I first read Soul Eater around the time it was first published, when I was just a wee chick with an overactive imagination and my nose perpetually in a book.
Reader, I was scared out of my wits for weeks.
I literally couldn’t sleep for a month because I kept having nightmares about a terrifying bear coming to eat me and my family and Soul Eaters hiding in the trees outside the house.
So when I saw an omnibus of the first three Chronicles of Ancient Darkness stories in my local charity shop, I picked it up with a vague remembered sense of dread and more than a little existential anxiety.
Honestly I couldn’t remember much about the story except a fuzzy recollection of a forest, a wolf, a boy, and absolute screaming terror. What if it wasn’t scary at all, and I’d been even more of a wuss than I thought? What if it was equally terrifying now, and I hadn’t grown up nearly as much as I thought?
So of course I had to read it again.
God, it was good. Brilliant, in fact. Paver’s descriptions are stunningly alive, bringing the whole Forest into the room with you and teaching you to love it the way Torak does.
Wolf feels like a real friend (and one I desperately want in my life). Renn is savage and well-drawn and real, and Torak is the easiest main character to love that I’ve come across in a while, even if I did occasionally want to shake him to remind him that he does have friends, thanks so much. The characters are all well-rounded, only a couple of side characters that veer towards the two-dimensional – but even they can hardly be called ‘flat’.
The series is tightly-written, pacey, never falling away whilst also managing to give us moments of real quiet and thoughtfulness. We get philosophy interspersed with incredible action sequences, questions of morality amongst ancient medicines and deadly diseases.
In short, this a fantastic series of books, and I’m itching to get my hands on the final three in the series to see Renn and Torak and Wolf grow up more and tackle ever greater dangers.
The concept is fantastic, the magic and the daring and the Soul Eaters just dizzying, and I hope to read a lot more from Michelle Paver in the future.
Reading books as good as this one always makes me wonder why we don’t see more children’s books set in the ancient past. Personally I’d love Bronze Age Greece as much as I loved this, and indeed a novel set in Ur, in ancient China, and more. I have read a couple based in Ancient Egypt, but only one approaching the quality of Chronicles of Ancient Darkness.
Does anyone have any recommendations for series similar to this one? Now I’ve fallen back in love with it, I need more.