Book review: Viper’s Daughter by Michelle Paver

Viper’s Daughter is the next in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series by Michelle Paver which started with Wolf Brother. It is published by Zephyr, an imprint of Head of Zeus books on 2nd April 2020. We have recommended Wolf Brother before as a book that is set in the Mesolithic, and it was great to hear that a sequel was coming, more than ten years after the last book, Ghost Hunter, which everyone thought had finished the series. Apparently there are two more to come!

The events in Viper’s Daughter take place two years after the end of Ghost Hunter and Renn, Torak and Wolf have been living in the forest near the Raven Clan. Torak thinks they are happy but one day finds Renn had left him. He finds out that she was scared about hurting him. Several accidents where Torak has got hurt seem to be her fault, and she fears the influence of her mother Seshru, the Viper Mage, but she was dead, surely?

The series was originally set in Norway, and Michelle Paver decided, after visiting there herself, to explore the tundra, islands and clans of the Norwegian coast. The book is based on research the author has done into traditional communities living in the far north, including the Chukchi of Siberia, Tlingit of Alaska and Haida Gwaii communities in Canada.

The book is really exciting, and it’s great to find out what Torak, Renn and Wolf did next. Just like Wolf Brother I would recommend Viper’s Daughter is more appropriate for upper Key Stage 2 as the language is more challenging and the events are quite scary. It would be good to use as a way to explore how people managed to not only survive but have a fully developed culture in the Mesolithic in really harsh environments.┬áBy including lots of different ‘clans’ Michelle has also made it possible to bring out how different groups organised their lives e.g. comparing the Narwal clan’s treatment of women and girls to the Raven clan where women and men are equal.

There is, as in other books in the series, a lot of magic in the books which can make it seem more of a fantasy than a historical novel. But this can lead you to discussions about what people in the past would have believed in, and how they might interpret natural events as magical. Not only that, but how by doing magic, they may have felt like they were controlling the environment that was otherwise uncontrollable.

SPOILER ALERT

One of the most exciting bits of the novel was near the end on the Island at the End of the World, based on Wrangel Island in the Bering Straits. It was the last refuge of mammoths where they survive until about 2500 BC. Torak and Renn come into contact with the mammoths, Renn having a vision of all their cousins having been hunted to death by humans.