Complicating the tribal politics is the attention of aliens from other planets, some of whom are mining Earth without the natives’ knowledge—and without much concern for human life. Frailey exhibits a strong command of survival storytelling, plus a welcome interest in the customs and beliefs of her invented clans. One pressing theme is renewed belief in tales of a “Creator God” whose “mighty hands and scooped out vast lakes and rivers,” while the philosophical idea of evil gets evoked with power. “These men will destroy you because they like the feel of the act,” one character warns. “Their evil is stronger than your good.”
Tense encounters, crisp action, failures of leadership, and dramatic surprises power the story’s main thrust, which concerns the relationships between the ancient humans, both at the tribal and personal level. Frailey creates compelling characters in each of the human factions, especially Aram, who is haunted by loss, and bold Pele of the river clan. The stakes of their conflict are urgent, as the fate of human development hinges on them. The science-fiction elements, by contrast, take a long time to pay off, and at first read like distractions from the human story: Frailey presents her aliens as knowable to us, the readers, which diminishes their mystery and majesty.
Takeaway: This pre-historic epic pits human tribes against each other as interplanetary beings look on.
Great for fans of: Jane M. Auel, Debra Austin’s Daughter of Kura.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B