With assured plotting, pacing and characterization, Wolf (The Horsemasters) again convincingly imagines prehistoric people and events, this time transporting readers to the Europe of 12,000 years ago. When reindeer-essential for food, clothing and tools-begin to leave European lowland valleys for more abundant mountain pastures, it looks as though the matriarchal Kindred tribe will have to fight the patriarchal Norakamo nomads for new land and hunting rights. But Rorig, chief of the Kindred, and Tedrik, head of the Norakamo, wisely agree on a marriage between Tedrik's daughter, Alane, and Rorig's son, Nardo, a union that eventually unites their tribes, despite opposition from Nardo's powerful mother, Mara, and other enemies in both groups. Peace is short-lived, however, for soon the fierce Redu, who use bows and arrows, invade the mountain pastures even as Alane and Nardo struggle with cultural differences-and with sabotage by Mara, who fears the dissolution of matriarchal power. Matters come to a head in a dramatic battle whose conclusion finds Alane and Nardo positing a wise and hopeful resolution to the survivors of all three tribes. Despite some jarring anachronisms (after a fall, Nardo says, ``I think I have a concussion''), this is, overall, a vividly told escape into the past. Literary Guild selection. (Nov.)
Wolf's new work, the third novel she has set in the prehistoric French Pyrenees (following The Horsemasters, LJ 4/1/93), continues the saga of the Kindred tribe. The tribe's livelihood is threatened by global warming, since reindeer-the Kindred's primary source of food and clothing-are changing their migratory practices due to the weather. Discovering that the fierce Redu tribe is headed for their hunting grounds, the Kindred and Norakamo tribes, once adversaries, unite with the marriage of Alane of the Norakamo and Nardo of the Kindred. With its trite and unbelievable plot, this novel is not up to the standards of The Horsemasters. Nor does it compare favorably with the novels of Jean Auel and Linda Lay Shuler. Purchase only where the series is popular.-Mary Ellen Elsbernd, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights
YA-Details of prehistoric society come to life in this entertaining, complex novel. An unnecessary death during a routine raid to steal horses comes close to causing deadly war between two tribes, and a truce must be arranged. Alane, the daughter of one chief, marries Nardo, the son of the other chief. Many teens will easily identify with her difficulty settling into a new life, especially with her mother-in-law, as many of them must cope with adjusting to new stepfamilies. The complex plot then centers on alliances and battle strategies as hunting grounds shift and a new enemy of both tribes must be conquered. The major characters are well developed, with attitudes and problems similar to ours today: love, hate, jealousy, desire for power. The list of all personages in the beginning is essential to keep tribal allegiances straight. The one map is helpful in sorting out distances and direction. A compelling look at a very different era.-Claudia Moore, W.T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Now "this" is what a prehistorical should be! Wolf must have done a great deal of research, but there's never an obtrusive fact in this page-turner about Cro-Magnons living in the Pyrenees. The plot is well paced and well designed, building to a perfect climax and resolving extraordinarily well. A number of warring, but related, peoples makes peace among themselves in order to rally against the invasion of unrelated folk as the Ice Age ends and cold weather game disappears north. Yet when a fierce band of proto-Britons arrives in their mountains, the original folk finally accept them as useful new blood and new strength for the tribe. If there is a somewhat unbelievably perfect quality to the relations between men and women here--they seem to come straight from the pages of feminist Riane Eisler's "Partnership Way"--well, that's OK. After all (or rather, after Auel--Jean, that is), isn't that what readers want?