From the authors of People of the River (1992) and other novels (in paperback) set in America's prehistory: a rather rousing tale of deadly pursuits and spiritual journeys that is, in general, free of the dusty earnestness that so often clogs the movement of other fictional efforts by conscientious anthropologists like the Gears. Here, in a story set about 11,000 years ago on the West Coast, Kestrel--a pregnant woman of an inland clan who's condemned to death by her violent, mad husband Lambkill--escapes and heads for the oceanside Otter Clan, kin of her dead lover. On the way, she bears twins, then must leave one to die--and because the Otter Clan reckons descent from the female line, Kestrel leaves the boy. (Throughout, the baby's soul, trapped in decay, holds a dialogue with a wise Being about Life and Death's meaning.) Also alone and searching to find answers--as well as a Way to lure back the disappearing mammoths so needed by his people--is Sunchaser, the Dreamer of the Otter Clan. He will find Kestrel and her baby girl, who are hunted not only by Lambkill--who travels with a baby's body--but by the brothers of a man she was forced to kill. Meanwhile, a witch is also on the loose, a rival Dreamer who becomes a wolf at will. There's a happy close, and, a few years later, the mammoths miraculously come once more. Despite the overhang of myth and metaphysics and the turgid present-day prologue: essentially an action tale embellished by epigrammatic wisdom and a touch of very modern humor. (Cries the false Dreamer: ``I see death! Death and Destruction! Oh, it's terrible!'' Cracks a grandmother: ``Some news.'') It's all without the character-centered pep of Mary Mackey's The Year the Horses Came (p. 959), but the scholarly base gives a sheen of credulity to the time and place and predicaments.