Promise of the Wolves (Wolf Chronicles 1) by Dorothy Hearst

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Promise of the Wolves (Wolf Chronicles 1) by Dorothy Hearst

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: An absorbing and fascinating creation myth novel along the lines of Watership Down, but set among wolves and early humans 14,000 years ago. Highly recommended for ancient history fans and all those who like a good anthropomorphic animal epic.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: July 2008
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 1847373275

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Never consort with humans. Never kill a human unprovoked. Never allow a mixed blood wolf to live.

The is the wolf's covenant. So when the Greatwolves prevent pack leader Ruuquo from killing Kaala, a young puppy born in a forbidden, mixed blood litter, it causes shockwaves and consternation throughout the pack. To make matters worse, Kaala has a crescent moon of white fur on her chest. A wolf with such a crescent, it is prophesied, will some day either save or destroy her pack.

Kaala doesn't care about any of this. With her brother and sister killed by Ruuquo and her mother banished from the valley, she's without support. All she wants is to be accepted by Ruuquo and to join the pack. She's spirited and courageous and she sets her mind to learning a wolf pup's lessons with singleminded and slightly desperate determination. She has enemies in Ruuquo and in fellow pup Unnan but she finds allies in many other members of the pack, in her raven friend Tlitoo, and in the mysterious spirit wolf who comes to her at moments of crisis.

But the moment she meets the human girl TaLi, all Kaala's resolve crumbles...

Set 14,000 years ago in what is today Southern Europe, Promise of the Wolves is the first in a planned trilogy. It's a creation myth really, telling the story of the earliest human civilisations and the evolution of wolf to dog. The press sheet likens it to both Watership Down and The Clan of the Cave Bear, but Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series is perhaps a more contemporary reference point for today's younger readers. Hearst's wolves, while their behaviour and social organisation is impeccably researched, are more anthropomorphic than Paver's Wolf - but as Kaala is the sole narrator, this is perhaps not surprising.

It's a heroic story, full of the tropes of myths and legends. There are a lot of mysteries and a lot of prophecies, but the focus is on the inescapable pull between wolves and humans. Kaala finds it overpowering and this is not surprising, for it is her destiny to solve the paradox between this pull and the violence in both wolf and human that causes conflict between them. This contradictory attraction is beautifully described, as is pack life with its hierarchies, dangers, and exhilarating hunts.

Hearst's writing is both tense and absorbing and happily the major plot lines are all resolved by the end of the book, together with hints of more to come. Of late, I approach the end of any book in a series with trepidation and a sinking heart - dreading yet another brazenly mercenary cliffhanger. Thank heavens at least one writer hasn't stooped so low. For me, the anthropomorphism got a little too much at times but then I'm hard-hearted and teenagers - who will particularly enjoy this book - are unlikely to mind. But that's a flaw I've scratched around to find. I think vast swathes of readers are going to love this trilogy.

My thanks to the nice people at Simon & Schuster for sending the book.

Those who enjoy reading books written from an animal's point of view shouldn't miss Call of the Wild by Jack London. They can also get inside the skin of a wolf in Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series.

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