Last Friday I woke up in a cold sweat. I’d dreamt that I had Michelle Paver’s latest book in my hands.
This was my subconscious reminding me of something very important. After a few moments I managed to groggily grab my phone and make an Amazon order. Look with everything going on in the world, the release of the long-awaited continuation of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness had been forgotten.
Viper’s Daughter has been out since the 2nd April. So yeah, I’m a little late to the game. Thankfully I had the help of next-day delivery.
I spent most of Saturday revising (god-damn you, French exam). And then in the afternoon, the doorbell rang and I was holding Michelle Paver’s latest book in my hands but I was awake this time.
Once I had it in my hands, I knew there was little point in trying to turn back to my French revision. So I packed up and got comfy on a chair outside, to make the most of the last bit of sun. For a while, I couldn’t even bear to get started, absolutely enthralled by the beautiful blue book in my hands. It will look great on my shelf with the rest of the series. I even contemplated starting from the first book, just to get that full experience.
Well after a while I made the dive into the first page. And I only left the book briefly to eat. The series is aimed at children from the ages of 8 – 12 but I can say without a hint of doubt that while I was reading it I must’ve been between the ages of 8 – 12 because I was CAPTIVATED.
Anyway let’s start with the cover. Of course, the age old saying is to not judge a book by its cover, but the artwork on the front by John Fordham is pretty hard to ignore. It follows the same style as the first editions of the other six books, which, as someone who grew up with the original series, was well appreciated.
As well as this, there were two maps of the setting, and we all know that a book with a map is a good sign.
Now, it’s been 11 years since the release of the last book, Ghost Hunter. This is a pretty long time to wait for something new, and a long time to build up expectations.
Paver officially finished the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness in 2009, after creating a vividly imagined Stone Age world. However it’s clear to see that her love for her characters and the world they lived in had stayed with her over the past decade and she’s easily slipped back into telling the story of Torak, Renn and Wolf. The description of the setting is just as brilliant and detailed as before; Paver’s vigorous research can be seen clearly within the work. Losing myself in her words was as easy as when I was eight.
The characters are familiar, yet, since two years has passed since the last book ended, they are more mature. However the writing style has remained the same, keeping the book safely in the age bracket the series was intended for. This could be disappointing for older readers, who may now be accustomed to a more age-appropriate style of writing, but the nostalgia of the book kept me suitably enthralled. And it’s probably time for us to let the new 8-12 year olds enjoy the series.
The plot has been criticised by following the same basic structure that was seen in the original six books, where the main character Torak has some sort of quest or challenge to complete and he sets off to fulfill his destiny but is soon caught up by Renn and his other companions. However this time I was pleasantly surprised by the role reversal, where instead Renn first takes off on her own (though as before, the book is still weighted somewhat evenly between the perspectives of Torak, Renn and Wolf).
As always, my favourite parts were those as told from the perspective of Wolf. Paver’s imagined wolf vocabulary works as beautifully as it has always done within the book, renaming things such as fire as ‘The-Bright-Beast-That-Bites-Hot’ and rivers as ‘Fast Wets’. This simple touch makes Wolf’s perspective stand out.
I’ll make one final point, because I’m aware that I’m rambling. It is suggested that the book can be read as a standalone. I’ll aggressively point everyone away from such a notion. Frequent references to characters that don’t appear in the new book, characters that are dead and past events may confuse a new reader and take-away from the overall experience. Even if you don’t have much time, I’d strongly advise starting with the first book and going from there.
Overall, I couldn’t be happier with Viper’s Daughter. I haven’t sat down and finished a book in a day for a long, long time. Viper’s Daughter has reminded me of that childhood reading experience, where nothing else mattered except the book you were holding. I’d pay a lot of money to experience that, but thankfully my pocket is only £9.99 lighter.