Decidedly more decorous than Auel's spear-and-pelt melodrama, this novel by pseudonymous Tempest features a northern European deer-hunting tribe and a former outcast who saves the tribe from starvation—although he also will unwittingly usher in a new and disturbing era. Remnant of another tribe that had attempted to invade the valley of the Burnt Shin tribe, the boy Finn is a barely tolerated outsider—until his loving attention to a dying child pays off, and he is adopted by Hann, a hearth leader, as his son. Now a happy Burnt Shin, Finn undergoes initiation, learns the dances, songs, and tales of the god Annu—half-man, half-reindeer, the animal that the tribe both hunts and worships. But is it Finn's sin—his refusal to kill the girl Shani during initiation rites—that causes disaster to come? The herd of reindeer that seasonally thunders by is oddly decimated, whereupon the youth Gnonu leads a rebellion to topple the strengths of the elders and old ways, and to slaughter, wholesale, the diminished herd. Finn—despondent over the death of his adoptive father, Hann, and over a tribe turned to greed—asks for death, is rescued by Shani, and together the two move to a secret happy valley with few but fat deer. Of course, Finn will return with Shani, as well as an eye-bugging reindeer named Fleetfoot, to rescue the tribe, commit an essential murder, and teach the tribe the need for careful culling. Some years later, reindeer domesticated, Finn will also discover that the restless hunters have wandered on to other—possibly human—prey. Tempest makes plausible one theory of the evolution of hunter societies, and the dialogue of the Burnt Shins is certainly less preposterous than Auel's Neanderthal orations—but there's less fire and fun here. Easy, agreeable, and could probably double as a Y A.
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