Move over Harry Potter, there is an exciting new hero in the world of children's publishing. All eyes are now on Torak the boy hunter, who is the main character in Wolf Brother, a book set in the Stone Age. Its author, Michelle Paver, has been paid million of dollars for the rights to publish this first instalment of a planned series of six volumes called The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness. Although the book is new, the idea is more than 20 years old. Paver first wrote the story - of a 12-year-old boy who befriends a wolf in the primeval forest following the death of his father - while studying biochemistry at Oxford University in 1982. She tells how she came across the original manuscript during a short break from work. The tale was set in ninth century Norway, the era of sagas. 'I loved the story of a boy and a wolf and some of the other elements and decided to change only the setting to the deep past. It was like a light bulb being switched on over my head,' Paver said. She had no idea anybody would want to read it and only wrote the first seven chapters. She was taken by surprise when she sold the rights to the book and its five sequels at the Frankfurt book fair and became the centre of intense media attention. But Paver still went to great lengths to do research. 'I travelled the forests of northeastern Finland on horseback and slept on reindeer skins and stayed in traditional shelters called laavu with nomadic tribesmen,' she said. She studied archaeology, ate berries and elk, seal and whale meat to get a feel for how people survived in ancient times. 'I also studied anthropology and belief systems. It was important to try to get a real idea of how they might have thought and I put that in the book,' she said. Torak's task is to rid the forest of a demon in the form of a bear that grows steadily stronger as it destroys things. He is assisted by Renn, a girl from a rival clan, and Wolf, an orphaned wolf cub he adopts in his struggle. Just when all seems lost, the adventurers find three artefacts that will help them in their quest. Readers are drawn into a thrilling fantasy by the author's skilful plotting and her ability to create realistic characters living in a believable world beyond human memory. Paver is flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as the phenomenally successful J.K Rowling. Although she admires the Harry Potter books and recognises obvious similarities, such as a boy hero who grows up from boyhood to puberty during a series, she sees important differences. '[Harry Potter] books are brilliant magical fantasy. But I see mine as realism, trying to recreate what it must have been like 6,000 years ago. Everything in my book could have happened. And the fact that the whole thing is overlaid with the characters' beliefs as they might have been at the time distinguishes it,' she said. Publishers Associates Ltd, distributor for Orion, has 10 copies of Wolf Brother to give away. To win one, tell us which country Michelle Paver travelled to for her research. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org . Include your name and contact number.