Friday, November 23, 2007

Night of the Howling Dogs by Graham Salisbury

With my usual lack of attention to detail, it wasn't until I finished reading this compelling tale of survival that I realised it was a true story. Salisbury's cousin was a member of a scout troop that found itself engulfed by a Tsunami while they camped on a deserted beach on the Big Island of Hawaii. In real life, not everyone made it back from the camping trip. You'll have to read it yourself to find out if the same is true in the novel.
Salisbury foreshadows this catastrophic event with the tension that exists between the narrator Dylan, a white middle-class boy, and older Louie, part Hawaiin whose parents have almost forgotten he exists. Dylan had witnessed Louie being beaten up and in his humiliation, Louie turned on Dylan. Louie keeps Dylan nervous with his menacing looks and constant teasing but their mutual dislike becomes irrelevant in the events that follow.

The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver

What impresses me most about Michelle Paver is how she manages to mix ancient mysticism with fast-paced adventure and deliver a fascinating history lesson at the same time. Set 6,000 years ago, The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness follow Torak, a young spirit walker, his faithful companion Wolf, and Renn, an accomplished huntress. Torak, who can talk to wolves, is an orphan of the Wolf Clan and Renn, a girl with the powers of a mage, a daughter of the Raven Clan . Together they escape danger and death in the form of hungry ice bears, enraged wild boars, menacing social outcasts and their own inexperience. Grudgingly they come to accept their destiny - to defeat the evil Soul Eaters who plot to unleash demons on the many clans in order to rule them all.
The growing bond between Renn, Torak and Wolf lends these breathtaking adventures a human quality that transcends millenia. In many ways we children of the 21st Century are almost unrecognizable as the descendents of our ancestors who lived in awe of nature and survived by taking only what they needed. Of course, this doesn't mean that I want to start rubbing seal blubber on my face and swallowing still-warm guillemot livers. However, there is a tiny part of Renn and Torak in me tucked deep, deep down which makes me look at my processed meat in its cling-film wrapping and wonder.

Books in this series: Wolf Brother, Spirit Walker, Soul Eater, and Outcast (May 20, 2008)
Fans of the series have their own website The Clan.