This fourth novel by the author of The Road to Avalon, Born of the Sun, and The Edge of Light travels backward in time from Dark Ages Britain--which has been Wolf's customary haunt--to the prehistoric world of Cro-Magnon man. To make her move, Wolf has obviously studied up on her Jean Auel, mastered some of the mega- seller's lessons, and even bettered her in some vital areas. The protagonist here is a young woman named Alin, heir apparent to one of the last remaining matriarchal societies in the Pyrenees region of southern France (famed for its cave paintings, which are referred to throughout). She's about to participate in the Sacred Marriage, a fertility rite during which the women in the Tribe of the Red Deer choose mates. But just before the chanting starts, Alin and a number of other girls are kidnapped by a band of hunters from the Tribe of the Horse, led by the primordial hunk, Mar. Alin's amazed at the way things are ordered in Mar's patriarchal tribe (``What I am saying, Mar, is that neither should have the rule...a marriage should be like a hunting fellowship'') and manages to make some changes. Meanwhile, at the Spring Fires, Mar teaches her that no matter how capable women are, they still need men. Eventually, Alin's tribe comes to reclaim her, but she won't be able to live without Mar for long, and when she returns to him, it's to build a new, gender-balanced society. Post-feminist prehistory then, well researched and thought- out. Though it lacks the geologic scope and visual sense of an Auel, its characters and themes are sharper--making it an exceedingly strong contender on the prehistoric-fiction front.