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More garrulous animals from England: the foxes of Dartmoor--who seem to be much more poetical and mystical chaps than the yeoman rabbits of Watership Down, though far less longwinded than the insufferable moles of Duncton Wood. Carter's central fox-hero is big, black Wulfgar, ""Old Blackie."" And much of this slender novel concerns Wulfgar's struggles with trapper/poacher Scobie, an addled, obsessed WW I vet with an equally bonkers dog named Jacko. (Jacko talks to himself in Monster Monosyllables: ""Jacko great. He come from stars. Stars love Jacko."") Wulfgar, then, will lose his deeply loved mate Teg and their cubs to murderous Scobie and Jacko. But he'll take revenge, with the help of a Collie-turned-""animal"" and a sharp-toothed otter, when Jacko, swimming to reach Wulfgar (""O Jacko do cracko the old foxio""), is pulled under for good; Scobie, too, will get his--lured into a death-trap amid the white, icy winter landscape. And, throughout, Wulfgar takes comfort from the mystical pronouncements of old fox Stargrief--who has visions, commits ""bardic"" utterances, foretells of Destruction wrought by Man, and talks of the ""Star Place"". . . with its carpets of rabbits and ""the Tod who is all."" (At the end Stargrief will go off on his solitary quest for the Hay Tor--a haven invisible to others--at World's End.) True, even Anglophiles will find the rural dialect a bit thick underfoot, while some of the dialogue is decidedly un-foxy (""It goes beyond the love of fox for fox, doesn't it?""); and many readers may consider the body count--crunchy kills galore--a tad gratuitous. But, with drawings by the author, this seasonal fox-saga has a certain vigor. And those who don't mind some purple prose along with their tooth-and-claw gore may find this a tolerable exercise in anthropomorphism.

Pub Date: Aug. 16th, 1982
Publisher: St. Martin's