The Siberian mystique devolves to a gripping and eloquent human reality as an exiled hunter is first forced, then chooses to befriend a forest ranger envoyed by the Czar to protect wildlife in the northern wilderness. The needs and goals, backgrounds and temperaments of the two men are intrinsically antithetical; yet they respect and ultimately learn to know one another when they jointly dedicate themselves to conserving Siberia's animal resources and breaking down centuries of tribal resistance. Nikolai is the exile's thirteen-year-old son, as strong and proud as the father he worships--and follows through physical and ideological struggles. He makes peace with the ranger's young daughter in an affecting parallel to the diminution of the adults' conflict. The book is peopled by Russian villagers and pagan Ostyaks, by the terrorizing hungry bear they call Mihail Ivanovich and Ashninika respectively, by men so complacent despite their fierce battle to live that they cannot, will not know the meaning of change. Bartos-Hoppner has written an extraordinarily delicate story of integrities pitted against each other, of past fighting future in a consummately honest Siberia. Withal it reads effortlessly.