Sunday, November 17, 2013

The House of Hades - Rick Riordan's Best Yet!!

"At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?
They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus"

The House of Hades is by far one of the most gripping tales Riordan has written in his Percy Jackson world not to mention the darkest book in the series. It is full of terrible monsters, nail-biting fights, and horrific psychological thrills. Not only do our heroes have to face beasts that they've already defeated once before, but they must face their own true fears — something that can be just as incapacitating as a physical wound.

While we already know our main characters well, having met some of them nine books ago now, sometimes they still manage to surprise us. For fans who find Annabeth and Percy’s relationship endearing, this book will serve to strengthen their affection of the couple, who somehow find a way to love each other even through the darkest depths of Tartarus. Going into it, I expected it to be fully narrated by the Romans with Percy and Annabeth taking turns, so I was really surprised (and thrilled) to see that Leo and Piper also had the chance to narrate.

As for the other characters that we may think we know, it’s interesting to see another side to them. Assumptions will be broken and some will find themselves walking down a completely different path than they might have expected. Each person is written with care as secrets are revealed and friendships continue to blossom.

Firstly, thank Mr. Riordan for finally turning Frank into someone worth voting for. I've always felt like Frank and Hazel have been really underdeveloped, so I really enjoyed seeing them brought more fully into the series' story. I never thought I'd see the day, but I was actually freaking out at the epicness of Frank Zhang's battle skills at the end there. He definitely doesn't feel wimpy now, which is a relief. As for Hazel.... She had an interesting story and I enjoyed it. I think it's a smart move on Riordan's part to connect her skills to someone other than Pluto/Hades.

Without a shadow of a doubt, I do not hesitate to say that Leo had the most enjoyable storyline. My biggest disappointment was definitely the lack of Jason and Piper. Narrative wise, Jason had two turns and Piper only had one, never mind the fact that Annabeth and Percy (two already-developed characters and a fully-developed couple) had like half the book. All I have to say is that they had better have more narrative in the last book than Percy and Annabeth.

Jason was hardly even mentioned until two hundred pages in. We were finally seeing what people like Hazel and Nico thought of Jason and I've been excited for that but he hardly had a part at all. As for Piper, she was treated as a minor character, pretty darn close to how Reyna was handled in this book. Not cool. I'm slightly frustrated with the lack of development and inclusion for Jason and Piper. But if the fifth book is going to have less Percy and Annabeth and more Jason and Piper, then I guess that's okay.

The biggest issue I had with this book was Percy and Annabeth's storyline. I'll be honest, I down right dreaded it sometimes. I know this sounds strange (it does to me) but I found Tartarus to actually be the dullest parts of the book. But instead of blaming this on my dislike for Annabeth, I actually have a real logical reason.

Percy and Annabeth are both already fully-developed characters. It seemed liked I was reading their part of the story only because it was part of the over all plot. Someone had to close the Doors of Death in Tartarus. But there wasn't really any character or story development with them. Everyone else in this book (even Coach Hedge) had more development than Percy and Annabeth, whose developemt I'd wager was pretty close to zero. I know people love them as a couple, and believe me, I want them to stay that way, but they've had a whole series. I just don't really see anything left to discover for either character.

I'm glad that we were able to see bits and pieces of what was going on with the Roman and Greek camps - definitely interesting. I actually, kind of wish the final battle could take place back where both camps could participate. And, oh man, Octavian just... I like Frank's suggestion. Catapult him, Reyna. DO IT! I really don't want to see either camp destroyed by each other or Giants.

There were moments when I felt like the characters were unnecessarily oblivious though. Hint, Nico's statement about the Athena Parthenos at the end there in connection with the fact that Giants can't be destroyed without the combined effort of a demigod and a god. I read said statement and was like, oh duh! So, yes, I did mentally say duh sometimes but not too often.

As for Piper's guesses about the Prophecy, I'm not really buying into the someone's going to die statements. I honestly don't think any of the main characters will die on us. These prophecies never work out the way we expect or are led to believe, so I'm not that concerned with someone we love dying (that includes Jason and Piper, people). But the other statements might have some real substance.

House of Hades could not come any more highly recommended for fans of the Percy Jackson world, and we’re sure that everyone — myself included — will be impatiently biding our time until the fifth and final book, The Blood of Olympus, is released next year.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Shiva Trilogy - Oath of The Vayuputras : A Less than Fitting Conclusion

"Shiva is gathering his forces. He reaches the Naga capital, Panchavati, and Evil is finally revealed. The Neelkanth prepares for a holy war against his true enemy, a man whose name instils dread in the fiercest warriors.  
India convulses under the onslaught of a series of brutal battles. It’s a war for the very soul of the nation. Many will die. But Shiva must not fail, no matter what the cost. In his desperation, he reaches out to the ones who have never offered any help to him: the Vayuputras.
Will he succeed? And what will be the real cost of battling Evil? To India? And to Shiva’s soul?"

After ‘The Immortals of Meluha’ and ‘The Secret of the Nagas’, book lovers across the country have eagerly awaited Amish Tripathi’s ‘The Oath of The Vayuputras’. On reading the two books, many questions have been formulated in our minds. Decisions are yet to be taken and some paths are yet to be trotted upon. Amish Tripathi has promised to tie a knot to all loose ends in this book that completes the trilogy. Does he deliver as he says?

The Neelkanth is in search of the evil bothering the nation. In his quest, he joins hands with the Meluhans, the Swadeepans and the Nagas. These three races, which are known for their rivalry and enmity, put all differences aside and accept the different ways of life. The uptight and ‘true to their word’ Suryavanshis, and the passionate and follow their free will’ Chandravanshis mingle with each other and exchange their ideas to strengthen Shiva’s troop. The out casted Nagas also get accepted as mere humans who are good in intentions but left bitter by their own flaws. The Vasudevs lead Shiva in the quest of true evil, an evil that shocks everyone.

An evil which has always been there among them, unrecognized. An evil which has divided the races and caused hostility among people from the same mother land. It stirs chaos among families and loyalties are questioned. Love comes in between the goal, causing more complications and making it simpler. Some courageous characters fight still the last drop of blood, to protect their people and eradicate evil. Some give in to their cowardly vices and betray their cause. As a well-planned and organized war goes wrong, Shiva is left with just one option – The Vayuputras.

Amish Tripathi writes for the mind and the soul. While the philosophies stir the minds, the emotions touch the soul. He has portrayed different relations between characters well. Though Daksha wants to destroy Shiva, his protectiveness for his daughter Sati stops him from attacking the group. Bhagirath is constantly worried about his sister, Anandmayi and ensures that no harm falls upon her. Parvateshwar’s respect for Shiva is reciprocated well, though they choose different sides. Ganesh places trust on his younger brother, Karthik, to lead a fight.

Tripathi is an ace when it comes to description. The picturistic words used to describe intricate designs and architecture shows that he not only cares about the details, but savours it. The dialogues used are so powerful and thought incepting. He has given a scientific angle to many symbols and practices, which has some truth to it. Mythological elements are present in a different light. The parallelism drawn to the stories we have grown listening to is fascinating. One example I find very astonishing is how he explains about the plague in Branga, which could be related to a concentration of cancer cases in Bengal in a modern day world.

First of all, let's give credit where it's due. Amish has successfully created a great universe of Ancient India and has tied it quite nicely with all of our mythology. From that perspective, the buildup of the last two books, as far as the story goes, was also quite good. 

But, in the end, that's where the brilliance of the trilogy ends. 

I hate it when a book or a movie ends badly. I don't mean tragically, or in a way that is different than I expected. I simply mean a bad ending. Where you get a sense that the author did not really know how to conclude so he or she just wrapped it up somehow. In this book, you get a sense that the author always knew what the epilogue was going to be, and that is not bad. But the conclusion is what should have been thought out better. Far better. What happens more or less negates everything else that the book was leading up to. And plus the whole climax hinged on the stupidity of one single character. When that happens, you know that the ending is forced.
The other big problem I had with the book is that Shiva really doesn't do much in this book at all. He is simply roaming around India and is a part of only one battle where the enemies were anyways vastly outnumbered. So the premise of the trilogy - a mortal human becoming a God for the people due to his deeds - is in the end just lip service.

Besides these two big problems, there were several smaller problems throughout the book. Karthik, who was born in the second book is a brilliant strategist, warrior and leader in this book. It's very difficult to follow the time that has passed in the book. A f
ew people are randomly righteous, moral, idiotic, brilliant at the switch of the author's buttons. The author gets too fixated trying to explain engineering and scientific marvels. The title is totally redundant - the so-called oath of vayuputras plays a very small role in the book. Several events in the book are forced. Especially things that drive war events. Language of the book is really terrible. English itself is fine. But contemporary colloquial English did nothing to set the mood of the period.

So, all in all, not that great a trilogy. The details were too much; a little air of mystery could have been maintained. A story like this deserved a better ending than it got. I am not discouraging anyone from reading the book; you should read it anyway, especially if you have been bombarded with bed time stories on Shiva, Devi and Ganpati.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Heir Chronicles - A Perfect Blend

1. Warrior Heir :
Before he knew about the Roses, 16-year-old Jack lived an unremarkable life in the small Ohio town of Trinity.  Only the medicine he has to take daily and the thick scar above his heart set him apart from the other high-schoolers.  Then one day Jack skips his medicine.  Suddenly, he is stronger, fiercer, and more confident than ever before.  And it feels great—until he loses control of his own strength and nearly kills another player during soccer team tryouts.
Soon, Jack learns the startling truth about himself:  He is Weirlind; part of an underground society of magical people who live among us.  At the head of this magical society sit the feuding houses of the Red Rose and the White Rose, whose power is determined by playing The Game—a magical tournament in which each house sponsors a warrior to fight to the death.  The winning house rules the Weir.  
As if his bizarre magical heritage isn’t enough, Jack finds out that he’s not just another member of Weirlind—he’s one of the last of the warriors—at a time when both houses are scouting for a player.

Jackson Swift (Jack) has always had a normal life in the small college town of Trinity, Ohio. The only difference between the 16-year-old and his fellow classmates has been the star-shaped scar on his chest and the medicine he is required to take daily. Strange events begin to take place, however, after Jack forgets to take his medicine one day. When a rival named Garrett Lobeck tries to start a fight with Jack during soccer tryouts, Jack defends himself sending Lobeck flying across the soccer field.

Then his strange but cool Aunt Linda pays an unexpected visit to Jack and his mother, Becka. Aunt Linda decides to take her nephew/godson on a road trip to look up some of their family's genealogy. Jack invites his loyal friends Will and Fitch to join the expedition. What is supposed to be a tedious fact-finding mission turns into a dangerous game of cat and mouse, when the three guys discover that Linda is being stalked by a man looking to steal a family heirloom. Jack suspects that there is more to his aunt's story, but decides to help her locate the sought-after heirloom. The three friends get more than they bargain for during a night of digging around an old cemetery when they are attacked shortly after Jack uncovers a medieval sword that contains remarkable powers.

The road trip changes everything for Jack, and the truth about his heritage is slowly revealed. His Aunt Linda is an Enchanter and Jack is Weirlind, a member of an underground society of magical people that has been ruled by the feuding wizarding houses of the Red Rose and the White Rose for centuries. The feuding houses determine who rules the Weir and its magical artifacts by playing the Game, a deadly tournament in which each house sponsors a Warrior to fight for their supremacy. Unfortunately for Jack, he is unique even by Weir standards and is a prime target as each of the houses scout for a new player by any means necessary. Fortunately for Jack he has some help on his side, which includes his old friend, the knowledgeable caretaker Nicodemus Snowbeard, and the mysterious new assistant principal Mr. Hastings, who teaches Jack the ways of the Weir and how to use the powerful sword called Shadowslayer as defense against known and unforeseen enemies.

Soon Jack is off to England, where he is thrown into a high-stakes chase from Dr. Jessamine Longbranch a wicked person who helped saved his life years before and the Roses. Perhaps the most daunting challenge of all for Jack will be remembering who he really is underneath it all.

THE WARRIOR HEIR is a thrilling fantasy set in the 21st century that seems to be different from some of the other wizard stories out there. While I did wish that the novel contained further information about the Weir and that some of the mentioned characters of Jefferson Street were included in the story line a bit more, I did find the book to have a great mix of relationships, historical references, action (at times gory) and suspense. I would suggest having an extra copy on hand because you might find it disappearing temporarily from your bookshelf once your family and friends see it.

2. Wizard Heir : 
Sixteen-year-old Seph McCauley has spent the past three years getting kicked out of one exclusive private school after another. And it's not his attitude that’s the problem.  It’s the trail of magical accidents—lately, disasters—that follow in his wake.  Seph is a wizard, orphaned and untrained--and his powers are escalating out of control.  
After causing a tragic fire at an after-hours party, Seph is sent to the Havens, a secluded boys’ school on the coast of Maine. At first, it seems like the answer to his prayers. Gregory Leicester, the headmaster, promises to train Seph in magic and initiate him into his mysterious order of wizards.  But Seph's enthusiasm dampens when he learns that training comes at a steep cost, and that Leicester plans to use his students' powers to serve his own dangerous agenda.

In this companion novel to the exciting fantasy The Warrior Heir, everyone's got a secret to keep: Jason Haley, a fellow student who’s been warned to keep away from Seph; the enchanter Linda Downey, who knew his parents; the rogue wizard Leander Hastings, and the warriors Jack Swift and Ellen Stephenson. This wizard war is one that Seph may not have the strength to survive.

Like The Warrior Heir, this novel gives a refreshingly new view of magic, the classic story starter. We begin to see more of the underlying major plot of political warfare that was barely tapped into last spring, a power struggle that both contrasts and mirrors our own world. Not many authors can practically restart a story with a new protagonist and setting, and weave it into what we the readers already know, but Chima does so with such spectacular ease it causes one to wonder why so many series stick to one point of view, thus limiting the richness and variety in the writer's universe.

Chima has a flawless balance of almost every element you can find in a good story. She has no qualms about scaring her readers, but isn't so ruthlessly horrible that sensitive readers are afraid to finish the series or even the book, as is the tendency of authors like Rowling. The density of the individual and overall stories does not choke a casual reader like Herbert's masterpiece Dune and while a careful reader can guess early on the identity of the Dragon and of Seph's parents, it's not a matter of clear and obvious assertion from page one as was found in Paolini's Eldest, but a matter of educated guessing with the several plausible options.

Not to mention the diversity of Chima's endless supply of characters, new and old. Any girl who tires of the stereotypical heroine will be pleased at the power and skill each female character that defines their personality and place in the story, though the men are by no means left plain in comparison. But what makes them stand out more than their magical powers ever could is how real the characters are, in emotion, thought process and personality.

Living up to its predecessor and even surpassing its brilliance, The Wizard Heir has something for everyone to enjoy, from funny and unconventional romance to hair-raising situations and a surprisingly fitting happy ending. Readers can expect to close on the last page absolutely dying read the story with The Dragon Heir, and beyond.

3. Dragon Heir : 
The covenant that was meant to keep the wizard wars at bay has been stolen, and Trinity must prepare for attack.  Everyone is doing their part -- Seph is monitoring the Weirwalls; Jack and Ellen are training their ghostly army; even Anaweir Will and Fitch are setting booby traps around the town's perimeter.  But to Jason Haley, it seems like everyone wants to keep him out of the action.  He may not be the most powerful wizard in Trinity, but he's prepared to fight for his friends.  When Jason finds a powerful talisman --a huge opal called the Dragonheart--buried in a cave, his role takes on new importance.  The stone seems to sing to Jason's very soul -- showing him that he is meant for more than anyone guessed.  Trinity's guardians take the stone away after they realize that it may be a weapon powerful enough to save them all.  Without any significant power of his own, and now without the stone, what can Jason possibly do to help the people he cares about -- and to prove his mettle?
Madison Moss can feel the beating heart of the opal, too.  The desire for it surges through her, drawing her to it.  But Maddie has other things besides the Dragonheart on her mind.  She has a secret.  Ever since absorbing the magical blow that was meant to kill Seph, she's been leaking dark powers.  Although Maddie herself is immune to magic, what would her friends think if they knew what kind of evil lay within her?

 Trinity's enemies are as enthusiastic about her powers as she is frightened.  They think they can use her to get to the Dragonheart -- and they'll use anyone Maddie cares about to make her steal the stone for them.
Moral compasses spin out of control as a final battle storms through what was once a sanctuary for the gifted.  With so much to lose, what will Jason and Maddie be willing to fight for -- and what will they sacrifice?  Every man is for himself in this thrilling conclusion to the Heir trilogy.

A lot of times, when a new author emerges in the world of fiction, it seems like every good idea they've ever had 20 or 30 or 40 years of dreaming finds its way into that brilliant debut. Then, when it's time for the sequel... well, there's not much left. And that's why I'm so amazed that Cinda Chima's books just keep getting better.

The Dragon Heir is the third and final book of the Heir series, which started out following young Jack Swift as he found out that he was born to be a warrior fighting in the name of wizard politics. Now full war is breaking out among the magical guilds, and the wizards are determined to put everyone back in their place.

But we're not just following Jack anymore in each book of the Heir series, Chima writes from a new character's point of view. It's a technique that seems, well, incredibly simple, but it creates a slew of unique perspectives that engrosses you immediately. In The Dragon Heir, we see the world through the eyes of Jason Haley and Madison Moss, who were supporting characters in The Wizard Heir but could probably carry a series by themselves.

All of the characters in Chima's books are incredibly well-developed. There's the perfect combination of magic and teenage problems (Does he really love me? And how come things blow up whenever he's around?) that makes young adult fantasy so appealing, even to those of us who have already inched into full adulthood. The best example of this comes when the characters are finally forced to reveal some of their secrets to the non-magical people around them (the muggles, if you will). Most series just make sure that situation never happens, but Chima's characters handle it with the pitch-perfect amount of shock, logic and intelligence (My son is a WHAT?!). They behave like real people, and it makes you wonder why Spider-man didn't fess up to Aunt May a lot sooner.

Each of the Heir books has been better than the last, and The Dragon Heir ties it all together with a conclusion that just seems to fit. It doesn't have some of the brilliant moments of suspense that The Wizard Heir had, but it weaves layers of plot and intrigue in a way that is elegant instead of muddled. You might figure out the ending -- maybe -- but you'll feel smart for getting it.

The Dragon Heir stands on its own as a great read, but why would you want to do that? You'll love all three.

And it has been announced that the next book The Enchanter Heir is to be released on October of 2013. So have to hang in there to know what awaits in the next book !! Argh!!! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Chronicles of Ancient Darkness - A must read for every fantasy reader!!

Wolf Brother :

"Six thousand years ago, Evil stalks the land. According to legend, only twelve-year-old Torak and his wolf-cub companion can defeat it. Their journey together takes them through deep forests, across giant glaciers, and into dangers they never imagined. Torak and Wolf are terrified of their mission. But if they do not battle to save their world, who will?" 
Wolf Brother is the first book of six and begins The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver.
Torak is now alone and scared. His father is dead, slain by a demon in the form of a great bear. Torak must keep going; his only friend is another orphan, a small wolf cub. Evil stalks the forest and Torak must face a foe that stalks him silently and cannot be shaken.

Wolf Brother is an excellent book, highly researched and showing admirable attention to detail. The short, sharp chapters and wonderful world development creates a page-turner that can be finished without the reader even noticing they were getting near the end.
Wolf Brother has also brought a welcome breath of fresh air to the realm of children’s fantasy. JK Rowling’s successful Harry Potter series had resulted in a flood of teenage angst and magic type books that did not live up to the quality of Rowling’s inventions.
This a predominantly a young adults book, Torak is twelve and I was say that this is probably the optimum age to read it. Due to its subject matter, a young boy becoming orphaned and having to fend for himself in the wild, the tale is gritty and realistic and holds no punches when showing the harshness of the lives that was endured by Torak and the clans.

Spirit Walker : 

"As the Moon of No Dark waxes high, the clans fall prey to a horrifying sickness. Fear stalks the Forest. The very breath of summer seems poisoned. No-one knows the cause - and only Torak can find the cure. His quest takes him across the sea to the mysterious islands of the Seal Clan. Here, Torak battles an unseen menace, and uncovers a betrayal that will change his life -forever"
Although he is still reeling from the violent death of his father and the loss of his "soul" mate, Wolf, Torak has found a kind of peace living with the Raven Clan. As he tries to sort out his life, he has developed a growing fondness for its leader, Fin-Kedinn, and a kinship with the gentle people. In a single moment, however, all of this changes when he encounters a sick hunter from another clan.

The sick man had yanked handfuls of hair from his scalp and beard, leaving patches of raw, oozing flesh. His face was crusted with thick honey-colored scabs like birch canker. Slime bubbled in his throat as he spat out the last of the hair --- then sat back on his heels, and began scratching a rash of blisters on his forearm.
With his heart filled with dread, Torak returns to warn the Clan of the fever that is spreading. To his horror he finds that the mad sickness has already made its claim. Where could this be coming from? Was it possible that it had something to do with the Soul-Eaters and the warnings his father had given him? With a jolting realization, Torak knows he must find the source of this sickness. Thus begins a most perilous journey --- a journey to find the cure and a journey that unfolds a past that Torak will find hard to accept.
This story is told in two voices --- one from Torak and the other from his spirit brother, Wolf. Wolf refers to Torak and other humans as Tall Tailless. His voice offers views of all the confusion, which seems to result from human greed. Although Wolf does not understand the complexities of these things, he senses good and evil and the need to protect Torak. His ultimate goal is to be reunited with Torak and his journey parallels that of his spirit brother's.
Torak builds friendships within the Seal Clan but also tragically discovers a darker secret in someone he trusted. His problems have become deeper and more complex in this story, especially as he begins to comprehend that he is a Spirit Walker. Renn, the Mage apprentice (much like a spirit advisor), is again his companion and once more proves herself to be a true friend and warrior.
SPIRIT WALKER is every bit as good, if not better, than WOLF BROTHER. There is yet another book to look forward to and the possibility of a movie. Michelle Paver is in the winner's circle with this trilogy.

Soul Eater : 

"It's winter, and Wolf, Torak's beloved pack-brother has been captured by an unknown foe. In a desperate bid to rescue him, Torak and Renn must brave the Far North. As they battle for survival amid howling blizzards and the ever present menace of the great white bear, their friendship is tested to breaking point, and Torak is forced to get closer to his enemies than ever before..."
Soul Eater is set 6,000 years ago in Northern Europe, after the end of the last ice age, the novels take place along a wooded coastline, inhabited by wandering clans whose cultures revolve around totemic animals or trees: the Raven Clan, the Wolf Clan, the Willow Clan and so on.
The chief character is Torak who has the power spirit walk (inhabit the souls of animals). The narrative cleverly swaps between Torak's perspective and that of his friend, a girl called Renn, and Wolf, Torak's pack brother and constant companion since the first book, Wolf Brother. The three main characters are constantly saving each other from danger and it is in these moments that Michelle Paver is able to add heart-stopping suspense into the story. The chapters showing the story from the wolf's perspective are the most enjoyable - Paver manages to make Wolf behave in a completely wolf-ish manner, in a way similar to Robin Hobbs portrayal of Nighteyes in the Farseer books.

Soul Eater begins with pace and speeds up from there, in true epic fantasy style Torak's world is facing great danger and only he can save it. In Wolf Brother it was a demonic bear, in Spirit Walker the danger took the form of the plague, in Soul Eater he must defend his world from a band of turncoat mages (called the Soul-Eaters) bent on world domination.
As The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series progresses we find out more about Torak's ancestry and clues are dropped as to where the series will go after this volume. The climax to the book is excellent and quickly reached as this is a real page-turner. This book has everything, killer polar bears, demons, magic, wonder and danger. The first two books were very good; Soul Eater is excellent. The relationship between the clans and the natural world is beautifully wrought and the narrative is lively and compelling. Paver's research has been painstaking, both in terms of the natural and spiritual world in which the clans exist.
Young adults will embrace Soul Eater wholeheartedly and fans of the Ancient Darkness series will find that Paver has given then a third instalment even better than the previous two.

Outcast : 

For two moons Torak has hidden a terrible secret—and now it is revealed. He bears the mark of the Soul-Eater, and must pay the price. Cast out from the clans, he is alone and on the run: cut off from his best friend, Renn, and his beloved pack-brother, Wolf.
He flees to the haunted reed-beds of Lake Axehead, where he is hunted by the Otter Clan, taunted by the Hidden People, and, as soul-sickness claims him, he falls prey to an even greater menace. Tormented by secrets and broken trust, he uncovers a deception that will turn his world upside down.
I am the oldest of the clans of the Open Forest...I speak for them all...The boy bears the mark of the Soul-Eater. The law is clear. He must be cast out.
What does it mean to be an outcast? For Torak it means he is no longer accepted among the clans. He leaves his tribe in disgrace because he has the mark of the Soul-Eaters on his chest. He cannot communicate with anyone, and if he is found, he will be killed. Fin-Kedinn, the Raven Leader who has been like a father to him, has been forced to cast him out. Even Renn, his best friend, is not allowed to help him and must turn her back on him or risk her own death. He is clanless. Torak travels alone, always in danger and with the curse of the Viper Mage, Seshru of the Soul-Eaters, haunting his every step.

The young warrior, however, does not give up. As he walks away from his beloved peoples he declares:
I may be outcast and clanless, but I'm no Soul-Eater. And I will find a way to prove it..."
With his long-time companion Wolf at his side and his confidence in the forest, he is determined to tear the mark from his chest and prove his worthiness. Though Renn is supposed to stay away, she finds him and reveals the magic rite he must use to remove the evil scar. Yet, as he moves deeper into the forests and is faced with more obstacles, his confidence is challenged from all directions. Hunted and haunted by the Viper Mage, Torak is unable to escape her powerful magic. Worst of all, he discovers that he cannot control the sickness creeping through his body and that he might, without intent, harm those he loves.
Renn now travels with a skilled Skinboater from the Seal Clan known as Bale. Risking their own lives, they try to protect Torak and help him as he fights against the Soul-Eaters. But for Renn there is even greater danger as the Viper Mage, Seshru, controls Torak and, in her raging jealously, sends a giant, slithering horror to destroy her.
The snake stretched its jaws wide --- its fangs unfold from the roof of its mouth and point down --- they fill with venom, ready to strike...Bite, bite..
How can OUTCAST be just as good, if not better, than the previous powerful books in this gripping series? The introduction of Bale is a good addition and brings an interesting character into the close relationship of Renn and Torak. All the wonderful details of life 6,000 years ago, the mystic happenings, the customs of everyday living and the abilities to survive in a world full of unknown threats is fascinating reading. Michelle Paver keeps every minute tingling with excitement, mystery and adventure.
The black and white drawings by Geoff Taylor again beautifully illustrate Torak's world. 

Oath Breaker :

When he was outcast, Torak was the hunted one. Nine moons later he becomes the hunter when he vows to avenge the killing of one of his closest friends. Racked by guilt and grief, he follows the killer into the Deep Forest, where the World Spirit stalks the hidden valleys as a tall man with the antlers of a stag. But there is a rottenness at the heart of the Forest, for its clans have succumbed to the lies of the Soul-Eaters. Here, Torak must face fire, war, and overwhelming evil. Oath Breaker is a story about keeping promises and the true cost of vengeance.
Bale lay on his back. His face was unmarked. It was the back of his skull that had cracked like an eggshell.
Perhaps one of the worst things that can happen to a person is to lose their best friend. When Torak discovers his friend Bale murdered, he is not only devastated but his guilt is overwhelming. If Torak hadn't left their campsite during the night, none of this would have happened. He carries his guilt heavy within and is determined to avenge this brutal death. He will risk anything to give Bale's spirit its proper rest and find the killer.
Despite warnings from Saeunn, the old Raven Mage (she cautions that Torak's foster father, Fin-Kedinn, will never see the end of this journey), Torak sets out accompanied by Renn and Fin-Kedinn. Even before they leave camp, they have discovered Bale's probable killer. All signs point to an old enemy, the Oak Mage, known as Thiazzi. In their last encounter the evil Soul-Eater had been attacked by a wolf who took two of his fingers in the process. Thiazzi, probably traveling with the one other remaining Soul-Eater, Eostra, is also bent on revenge. The little Raven Clan is up against some very powerful magic and madness on this journey.

For the time being, Torak's long-time companion, Wolf, is on his own journey. Although Wolf and Torak have been separated, Wolf has sensed Thiazzi, who he calls the Bitten One, and is driven to follow this scent. Wolf's language is simple and picturesque. When he sees the "tailless one," his thoughts move like this:
The Bitten One was sliding up - Wet on the trunk of an oak. Wolf caught the glint of a great stone claw at his flank. He caught the smell of pine-blood and reindeer hide, and the strange, terrible Bright Beast-that-Bites-Cold.
Not long after Wolf and Torak are united, Thiazzi makes a bold move and the little band of travelers walk into a trap. Renn is hurt, but Fin-Kedinn's injuries are life-threatening. Now the warnings of Saeunn make Torak realize that he has been foolish in this quest because he has risked the lives of those he loves. When Fin-Kedinn is back with the Raven Clan, Torak vows to go on by himself. Little does he know that Thiazzi has much worse plans for him. Thiazzi is mad, determined to become the most powerful Mage and bent on destroying Torak. The boy will need all the strength, magic and cunning he has to meet the challenges of this formidable enemy.
Michelle Paver once again delivers a riveting story full of fast-paced adventure and unexpected twists. Her detailed research enriches Torak's adventures in a world long gone. By now, readers have become familiar with the psychic connection that allows Wolf, along with the ravens Rip and Rek, to communicate with the young boy. As he grows into manhood, Torak must confront his own demons, and in OATH BREAKER he faces some of his most challenging obstacles.
Geoff Taylor's wonderful black and white illustrations beautifully augment the richness of Paver's book. An excellent map in the beginning helps the reader easily follow Torak's path through the North Woods and see the placement of the various clans. Fans will love this fifth installment as they again share Torak's adventures in a world of magic and beauty.

Ghost Hunter :

Her cry rips the souls from your marrow. With her spear she snares them. She devours them. Eostra truly is an eater of souls.
Winter is coming. Souls' Night draws near. Eostra, the Eagle Owl Mage, holds the clans in the grip of terror. Torak must leave the Forest and seek her lair in the Mountain of Ghosts, while Renn faces an agonizing decision. Wolf, their faithful pack-brother, must overcome wrenching grief. And in the final battle against the forces of darkness, Torak will make the most shattering choice of all.
Ghost Hunter, the final book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, draws the reader for the last time into the shadowy world of the deep past and brings Torak to the end of his incredible journey.

Look behind you, Torak.
He spun around.
Two paces away, an arrow had been thrust into the earth.
Torak recognized the fletching at once. He knew the one who had made this arrow. He wanted desperately to touch it.
He tried to lick his lips, but his mouth was dry.
"Is it you?" he called, his voice rough with fear and longing.
"Is it you?...Fa?"
The dreams are coming fast and furious now. It's hard for Torak to tell what's real. He desperately misses Fa (his father) but knows he's dead. Still, when he hears his father's voice and occasionally sees him, he's shaken. Perhaps his father is trying to tell him something, like he is in danger and needs him. He is sure his father's spirit is not at peace, and now must do something to ease the journey into the spirit world.
The Raven leader Fin-Kedinn is full of misgivings. He warns Torak that these things can easily be the work of the Soul-Eaters. Their old enemy and powerful Mage, Eostra, is once more working her magic. She is determined to kill Torak and create a world only for the Soul-Eaters. Torak is in her way and has been much too long, and she will stop at nothing to get to the Spirit Walker. Fin-Kedinn warns the boy of Eostra's ability to twist reality and that he will walk into danger, but Torak replies: "You can't stop me."
Now 15 years old, Torak has grown stronger and tall. He leaves the Raven camp on his own, fearful that staying behind will endanger them all. He chooses not to take Renn or Wolf for these very reasons, so the danger will be upon him alone. The Eagle Owl Mage is after him, and he will meet her on his terms but cannot even begin to imagine the horrors and sacrifices awaiting him. He is set to discover that he cannot do this on his own and that tragedy will stalk him and those he loves along the way
Wolf and his mate, Darkfur, now have two cubs, Shadow and Pebble. The wolves are happy and content in their safe shelter. Torak must say his goodbyes and be on his way. Wolf is sad to let the boy go on his own, but respects his wishes and knows also that he must stay with his family. At the same time, Rinn is not accepting being left behind. Despite warnings from Fin-Kedinn and the old Mage, Saeunn, Rinn begins following Torak.
The evil that is growing more powerful has pervaded the forests and affected the animals and the weather. Torak does not get far when he knows that the eagle owl, possessed by the Soul-Eaters, has circled back and is going to attack the wolves. The ravens (Rip and Rek), traveling with him, have screamed their warnings and flown ahead, but when the boy gets to the wolves' lair, one cub is beyond his help. Darkfur is in a desperate battle with the owl trying to save her last cub. Despite Torak's attempts, he watches in horror as the brave mother falls from the cliff into churning waters below and the giant owl carries off the squealing cub.
This is only the beginning of a journey that brings heartbreak and near death to Torak and others. The unexpected ice storms, the madness of the Soul-Eater Madge, and the tokoroths who work with her create unspeakable horrors in a nightmare that cannot end. How can Torak save what is left against these so powerful forces? Have any of the sacrifices been worth it?
GHOST HUNTER is the final installment in Michelle Paver's wonderful Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series.These books should definitely be in every school library as they offer fantastic insights and terrific storytelling of a time long gone . There's no question that they would also lend themselves to reading aloud.
Renn is a powerful female character who is respected and forceful. Torak is a boy thrown into the turmoil of a life that is hard beyond words, but whose spirituality is able to bring him through the darkness. The series combines the three "e's": educational, entertaining and enlightening. Along with Paver's stories, artist Geoff Taylor's beautiful drawings and maps help the ancient world truly come alive. Parents, teachers, librarians and, of course, young adults will definitely want to add this series to their reading list.