Spirit Walker (novel)
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UK cover of the book
|Cover artist||John Fordham|
|Series||Chronicles of Ancient Darkness|
|Genre||Children's adventure, fantasy novel|
|Published||2005 Orion Children's Books|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback), audio book (CD & cassette)|
|ISBN||1-84255-170-1 (first edition, hardback)|
|Preceded by||Wolf Brother|
|Followed by||Soul Eater|
Spirit Walker is the second book in the series Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver. The plot follows Torak and his friends travelling to the mysterious Seal Islands to find a cure for a terrible sickness circulating throughout the forest in which they live. The book was first published in 2005 by Orion Children's Books.
"Torak is a boy apart. A boy who can talk to wolves. A boy who must vanquish the Soul-Eaters... or die trying. As the Moon of No Dark waxes high, the clans fall prey to a horrifying sickness. Fear stalks the Forest. The very breath of summer seems poisoned. No-one knows the cause - and only Torak can find the cure. His quest takes him across the sea to the mysterious islands of the Seal Clan. Here, Torak battles an unseen menace, and uncovers a betrayal that will change his life -forever" - Spirit Walker
Six months after the events of Wolf Brother, Torak, the young male protagonist, is now living with the Raven Clan. One of the clan members, becomes sick and attempts to kill himself and his young nephew, but is stopped by the clan's leader. He is tied up and quarantined. Torak suspects that the sickness has been created by a group of renegade shamans known as the Soul-Eaters.
Leaders from other Clans come to the Raven camp and tell them the sickness has been spreading through the forest. Torak realises that a small creature has been stalking him and trying to kill him, and when Oslak escapes and kills himself, Torak discovers that the creature was responsible. Torak sneaks out of the camp and goes into the forest seeking a cure. The cure, he discovers, can only be obtained by going towards the ocean to the west.
Wolf, Torak's companion from the previous novel, has been living with a pack in the High Mountains, but becomes unhappy with his life and he goes off to find Torak.
Renn, the female protagonist, has encountered the creature at the Raven Camp and the clan's shaman, Sauenn, explains that a it is a Tokoroth: a child who has been stolen from their mother and abused by the Soul-Eaters until he or she does their bidding, the Soul-Eaters then put a demon inside the child. Renn sneaks out of the camp to find Torak and she and Wolf encounter each other. They then both go looking for him. At the seashore, Torak encounters and fights three boys from the Seal Clan: Bale, Detlan and Asrif, but is eventually overpowered. They believe that, by washing his hunting gear in the sea, he has dishonoured the Sea Mother and must be punished, so they take him by canoe to their home in the Seal Islands.
Renn and Wolf meet up with some members of the Sea Eagle Clan, who take them both to the Seal Islands to help Torak.
The Seal Clan's shaman, Tenris, initially wants to punish Torak until Torak informs him of the sickness. Tenris tells Torak that a cure can be made from a rare plant which grows at the top of a particular cliff: the plant must be gathered on midsummer night, which is only four days away. Torak quickly realises the Tokoroth has followed him to the island. He goes looking for it but is tricked into falling into a seal net, from which he is rescued by Wolf and Renn. They talk and establish that an orca has been killed, breaking a taboo. Only the teeth have been removed from the carcass. Renn informs Torak that she saw one of the Seal Clan near the orca's carcass, but she is unable to persuade Torak that any of the clan would break such a taboo.
Torak goes with Bale, Detlan and Asrif to climb the cliff and gather the plant. Asrif climbs up but his climbing harness becomes snagged, and Torak follows him up. He has to unhook himself from his rope to rescue Deltan and to gather the plant. Unable to reach his harness, he realises that the only way back down is to dive into the sea. Under the water, he feels himself taking the form of a fish for a few moments and senses an angry orca approaching, before returning to his body. The boys rush into the water to save Torak as an orca attacks Detlan, causing him a crippling injury. When they return to the island, Torak talks with Tenris about the odd experience he had in the water. Tenris explains that Torak must be a Spirit Walker: a human with the rare ability to drift out of his own body and into the body of any other living creature.
Renn is found by some of the Seal Clan and realises that Tenris was responsible for killing the orca, and that he must be a Soul-Eater. Tenris notices a scab on her hand and, mistaking it for a symptom of the sickness, tells Bale to lock her up so the sickness won't spread.
On Midsummers night, Torak goes to the crag to make the cure with Tenris, but Tenris overpowers Torak with the help of two Tokoroth. Tenris admits that he is a Soul-Eater, and that he killed the orca. He reveals that he had created the rogue bear which killed Torak's father and, realizing that the bear's killer must be a powerful shaman, had sent the Tokoroth to poison the juniper berries of the forest, knowing that the epidemic will flush him out as he searches for a cure. Tenris intends to eat Torak's heart, in order to assimilate his powers and become the greatest Soul-Eater. Tenris also reveals that Torak's father was his own brother, and had been a Soul-Eater before seeing the error of his ways.
Wolf appears and chases away the Tokoroth. Renn, who has persuades Bale to let her go, shoots Tenris through the hand with an arrow, giving Torak the opportunity to escape by diving off the crag. Tenris jumps after him, but the blood from his arrow-wound attracts an orca which has been seeking revenge for the killing of its mate. Before Tenris is killed by the orca, he tells Torak that his adopted father in the Raven Clan knows more about Torak's father. Torak swims to safety, and he, Renn, and Wolf, now armed with the information to save the Clans, return to the Forest.
Many critics felt Spirit Walker was superior to the previous book in the series, Wolf Brother. An early review from Kirkus Reviews said "Paver incorporates vivid descriptions of her characters' woodcraft and other skills, as well as credible views of their oneness with the natural world and animistic beliefs - details that enrich her complex tale without impeding its quick pace." Some critics expressed concern that the book might scare younger readers.