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Skin Taker

Skin Taker: The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness #8

Published: 1 Apr 2021

Hardback, 288 pages

Recommended for age 9+ and 11+

By Michelle Paver

Published by Head of Zeus

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 The Clans will be tested as never before, as they battle to find ways to survive and thrive in their beloved Forest.
In the Dark Time of midwinter, disaster strikes the Forest.

Chaos rules. Bears woken from their dens prowl the shadowy valleys. Desperate clans battle for survival.

Only demons thrive. With their world in turmoil, Torak, Renn and Wolf are tested as never before. And as a new evil haunts the devastated land, Torak must risk his sanity, his life and even his soul to save everything he loves...

Skin Taker carries you back to the Stone Age, to nature, drawing you deeper into an astonishing environment and adventure which began with Wolf Brother and has captivated millions of readers
Ghost Hunter: Chronicles of Ancient Darkness #6
Oath Breaker: The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness #5
Soul Eater: The Chronicles of ancient Darkness #3
Michelle Paver talks to Nikki Gamble about Skin Taker and her Chronicles of Ancient Darkness sequence. Listen here...

Reviewed by Anne Thompson

Skin Taker, the eighth book in The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, with its vivid imagery, skilful world-building and tense storyline is a compelling read. Meticulously researched, it transports the reader to another time and place, perfect for fans of the series but equally enjoyable as a stand-alone story. 

Set in the Stone Age in the frozen lands of what is modern Scandinavia, this instalment opens with a natural disaster. As the Clans gather to celebrate the return of the sun after the long winter a meteor strike destroys the Forest and everything that Torak, Renn and Wolf know is now under threat. They face difficulties beyond their previous imaginings as they fight for survival and they and the different Clans must respond to the challenge; all are tested as the battles for leadership, control and safety mount. 

Michelle Paver’s writing is remarkable in its ability to create a world that feels real despite the huge difference to that which the reader inhabits. Her love of the natural world is evident in the rich descriptions of the settings and one senses the claustrophobic atmosphere of the caves, the smells and sights of the destroyed forests and the feel of the icy rivers that once flowed through them. This is a historical adventure incorporating magic and the supernatural combined with a survival story involving a battle between good and evil. That the author incorporates all these elements is impressive and increases the appeal of Skin Taker to a wide range of readers. 

Although written before the Covid pandemic there are parallels to our current situation as Torak and his people struggle to cope with the effects of a worldwide disaster. The reader witnesses how the Clans alternately blame each other, jostle for control and work together in an effort to overcome their difficulties. This book would be excellent to use in the classroom as a catalyst for discussion on politics and the use and abuse of power. The emphasis on the environment and the respect shown by man to nature in the novel have obvious links to the present day also. 

This is a book that can be read on several levels; as a straightforward exciting adventure, perhaps inspiration to learn more about the Stone Age and hunter-gatherers, older readers may find the growing relationship between Torak and Renn interesting and many will find the battle with the evil demons compelling. Highly recommended for Upper KS2 and KS3. 

You may also be interested in the review of Viper’s Daughter, also from the The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series.

I am a retired school librarian with twenty years’ experience in school and public libraries. I now maintain links with school libraries as Chair of the Surrey Branch of the School Library Association and reviews for their quarterly journal. A past reviewer for The Bookbag website I maintain a blog offering regular news updates from the world of children’s books. A contributor to newsletters and journals, children’s books remain just as important to me in retirement as they did when working.