In the first chapter of Wolf-Speaker, Daine and Numair are sent to locate missing knights and Riders when Daine’s past finds her. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Wolf-Speaker.
Chapter One: Encounters
YES, I AM ALL ABOUT THIS.
I mean, I know it’s only a page and a half long, but Tamora Pierce opens her second book with the point of view of a wolf. And not just any wolf: IT’S THE CHIEFTAN OF THE WOLVES WHO DAINE RAN WITH AFTER HER FAMILY WAS MURDERED. Like, y’all, I just expected this book to move forward in a way that would go beyond what had happened in Snowsdale. That part of Daine’s life was over, and Wild Magic was about her moving on from that trauma and pain. EXCEPT OH MY GOD IT’S NOT BECAUSE OH MY GOD WOLVES.
Wolf-Speaker is framed by the return of the Long Lake Pack, who only appeared in anecdotes related to the reader from Daine. Here, we find out they’re seeking Daine because of… something? They need her for something. I actually thought Pierce was going to keep this a secret for a while, but I’m already guessing I shouldn’t try to guess what’s going on in this book. I’m already so wrong.
I had assumed that Daine was out in the wild because of the wolves, so her own mission was a surprise to me. Mixed in with this is her anxious concern for what her own future might hold. She feels guilt for not helping Onua; she wonders where the missing Riders and soldiers; and then she worries that if she interacts with the Long Lake Pack, she’ll lose her humanity like the last time she did. Thankfully, Numair and Cloud are there to talk some sense into her. (I refuse to get over how awesome it is that there’s a talking pony in this series. Take that, Tolkien.) I don’t think this is something that’ll actually happen, personally. Daine’s ties to her human side are too strong. However, if she were to go through something particularly traumatic, then I would worry about this sort of thing. Oh god, please don’t let anything like that happen. However, it was kind of hard not to think negatively when twenty-seven people disappeared in the wilderness. Thankfully, this seems like the kind of mission that’s well-suited for Daine. She can just ask the animals if they’ve seen them! Well, assuming that the magic from the City of the Gods doesn’t interfere.
It was a treat to read about the pack returning to Daine, especially since they were a positive force from Snowsdale. That place has got to be full of bad energy for Daine, but here is the last remaining good memory of that place. The wolves greet her like a long-lost sibling, and it’s adorable. So is the sequence where the wolves greet everyone else in the cave, especially KITTEN. KITTEN! Oh my god, they call Skysong Kitten. It is too perfect for words, y’all.
All this cuteness, which is certainly overwhelming, is then followed by a surprising revelation from Brokefang about why the wolves have shown up. I mention in the video attached to this (I think it’s the second one) that Pierce could be setting up a few possible stories here. First of all, it’s clear that the humans in the valley of the Long Lake are fucking everything up. It’ll be easy for Pierce to bring up themes relating to the misuse of nature and how humanity is so quick to take without giving back. In this sense, whomever these people are who are uprooting the ecosystem in the valley, they clearly don’t care about any sense of balance. They’re not interested in leaving things as they found them or interacting with the wildlife in a respectful manner.
Initially, that’s all I was able to read out of the situation. The wolves sought out Daine for help because it was either this or they’d lash out violently to protect their home, and that would mean bloodshed. Daine realizes that she may have passed on her ability to communicate with other species to Brokefang when he licked a bleeding wound of hers. Which… y’all, that flashback hurts to read. The dude was wearing her mother’s necklace. Anyway, it’s because of that act that Brokefang even had the intelligence to come up with an alternate plan for stopping the humans in the valley. I like that Pierce gives an explanation for the very human behavior of Brokefang and why he’s the only one who acts like this.
AND THEN THE BADGER SHOWS UP. THE BADGER. And he’s not some mystical spirit. He is really there, flicking water all over the cave as he shakes off rainwater, and Numair can hear him. It is THE BEST PART OF THIS WHOLE CHAPTER. Because of reasons:
- THE BADGER IS THE MALE BADGER GOD, and not only that, he is the first male creature of his kind. H E L P.
- He is sassy as fuck, and it’s so entertaining.
- He answers questions! Sassily! Yeah, so the “Immortals” that have creeped out of the Divine Realm aren’t really immortals at all.
- hA YOU JUST TOLD DAINE TO LEARN TO ENTER THE MIND OF A MORTAL ANIMAL is this really happening
- He wants to see the dragon, and he doesn’t explain why because why should he.
- Oh butts, he doesn’t know who breached the protective wall of the Divine Realms.
So, now there’s a new way Daine can use her magic. She tests it out on Cloud, but the badger may have forgotten to tell Daine that it really hurts the animal. Well, that’s not quite correct. Numair guesses that Daine should try with the same type of animal that she’s closer to, such as the wolves. Oh boy, this is going to be fun, isn’t it? Daine doesn’t try it again, but I imagine she’ll be able to use this new talent to her advantage. Wait, what happens to her body while she’s in the mind of an animal? Don’t tell me.
The final section of the opening chapter of Wild Magic deals with the journey to the Long Lake. The wolves lead Numair, Daine, Kitten, and the ponies on the upper trail to avoid human contact, but then this unfortunately brings them into range of a group of Stormwings flying high overhead. I’m fascinated by Numair’s insistence that Daine exercise some tolerance with these creatures. Like… don’t the only exist to dishonor the dead? I mean, I suppose they aren’t evil in nature. Perhaps Numair doesn’t want Daine to act in a rash manner and complicate things. But he specifically uses the word “tolerance.” Hmmm. Well, the Stormwings are working for humans in their current state, so clearly they don’t just attack humans on sight. I AM INTRIGUED.
Of course, the biggest reveal in this last scene is the fact that THERE IS A GIANT BLACKENED CRATER IN THE EARTH. Oh, by the way, it’s full of the bones of the Ninth Rider Group. What? What the hell did this? And why?
I DON’T LIKE THIS.
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