise: Tens of thousands of years ago, a wolf named Indru made a promise with the Ancients. The wolves of the Wide Valley initially believe that it is what is listed on the top of the page: that they must not consort with or kill humans, and that they cannot allow a mixed-blood wolf to live. In reality, the promise is that wolves would not come into contact with humans, but that they would still guide humans, in order to keep the Balance. As Kaala grows older and learns more about herself and the Greatwolves, this promise is called into question many times.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Zorindru, compared to the other Greatwolves. For instance in the first book while the other Greatwolves are eager to pass judgement on the smallwolves and don't believe it's possible to stop the battle between the wolves and humans, Zorindru is willing to give Kaala a chance to try.
    • Sonnen, the leader of Tree Line, is considered to be more reasonable than the other pack leaders.
    • HesMi of Kaar is the more reasonable of the leaders, willing to accept new ideas and different sides of the story.
  • Red Riding Hood Replica: In the second book, a situation is inspired by Little Red Riding Hood. The girl TaLi frequently visits and brings food to her grandmother, who lives alone in the woods, and they have a connection to wolves due to being the krianans of their people. TaLi's wannabe love interest, DavRian, is a hunter who represents the huntsman of the tale. He ends up murdering both the grandmother and the wolf protecting her.
  • The Resenter: Ruuqo resents the fact that he must keep Kaala in the pack since the Greatwolves saving her undermined his authority and he believes her to be bad luck/dangerous, but throwing her out would make his pack turn on him.
  • The Reveal: Toward the end of the second book, Indru reveals to Kaala that the smallwolves, not the Greatwolves, are supposed to be the ones watching and guiding humans.
  • Rite of Passage: Pups must pass several tests - the crossing to their summer home, the first hunt, and the first winter - in order to be fully accepted into the pack.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Kaala does this a lot, such as when she first saves TaLi from drowning despite not being allowed to associate with humans in any way.
  • Secret Test of Character: Yllin tells Kaala that sometimes the leaderwolves will help a pup through the tests because they don't like to see pups die, but that they might deny any help if they wish to challenge a pup and test their strength. Ruuqo did this with Kaala during the crossing, and Rissa, Werrna, and Yllin did it for the pups at the river.
  • Settle for Sibling: Rissa was originally going to be mates with Hiiln, and the two would lead the pack. When Hiiln was banished, it was up to Ruuqo to lead, so Rissa became Ruuqo's mate instead. He'd always had strong feelings for her even before his brother left, and Rissa grew to love him as well. Hiiln then settled for Rissa's sibling, Neesa.
  • Shipper on Deck: Lallna ships Pell and Kaala, although she later gets some Ship Tease with Pell herself.
  • Shout-Out: According to the author, NiaLi and Trevegg's deaths are a shout-out to Little Red Riding Hood: NiaLi is the grandmother that gets killed, and Trevegg is the wolf that gets killed by the huntsman.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Unnan, Borlla, and Reel vs Ázzuen, Marra, and adopted sibling Kaala.
  • Sickly Child Grew Up Strong: Ázzuen started off as one of the two runts of his litter; he was initially not named since he was not expected to survive, and had in fact given up on life when Kaala, as a smallpup, made him keep going. He later grew up to be much larger and stronger, the second most dominant pup after Kaala.
  • Slashed Throat: How DavRian kills NiaLi and some of the Kaar villagers.
  • Sliding Scale of Animal Cast: Level 3: Animal Cast With Humans As Minor Characters.
  • Sliding Scale of Animal Communication: Type 5. Each species has their own language but can understand each other well enough, and animals can understand humans, but only a rare couple humans can understand animals.
  • The Smart Guy: Ázzuen is noted to be one of the smartest wolves in the valley.
  • Sneaky Departure: Kaala often snuck away to visit TaLi, and once to see the Speaking between the krianans and Greatwolves. Borlla also snuck away frequently to sit at the spot where Reel died.
  • Snow Means Death: There are a lot of comments about the pups' ability to make it through their first winter, since if they are not strong, they will not survive the winter.
  • Somewhere, a Mammalogist Is Crying: The wolves often treat each other (and especially cubs) very cruelly compared to reality. Kaala takes Azzuen, her cousin, as a mate (in reality wolves avoid inbreeding whenever possible). Animals like dire wolves and Smilodon, which only ever lived in the Americas, turn up in Europe.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: NiaLi. It is mentioned that all krianans used to be able to speak to animals, but that ability has been lost, with TaLi being the last.
  • Spirit Advisor: Lydda is one to Kaala.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: The human tribes are starting to prevent women from hunting (which Kaala thinks is completely illogical since they're cutting their hunting force in half, and which isn't explained until the third book; the reasoning is that some of the men feel that women are inferior because they're not as strong).
  • Stellar Name: Kaala's name is wolf-speak for "Daughter of the Moon", and TaLi names her Silvermoon.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: Ravens often speak in haiku.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Kaala wants to find TaLi in the human camp for the first time, Tlitoo distracts the rest of the tribe, at one point squawking a loud haiku: "Look up, look up, look! Watch the raven fly over. There is no wolf nearby." The humans cannot understand him, however.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: There's a moment where Kaala notices how DavRian looks sad and lonely when seeing TaLi and BreLan happy together, and she sympathizes with him since she knows what it's like to be totally alone. With the look that crosses his face next, however, she reminds herself that he's alone because he's a hateful person, not the other way around.
  • Take a Third Option: At the end of the first book, rather than trying to stop the wolves from attacking or trying to warn the humans - neither of which will likely work - Kaala decides to cause the elkryn to stampede.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: The third book reveals that Kaala is a wolfdog. This comes as a surprise, as she has been mocking them for much of the book.
  • Truce Zone: Passage to the human camp is considered neutral territory. There are also spaces between territories that they call the "verge" that belongs to no pack, and this is where Gatherings of the packs are held.
  • Trust Password: Demmen tells Kaala the things that her mother told him, so that she would know that his message is indeed from her mother:
    "As for whether or not I speak the truth, I can tell you what your mother told me, Kaala," Demmen said. "Your sisters' names were Onna, Tannla, and Suuna, after the flowers that grew near your den site, and your brother was Triell. You and he were especially close, and you challenged Ruuqo over his death. When your mother left the valley she told you to gain acceptance into your pack before you came to seek her."
  • Will They or Won't They?: Kaala and Ázzuen, also a bit of Kaala and Pell. Kaala eventually chooses Ázzuen as her mate, but they're not ready to have pups just yet.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Kaala says that wolves hate seeing pups come to harm and that they'd rather chew off their own paws than hurt a pup, but in order to follow the rules of the Promise any mixed-blood pups cannot live. Ruuqo kills her siblings in front of her, and nearly kills her, but Kaala said he was only doing his duty (which doesn't mean she doesn't resent him for it).
  • Xenofiction: The series is told from the point of view of wolves, and includes mostly-factual information about wolves' lifecycle. Humans are viewed through their eyes as strange creatures, and the wolves' biggest concern is survival and raising future pups.
  • The X of Y: Each of the book names: Promise of the Wolves, Secrets of the Wolves, and Spirit of the Wolves. Also the short story The Atonement of Clendru.
  • You Are Number 6: Ruuqo's name is wolf-speak for "second son", and this ties into his insecurities about the strength of his leadership: originally his brother was meant to lead the pack.
  • You Are the Translated Foreign Word: Kaala is frequently referred to by different characters as the drelshik - "cursed wolf"/"the destroyer", the drelshan - "savior wolf", and the drelwolf - "wolf of legend" (potentially either/both drelshik/drelshan).