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Return to the world of WOLF BROTHER

6th Apr 20


Roam across vast, ancient landscapes with Torak, Renn and Wolf, and return to the world of WOLF BROTHER in this new adventure, VIPER's DAUGHTER. Author MICHELLE PAVER tells us more.


In this story, Renn believes that it is dangerous for Torak to be near her, so she sets off on a journey to Edge of the World to confront what it is inside her that is endangering his life.

We asked author MICHELLE PAVER to tell us about her latest book, VIPER's DAUGHTER, and why she has returned to the world of WOLF BROTHER:


Q: It's wonderful to see a new WOLF BROTHER title. What brought you back to the series?

A: I'd never planned to write another WOLF BROTHER book, but Torak, Renn and Wolf simply wouldn't leave me alone, they were always there at the back of my mind. Also, fans of the books never stopped asking if I could write a sequel.

Then a few years ago I was in Arctic Norway, and one night I saw the Northern Lights. They were like a glowing green arrow pointing north, and that gave me an idea. Very soon, I realised that I didn't have one book on my hands, but three!


Q: Can you remind us how you started with the first WOLF BROTHER book?

A: I've been fascinated by the Stone Age since before I could read, probably because my parents had a big, beautifully illustrated book on archaeology, which I loved to look at.

If you're new to the WOLF BROTHER books, they're about a boy, a girl and a wolf, battling to survive in the Stone Age. Torak is the best tracker in the Forest. Renn, a girl from the Raven Clan, is a reluctant Mage, and an amazing shot with a bow and arrow. And Wolf is a wolf. Parts of the story are told from his point of view: through his eyes, ears and nose.

WOLF BROTHER begins when Torak is twelve, and his father is killed by a demon bear. Torak must survive on his own, but he soon makes friends with Renn, and with a wolf cub who has lost his pack... Wolf and Renn are with Torak throughout his adventures, and each book takes them to a different part of their world.


Q: Do any of the earlier WOLF BROTHER books stand out for you?

A: Each one stands out in a different way because of the research I did for it. For WOLF BROTHER I rode 300 miles through the Finnish forest, sleeping on reindeer skins and picking up tips from the Sami. I also made friends with the wonderful wolves at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust. For SPIRIT WALKER I swam with wild killer whales. I could hear them whistling and clicking underwater, and at one point a big male swam directly beneath me: an amazing experience.

For SOUL EATER I went to Greenland, where I immersed myself in Inuit culture and ate raw seal liver and blubber. For OUTCAST I handled some fascinating and very strong royal pythons, and got close to young elk at an elk sanctuary, where I sampled elk milk.

For OATHBREAKER I saw bison, tarpan (wild horse) and beaver dams in Bialowieza National Park in Poland, the largest area of primaeval lowland forest in Europe. And for GHOST HUNTER I snow-shoed for miles in the Sariselka Wildernerness of northern Finland, and in the Dovjrefjell highlands of Norway I kept having to alter course to avoid muskoxen!



Q: Can you tell us briefly what your new book, VIPER'S DAUGHTER, is about?

A: VIPER'S DAUGHTER starts two summers after the end of the previous book, GHOST HUNTER. Renn realises that Torak is in danger - and she's the threat. To protect him she leaves, but of course he sets out to find her. He and Wolf trek north, and their journey takes them beyond the treeless wastes of the Far North to the Edge of the World, a forbidding land of ice caves, volcanoes and mammoths...

VIPER'S DAUGHTER is a standalone story: you don't have to have read the previous books to enjoy it. I wrote it both for existing fans of all ages (the youngest is six, the oldest ninety-nine), as well as for new readers in the original nine-to-twelve age group, who just want a rich, immersive adventure in an entirely different world. And I do mean adventure! My aim is to make the reader unable to put it down.



Q: What was it like returning to your characters, especially Torak and Renn, and particularly the bond between Torak and Wolf?

A: It was wonderful! I know them pretty well, having lived with them for years, and as I said, they've never left me. It's been fun catching up with them, and thinking how they have developed.

Also, I've realised that they still have quite a lot of emotional fall-out to deal with after the first six books. The challenge has been to write a story that appeals both to existing fans of all ages, who are desperate to find out what happens next, and to new readers in the 9-12 age group, who just want a stonking good adventure.

As for Wolf... He's a joy to write. It's fair to say that at times, Torak's Stone Age world can be dark and scary, but Wolf is there to reassure. I see his bond with Torak and Renn as a golden thread lighting up the darkness.



Q: Why did you want Renn to take the lead in this book? And why was it her story you wanted to come back to?

A: I don't think she really does take the lead, I think Torak and Renn play equally active parts. However if you mean it in a literal sense, that the story kicks off when Renn leaves, I chose that because I wanted a simple set-up that would appeal to existing fans and to readers new to the books. This let me keep a tight focus on Torak, Renn and Wolf: on the bonds of love and trust between them, and on how these might be tested.

As for your second question, I wanted to deal with Renn's story because there's a lot she hasn't dealt with yet, particularly as regards her mother. The same will apply to Torak, in the book which follows VIPER'S DAUGHTER.



Q: Were there any characters in this book who surprised you?

A: Oh, all of them do, usually by doing things that surprise me when they first pop into my head, but which I then realise are in character. For instance, when I was planning the book, I didn't realise that Wolf would be so cross with Renn for leaving. But when I was writing from Wolf's point of view - when I was being a wolf, as it were - I realised that this was how he would feel, because she had broken up the pack.



Q: You've talked previously about the research you've done for these books. Did you make any research trips for VIPER'S DAUGHTER?

A: To make the story real, I went to Alaska, where I crawled under a glacier into a giant blue ice cave, and I tried a Native American cure for toothache by licking a leopard slug: it worked, my mouth went numb!

I also went to outer Siberia and travelled on an ice-breaker through the Bering Straits to Wrangel Island, one of the last homes of the woolly mammoth. I encountered muskoxen, snowy owls, far too many polar bears, and I found a mammoth tusk sticking out of a river bed. It was an amazing feeling to put my hand on it: a real connection with the distant past.

It's worth saying, though, that only a tiny fraction of all this research has found its way into the story. VIPER'S DAUGHTER is an adventure, not a history lesson. I do the research purely to make the story feel real.



Q: In the novel, you give us a glimpse into how interconnected the people of that time were with the natural world. Do you feel that is an important message for today's young people?

A: I never, ever write with a message. This is because when I was a child I hated books with messages; also, I think preaching can kill a story stone dead. I write these books to entertain.

Of course I try to create an authentic Mesolithic world, that is, the world of the hunter-gatherers, and I'm delighted that the books have found favour with archaeologisists. But my aim in doing so is to make the story real, and therefore more immersive and exciting.

That said, hunter-gatherers like Torak and Renn do have a far more direct relationship with the natural world than we do. Thus they don't take more than they need, and if they kill an animal, they don't waste any part of it. I find that readers of all ages love the "survival" parts of the story, and connect with the characters' respect for the natural world.



Q: How many more books are you planning to write in the series? Can you give us a glimpse into what's next for Torak and Renn?

A: I've two more books planned after this. The next one, SKIN TAKER, will be published in spring 2021. It begins in the Dark Time, when the sun is asleep in its cave. Something terrible happens to the Forest (I can't say what, as I don't want to spoil it!), and Torak, Renn and Wolf are in the thick of it. Torak is affected most of all.

Like VIPER'S DAUGHTER, SKIN TAKER is a standalone story, although there is a story arc, for those who have read VIPER'S DAUGHTER. The same goes for the third book, WOLFBANE, to be published in 2022.



Q: Where is your favourite place to write? And what's your "go to" when you need to escape from writing?

A: I write in my first-floor study, overlooking Wimbledon Common. I have a small Victorian desk for when I'm writing by hand, and next to it a bigger computer table, with one of those contraptions that let you raise your computer to standing height, as I have a bad back. That's a godsend (the contraption, I mean,not the back).

Another godsend is that my computer is 21 years old, and has never heard of the internet. This means I have few distractions, apart from texts on my ancient Nokia phone. That's how I like it.

When I want to escape from writing, I take a walk in the woods which I can see from my house. Being among trees and birds always helps. And it usually gives me ideas for the story!


Thank you for talking to @ReadingZone!

VIPER's DAUGHTER, published by HEAD OF ZEUS, is now available from all good bookshops (12.99)


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