I am a huge fan of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, and have always relished in Michelle Paver's evident originality, creativity, and research, all of which help to make these books spectacular reads. After reading Oath Breaker, the latest and penultimate addition to Paver's prehistoric saga, I have to say that it, along with Spirit Walker and Soul Eater, the second and third books, is one of the best. The series' characteristic taut suspense, intriguing mysticism, and engrossing and well-crafted characters create a thrilling adventure story that is sure to please countless fans.
Oath Breaker begins nine moons after the end of Outcast, and, like previous books, focuses on Torak, the book's intriguing teenage protagonist, his best friend and skilled archer, Renn, and Wolf, his faithful and loyal "pack-brother." The book delves right into the action within the first chapter, when one of Torak's closest friends is heinously murdered. After a brief investigation, Torak concludes that the killer is Thiazzi, the powerful Oak Clan Mage and one of the only two remaining of a wicked band known as the Soul Eaters. Vowing vengeance, Torak, Renn, and Wolf embark on a quest into the Deep Forest, following Thiazzi through an otherworldly realm of strange clans, budding conflict, and a growing evil which threatens to consume the heart of Torak's world.
I found Oath Breaker to be one of the best books in this series for multiple reasons. First of all, as in other books, Paver's setting is expertly crafted. Her detailed descriptions of life in the pre-agricultural era of Torak's world, from simple tasks such as gathering food to complex feats such as bow making, are obviously well-researched and effectively make this prehistoric adventure story palpable and believable. Besides this, she has clearly spent a great deal of time mingling with the natural world, as the mysterious intrigue and haunting beauty of Torak's world is as brilliantly written here as it was in previous books. The Deep Forest, with its towering spruces and remarkable animals, came alive through Paver's evocative language and evident knowledge of the natural world, creating the perfect setting for this entrancing story of life in such an untamed and beautiful world.
While much of the story is based on heavy research, Paver continues to amaze me with her own creativity in the imaginative attributes which are mixed into Oath Breaker. As in previous books, Torak encounters new clans, this time mainly the Red Deer, Auroch, and Forest Horse clans. These clans are perhaps some of the best Paver has crafted throughout the series, using her extensive knowledge of prehistoric life and her evident imagination to create believable customs and characteristics that add to the intrigue of the tale she is telling. Paver even manages to make the mysticism of the book palpable, as she uses the wisdom of the clans combined with the forces of nature to create sophisticated magic not often seen in children's fantasy books.
Lastly, a truly important ingredient in Paver's successful formula is her characters. She consistently is able to create believable and realistically flawed beings to populate her prehistoric world, all of which add to the story in their own captivating ways. Torak continues to grow and develop as he explores his mysterious past and utilizes his remarkable abilities, as well as forging as budding romance with Renn. The sections of the book told from Wolf's point of view remain intriguing and captivating, as Paver successfully shows her prehistoric world through the eyes of one of its most powerful and intelligent animals. The exploits of all three main characters are as exciting and suspenseful as before, and they are all worthy inhabitants of the world she has taken such care to create.
These books continue to consistently impress me and, I am certain that, upon finishing Ghost Hunter, the next and final book in Paver's engrossing saga, I will not be disappointed; I will only wish that there were more books to sate my appetite for this captivating series.