Cameron (The Dogs of Christmas, 2013, etc.) returns to a time when woolly mammoth and Neanderthal roamed the Earth and watches as human meets wolf-who-becomes-dog.
Professor James Morby rejects the idea that evolution is always a "glacial process," positing instead "that a species might evolve in giant steps"—particularly as it applies to the relationship between people and dogs. At a French dig, Morby believes archaeologists have found "The dog"—a skeleton of a prehistoric wolf wearing a collar and buried alongside a man. The short Morby scenes give the book nuance, but the overly long story focuses on prehistoric peoples 30,000 years past as they endure a mini–ice age. The clans include the Kindred, hunter-gatherers, and the Wolfen, hunters following wolf packs as those animals seek prey. There’s much imagination here, albeit the Ur-human proclivity for sex, love, jealousy, anger, pettiness, and revenge plays out in near-modern syntax, with much "Good summer to you!" sans caveman grunts and snorts. There too is superstition: young Mal is driven from the Kindred because he was born with a deformed leg. Mal cannot hunt—be a spearman—and so, after much female machination, he's labeled a curse and exiled. Alone, he follows a mortally wounded pregnant she-wolf into a cave. There, he sustains her and soon bonds with her surviving pup, a female he names Brotherly Dog—Dog Fraternus. While there’s little anthropomorphization when man begins to interact with wolf, there’s much danger and bloodletting as Kindred and Wolfen meet bears, giant lions, and "strange men, with faces smeared with charcoal and rouge....Hideous, wild-looking men....Cohort" and "the Frightened Ones," no doubt Neanderthals.
Interesting speculative history with a satisfying conclusion, one opening the door for a sequel or series.