This series opener follows various Pleistocene hominids as they struggle for survival.
In East Africa, 850,000 years ago, Xhosa is a female Homo erectus who enjoys the physicality of hunting and fighting. Her father, who desires peace, is the People’s Leader. Her mother was killed in front of her by one of the vicious Big Heads (Homo sapiens), who want complete control over any territory they find. When her father is likewise killed by Big Heads, Xhosa competes with Nightshade, whom she may mate with, to become the new Leader. Further encounters with the Big Heads bring Xhosa into contact with the handsome Wind, one of two brothers leading the savages. While his brother, Thunder, is remorseless, Wind is willing to talk and reveals a reverence for Xhosa. Meanwhile, in southern Africa, Pan-do (Homo erectus) and his People have been traveling for over a month. They also flee Big Head violence and hope to find a place to settle down, possibly alongside the gentle Homo habilis Uprights. Lyta, Pan-do’s daughter, walks lamely yet is attuned to nature and the realm of the mind in ways unheard of to the People. Her dreams may be the key to uniting disparate clans and finding true safety. Beginning a new trilogy, Murray (Born in a Treacherous Time, 2018, etc.) continues to chronicle how humanity spread across the globe from an origin point in Africa. While taking dramatic liberty with the notion of speech (as readers know it), the author presents characters who face the hard choices that have plagued heroes throughout storytelling’s history. Despite the truth that “the more aggressive, the longer life lasted,” Xhosa knows that the People can’t survive on war alone. Art, dreams, and empathy are bedrock components of society; they also advance the narrative in fabulous ways, including tying Xhosa to famed human ancestor Lucy. The clear message that humanity should live in harmony with nature rather than endlessly consuming and expanding should resonate more than ever with modern audiences.
A lavish historical epic that balances details and emotional impact.