Young Liok's people are not Indians, as an American reader might first assume, but some unspecified group of Old World primitives, and the reluctant shaman whose innovations bring him up against a people ruled by custom is an unusually solid link between modern and ancient world views. Though destined by birth to be a shaman, Liok knows he has never seen or talked to a spirit and is forced to substitute trickery for magic. For a time his impromptu prophecies are successful, but eventually Liok is caught in the act of deception and flees with his brother to a slightly more advanced tribe. Liok finds a more suitable vocation as a weapon maker and hunter, but his iconoclasm proves just as dangerous as ever, and though Liok is always cunning and lucky enough to survive, one broken taboo costs the life of his wife and adopted children. Like most such glimpses of the pre-literate past, this is as much diorama as novel. However the background of ritual and superstition is richly detailed, the psychology of the tribesmen -- who want better ways of doing things but find their only security in tradition -- is convincing. For the more sophisticated adventurer.