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Spirit Walker: Chronicles of Ancient Darkness #2    by Michelle Paver order for
Spirit Walker
by Michelle Paver
Order:  USA  Can
Katherine Tegen, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Spirit Walker follows Wolf Brother as the second book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, set in the early days of humankind. Torak grew up in the Forest with his father, away from the clans of their kin. He later learned that his father had powerful enemies - seven Soul-Eaters, each from a different clan and each 'warped by his hunger for power' - and that it was his destiny to fight them.

In the first episode, Torak's father was killed by a demon-possessed creature in the form of a huge bear. Keeping the promise he made as his father lay dying, Torak journeyed to the Mountain of the World Spirit, in a race against time to defeat this evil creature before it slaughtered all the clans. Along the way, he gained as close companion a young wolf, who thought of him as Tall Tailless, and also won the friendship of Renn of the Raven Clan. But Torak was devastated when Wolf left him for his own kind.

As Spirit Walker opens, Torak lives with Renn's people. A dreadful sickness begins to strike clan members, one that leads to madness and often to suicide. When Oslak (who had taken Torak in to his own shelter) dies and the Clan Mage has no cure, Torak feels bound to seek one and leaves suddenly to ask for help from his mother's clan, the people of the Deep Forest. He faces many dangers, is aided and later attacked by a boar, and followed by a Soul-Eater's minion, a tokoroth, but eventually learns that answers are to be found 'by the Sea'.

While this goes on, Wolf misses Tall Tailless and, realizing that his pack-brother needs him, sets off on his trail. So does Renn. They catch up with Torak in the Seal Islands, where he's been taken by distrustful Seal Clan boys (kinfolk on his father's side) in their fragile skinboats. Torak warms to the Seal Clan Mage, Tenris, who agrees to help him find a cure. When the tokoroth (who followed him to the islands) attack again, Torak discovers a new ability, that of spirit walking. He doesn't want it, but someone else does and is willing to kill for it.

There's a shocking betrayal, and a perilous confrontation with a Soul-Eater. Luckily, Wolf and Renn have Torak's back, while a black-finned Hunter takes revenge. Torak learns more about his father's past, while Wolf works out his purpose in life. Though it wasn't as fast-paced as the first book, I enjoyed Spirit Walker very much and look forward to the third in the series, Soul Eater.

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