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Book Review

Lone Wolf by Kathryn Lasky has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Wolves of the Beyond” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

A wolf named Morag gives birth to three pups. One has a splayed paw (the sections for each claw are farther apart, more spread out than an average paw) with strange markings on the footpad. Wolves born with abnormalities are labeled malcadh by the pack and are taken by an Obea wolf and left in the wilderness to die.

The Obea removes Morag’s pup from the pack, but the weak wolf doesn’t die. A grieving mother bear finds him and nurses him back to health. She names him Faolan, which means gift from the river. She gives Faolan her milk by holding him next to her gigantic chest. Because of the loud thumping he hears, he begins to call her Thunderheart. Thunderheart loves Faolan, but she often questions what kind of a mother she can be to a wolf. Nevertheless, she tries to teach him bear skills, like catching fish and standing on his hind legs. She forces him to dig with his splayed paw so it becomes a strength rather than a weakness.

When winter comes, Thunderheart warns Faolan she must sleep. She gives him permission to leave the cave to hunt. Faolan often grows bored during Thunderheart’s hibernation and goes out alone. One day, Thunderheart wakes in a stupor. She forgets she’s authorized Faolan to leave the cave. In a panic, she rushes outside to find him. Thunderheart dies in an earthquake. Faolan returns to the cave to find it empty. Still searching for her, he crosses over from an area called the Beyond and into the Outermost.

Faolan hunts in the Outermost. He meets two scrawny, disrespectful wolves and can’t believe he could belong to their species. He finds the Cave Before Time, filled with drawings chronicling the journeys of wolves. He discovers he can skillfully gnaw designs into bones that tell stories. Meanwhile, Morag finds Thunderheart’s body. She can smell her own pup’s scent on the bear, so she protects Thunderheart’s carcass from the circling prey.

Faolan returns to the Beyond. An owl named Gwynneth finds him and explains the ways of the wolf clans to him. Faolan has always believed his birth mother abandoned him, but Gwynneth tells him what happens to malcadhs. She also assures him that malcadhs who survive and return to their packs can become gnaw wolves. Some even receive the honor of guarding the Ring of the Sacred Volcanoes. She urges him to rejoin the wolves. Faolan finds Thunderheart’s skull and saves a bone to carry with him.

Faolan watches the different wolf packs from a distance, trying to understand their ways and movements. When pack members discover a print from Faolan’s splayed paw, they begin to panic. A prophecy tells that a wolf with the strange paw design will come bringing the foaming mouth disease. The tribal chiefs come together in concern and decide to visit a wolf witch known as the Sark of the Slough.

The Sark isn’t convinced this print belongs to a dangerous wolf. Nevertheless, the wolves build a great fire in which to trap Faolan. They have nearly chased him into it when he makes an amazing leap and jumps over the flames. Gwynneth sees everything and quickly explains to the chiefs that they’ve made a mistake. They convince Faolan to come back to speak with them. The leaders enlist another gnaw wolf to rewrite their history so it explains who Faolan is and how he has returned. They invite him to join the MacDuncan clan as a low-ranking gnaw wolf, and he accepts.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

The wolf clans honor the Great Wolf of the spirit world who has set an order for them to follow on earth. They believe time and space are infinite, and there are many universes in the endless cycle.

Thunderheart, like all bears, honors the spirit animal, Ursus. Bear heaven is called Ursulana. When animals die, they take the starry path of the spirit trail to the Cave of Souls. The animals use the names of their spirit animals in the same way a human might use the Lord’s name in vain or in exclamation.

Animals show respect to their prey by giving them honor as they are dying. This sanctifies their meat. Gnaw wolves have an opportunity to guard the Ring of the Sacred Volcanoes if they are skilled at their craft. A wolf witch called Sark of the Slough advises the leaders of the clans.

Authority Roles

Higher-ranking animals in a pack sometimes treat their underlings with less respect or dignity to maintain the natural order. Clan leaders maintain the wolf hierarchy and work together to make decisions for the wolves of the Beyond. Their incorrect assumptions about Faolan almost cause them to kill him. Thunderheart does her best to love and raise Faolan even though he is a different species. She nurses him and teaches him to be brave and strong.


Animals hunt and eat the bloody carcasses of other animals. While the animals in the story display unique personality and character traits found in humans, they also act on instinct. They kill other animals for food. One hungry wolf eats another wolf.


Wolves mate. Faolan often mentions sucking on the teats of his mother or Thunderheart for milk.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 14




Kathryn Lasky






Record Label



Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.


On Video

Year Published





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