Wolf Speaker is the second of Tamora Pierce’s “Immortals Quartet” concerning fourteen-year-old Daine, a young woman who possesses “Wild Magic,” giving her the ability to communicate with animals, heal any animal wound, and in this book, to gradually change her form into any animal she wishes. Pierce jumps straight into the story without hardly any background information, so if you are unfamiliar with the fantasy realm of Tortall, I very highly recommend that you don’t begin your journey with this book: start with Wild Magic, or even better The Lioness Quartet, Pierce’s first books concerning Tortall.
Daine and her mentor Numair have been sent abroad in order to investigate the disappearance of several of the Queen’s Riders, and in doing so Daine receives contact from the Long Lake wolf pack — the animals that she once ran wild with when they helped her avenge her murdered family. Their call to her is for help: their home is under threat from humankind’s mining and construction that is destroying the natural habitat, and desperate to help her friends, Daine convinces Numair to help them.
But by helping the wolves, the two of them uncover even more secrets: the rulers of Dunlath, Lady Yolane and her consort — and Numair’s old classmate — Tristan, are plotting to usurp the thrones of King Jonathon and Queen Thayet, by bribing the war-mongering empire of Charthak with the black diamonds they are acquiring through the mining that cause the animals so much trouble. As you may have already guessed, it’s up to Daine, her powers, and the animals to put a stop to all of this, resulting in a plan that is sure to excite all readers once they hear of it.
In the overall context of the The Immortals Quartet, Wolf Speaker is the least important — in fact you might be able to get away with not reading it with only minor confusion. But it is a great adventure, despite the somewhat clichéd environmental issue at the heart of the book, and it drops little hints throughout as to Daine’s parentage, her growing magical powers, her relationship with Numair and the growing threat of Charthak.
Pierce’s range of characters is huge, from the animal kingdom (Flicker, Scrap, Sunclaw, Blueness, Rebel, Brokefang and the Long Lake pack) to the humans (Tait, Maura, Gissa, Belden) to the immortals (Tkaa, Iakoju, Rikash, and of course the Badger-god and Kitten the dragonet, that Daine rescued at the conclusion of the previous book). Each character is well drawn and realistic in their actions and motivations (though I dearly missed the absent Onua), and Pierce is clever enough to mix in shades of grey to her growing war, with the inclusion of Rikash the Stormwing who holds a brotherly affection for the young lady Maura.
The Immortals Quartet are the best books that Tamora Pierce has to offer, so make sure The Emperor Mage is on hand to continue Daine’s journey.
The Immortals — (1992-1996) Young adult. Publisher: Thirteen-year-old Daine has always had a knack with animals, but it’s not until she’s forced to leave home that she realizes it’s more than a knack — it’s magic. With this wild magic, not only can Daine speak to animals, but also she can make them obey her. Daine takes a job handling horses for the Queen’s Riders, where she meets the master mage Numair and becomes his student. Under Numair’s guidance, Daine explores the scope of her magic. But she begins to sense other beings too: immortals. These bloodthirsty monsters have been imprisoned in the Divine Realms for the past four hundred years, but now someone has broken the barrier. It’s up to Daine and her friends to defend their world from an immortal attack.