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By Tara K. Harper
Read by Karen White

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By Tara K. Harper
Read by Karen White
Books on Tape, (2001)
An Unabridged Audio Recording
Book Number 5723 - 9 Cassettes
ISBN: 0-7366-7181-1
Genre: Science Fiction

Other editions:
Standard Print (Paperback)

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - November 11, 2001

Ember Dion is a healer and a wolfwalker. She is also a skilled woodsmen and sword fighter. But is it, perhaps, her skill as a wolfwalker that best defines her. A wolfwalker is an individual who is able to telepathically communicate with wolves. On Dion's world, wolfwalkers were once common, but the trait has been dying out for decades, ever since a horrific plague slaughtered the ancient ones, the humans who originally settled the planet. While Dion can 'talk' with most wolves, she has a special relationship with one in particular, the wolf Gray Hishn.

This is a rollicking adventure tale. The basic plot is pretty standard. Dion's twin brother Rohm is sent on Journey, a male right of passage where he is sent out into the world in to have an adventure and to test his mettle. Breaking with traditions, the elders send Dion along too. Shortly after setting out on Journey, Dion's party is attacked by War Lags, which are blood thirsty beasts that like to wack things with clubs. Most of the members of the group are killed, and Dion is severely injured. Thanks to the aid of Hishn, Dion is reunited with her brother. Rohm had thought he was the sole survivor of the attack, and had consequently joined forces with a posse who was hunting down a band of raiders who have kidnaped three young girls. The raiders are bent on selling them as harem slaves. Dion willingly joins the quest to rescue the girls.

The group's goal is to hunt down the raiders, rescue the girls, and get home safely. However, to succeed this hearty band of warriors must first face numerous challenges and engage is a series of violent, graphically described, battles. In way of adventures, the band must fight off other bands of raiders and hordes of mercenaries, face snow storms and poisonous sea creatures. They must survive a hair-raising trip, in kayaks, through white-water rapids, and the horror of an avalanche. They also climb impossible to climb cliffs, outwit wily traders, and really get a man by the name of Clintner really, really mad at them, so much so that he, or at least his men, hound the group through most of the novel. And, along the way, they also uncover a nefarious plot to start a war, and the band vows to thwart this plan - if they can.

Were it not for the six legged Nus, which are ridden like horses, and other exotic creatures, plus the plethora of moons, this story could easily be translated into any setting. It is these creatures and the knowledge that this planet was settled by humans that casts this story in the Science Fiction genre. If you strip away the otherworld setting, you would find that Wolfwalker is simply a run-of-the-mill action yarn, that is, were it not for Dion's connection with Hishn, which elevates this story above the ordinary. The two have been together ever since Hishn was a pup. Their relationship is extremely close and their banter amusing and even snide at times. Hishn is very protective of her human. Their connection exists because Hishn allows it. While Dion can sometimes control Hishn, it is only because Hishn condescends to listen to the human.

Were it not for Hishn, it is likely that no one in the group would have survived the dangers that they encountered while trying to rescue the kidnaped girls. Hishn is able to aid the group not only her superior senses, but also because she is able to access the racial memories of the wolves. Hishn can see, in a manner, the past, and this memory helps save the group when they are faced with an unseen danger from the distant past.

Wolfwalker is the first book that I've listened to, or read, by Tara K. Harper, and I look forward to reading Harper's other books that feature Dion. Harper's characters are well fleshed out, and the dialog is rich with emotion, which makes this book translate well into an audio format. I found this book compelling, and I was intrigued by the ease with which Harper wrote the dialog between Dion and Hishn. While the book placed Dion in the central role, in my mind, the heroine of the story was Hishn. The wolf was an intelligent and riveting character, one who I found it very easy to connect with. While I was able to empathize with Hishn, I was a little put off by Dion. She is a healer by vocation and training, yet throughout this story she kills and maims an awful lot of people, she does, however, have good cause for her actions. While Harper has Dion upset over these actions, I did not feel that Dion was as devastated as she should have been, especially in regard to her profession. Nonetheless, Dion is a powerfully self-possessed young woman. She is highly skilled, strong willed, and altruistic. She is an excellent example of a strong, female lead character, a role that women seldom hold in action stories.

This unabridged audio edition of Wolfwalker is read by Karen White. Her reading is emotion packed and mesmerizing. White has a quiet and low, yet remarkably animated voice that is reminiscent of a mother reading a bedtime story. However, this is not a bedtime story book for children. This story contains graphic descriptions of violence and harsh language and is defiantly for mature audiences.

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