I am the oldest of the clans of the Open Forest...I speak for them all...The boy bears the mark of the Soul-Eater. The law is clear. He must be cast out.
What does it mean to be an outcast? For Torak it means he is no longer accepted among the clans. He leaves his tribe in disgrace because he has the mark of the Soul-Eaters on his chest. He cannot communicate with anyone, and if he is found, he will be killed. Fin-Kedinn, the Raven Leader who has been like a father to him, has been forced to cast him out. Even Renn, his best friend, is not allowed to help him and must turn her back on him or risk her own death. He is clanless. Torak travels alone, always in danger and with the curse of the Viper Mage, Seshru of the Soul-Eaters, haunting his every step.
The young warrior, however, does not give up. As he walks away from his beloved peoples he declares:
I may be outcast and clanless, but I'm no Soul-Eater. And I will find a way to prove it..."
With his long-time companion Wolf at his side and his confidence in the forest, he is determined to tear the mark from his chest and prove his worthiness. Though Renn is supposed to stay away, she finds him and reveals the magic rite he must use to remove the evil scar. Yet, as he moves deeper into the forests and is faced with more obstacles, his confidence is challenged from all directions. Hunted and haunted by the Viper Mage, Torak is unable to escape her powerful magic. Worst of all, he discovers that he cannot control the sickness creeping through his body and that he might, without intent, harm those he loves.
Renn now travels with a skilled Skinboater from the Seal Clan known as Bale. Risking their own lives, they try to protect Torak and help him as he fights against the Soul-Eaters. But for Renn there is even greater danger as the Viper Mage, Seshru, controls Torak and, in her raging jealously, sends a giant, slithering horror to destroy her.
The snake stretched its jaws wide --- its fangs unfold from the roof of its mouth and point down --- they fill with venom, ready to strike...Bite, bite..
How can OUTCAST be just as good, if not better, than the previous powerful books in this gripping series? The introduction of Bale is a good addition and brings an interesting character into the close relationship of Renn and Torak. All the wonderful details of life 6,000 years ago, the mystic happenings, the customs of everyday living and the abilities to survive in a world full of unknown threats is fascinating reading. Michelle Paver keeps every minute tingling with excitement, mystery and adventure.
The black and white drawings by Geoff Taylor again beautifully illustrate Torak's world. Book five will be out in January and no doubt will have an eager audience waiting for more fabulous stories of the amazing Torak and his ancient world.
--- Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts