Review: 'Kavishar; Reflections in A Wolf's Eyes', by L. Kyle
Laura Kyle is a self-professed animal lover. In the About the Author, she says,
Laura loves all animals, and has previously enjoyed the companionship of dogs, cats, ferrets, gerbils, rats, hamsters and a horse, though allergies now sadly prevent her from sharing her house with any furry friends. (page [+2])
A wildlife organization, Friends of the Wolf in Vancouver, British Columbia, has assisted in verifying that Kyle’s descriptions of wolf behavior are accurate. Kyle admits that the zoo in Kavishar is based on the old-fashioned “animals in small cages” model that is being phased out throughout the world, and urges readers to support modern “animal friendly” zoos and animal-rescue organizations, especially those that work with wolves.
Kavishar is a true-life animal adventure novel like Jack London’s White Fang and The Call of the Wild, except for the fantasy element that the animals are intelligent and can speak with one another. Think of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp with a story about a young wolf trying to get the town’s dogs to accept him as a fellow dog. Some Furry fans may be disappointed because the animals are not more anthropomorphized, but Kavishar is an excellent blend of true-life animal fiction and “if animals could talk” fantasy.
Kavishar, a year-old timber wolf “teenager”, is raised from a cub by 18-year-old Luc Dubois, the son of a fur trapper in the forests of the Canadian Yukon. Aside from Luc, or the Young Master as his two canid friends call him, Kavi’s best friend and mentor is Luc’s adult Siberian Husky, Chazameck. (These are their animal names. To humans, Chazameck and Kavishar are Chasseur and Solitaire.) Chazameck has raised Kavi to be like himself, and Kavi considers himself as a big dog, not a wolf.
When Luc’s father dies, the young man decides to give up fur trapping, which has been getting less profitable anyway as more and more people switch from wanting real furs to environmentally-friendly false furs. He uses their money to buy a run-down house in (fictional) New Prince George, a small town in southwestern Alberta, just south of the Canadian Rockies and out of the wilderness, and takes a job as a construction worker there.
Chazameck is an older dog and used to living in human civilization. Luc is worried about how Kavi will adjust to life in a human town. He hopes that his new neighbors will think that Kavi is also a Husky, but most know a wolf when they see one. Worse, so do New Prince George’s dogs, who are let out during the day to roam the neighborhood. When Kavi tries to make friends and join the local pack – the friendlier neighborhood dogs -- they don’t believe that Kavi is a dog instead of a wolf. The friendlier, the German Shepherd Shann and Tiriee, a Pit Bull and Staffordshire Terrier mix, accept him hesitantly at best. Most bigger male dogs, especially those bred to hunt and fight wolves like Kaemos the Kuvasz (the pack Alpha) and Friana, the Irish Wolfhound, want him to leave town right away or they will kill him.
Luc, because of his construction job, is forced to leave Chazameck and Kavi home all day. This is possible because of New Prince George’s small-town custom of letting the neighborhood dogs roam loose. This is fine with Kavi, who is willing to make friends with the “Tall and Hairless” that he meets. But even the humans who do not recognize Kavi as a wolf are nervous when such a big “dog” comes right up to them and starts sniffing them. And Kavi cannot understand that the neighborhood cats and pet rabbits in outdoor hutches are not meant for snacks.
Luc tries to keep Kavi fenced in at home, but a wolf’s instinct is to wander widely and explore, and wolves can jump over 9-foot fences. Finally, a young girl is attacked by a savage dog, and everybody blames the wolf. Although Kavi is exonerated, it is illegal to keep wild animals – which, legally, all wolves are – as house pets, and Kavi is taken away from Luc by the police and Animal Control to the town zoo.
The novel follows Kavi’s getting to know the zoo’s other canids and felines such as Daccus and Namirie, two other wolves; Yantee, a coyote; Huarra, a lynx; Ruratan, a dingo; Jaston and Mirete, two arctic foxes; and Tosha, a rat who sneaks into their cages to steal their food. Meanwhile Luc and Jessie, the sister of the little girl who was attacked and who has become Luc’s girl friend, explore legal ways for Luc to get Kavishar back.
This plot summary sounds like a regular animal novel, but there are animal conversations on almost every page. Here is Shann, the German Shepherd, telling Chazameck and Kavishar how the pack in New Prince George works:
Shann flicked him [Chazameck] an annoyed look, but didn’t argue. He shook the loose skin of his upper body, and wagged his tail with reserved friendliness at Kavishar, who sat with his head hanging in unhappiness. Reassured, Kavishar perked up slightly.
‘Yes. Anyway,’ Shann hemmed with strained cheerfulness. ‘As I was saying, we’re a social bunch around here. The pack leader is Kaemos. He spends most of his time patrolling his master’s huge, fancy territory, located a brisk trot to the northwest. Now and then Kaemos calls a pack meeting, but mostly everyone pretty much does his or her own thing. Which is cool, in my opinion. Much better than a rigid pack structure, with everybody always strutting, bragging and fighting for status.’
‘No hierarchy?’ Chazameck muttered, nostrils flaring in in surprise. ‘How does anyone know their proper place?’
‘Oh, I didn’t say there’s no ranking system. You don’t dare twitch your nose wrong around Kaemos. A few of his top subordinates take their status very seriously too. But except for Kaemos and his closest followers, the rest of us just hang out on occasion and have fun.’ (page 33)
Here is Woou, a hound mix bitch in heat:
Woou gave Chazameck a coy glance. ‘Cute, ain’t he?’ she simpered. ‘Do you like what you see, big boy?’ She pranced back and forth, smiling at the Husky, her tail flipped high over her back.
‘She’s got the stitches, ya know,’ Rrrosh remarked with a wink. ‘The marks of those what can’t have pups.’
‘Gads,’ Chazameck said, wrinkling his nose.
‘If you’re not interested, then maybe your big friend there is, the handsome Varroulie,’ Woou singsonged, still posturing. Showing no shame, she wriggled and wiggled with obvious delight at their discomfort. (pgs. 52-53)
Kavishar has accidentally managed to make a mortal enemy of Kaemos, the Kuvasz wolf-killer. As long as Kavi is in the zoo, he’s at least safe. But Tosha has an idea how Shann, Tiriee, and Chazameck can break him out of the zoo; and Kavi plans to use the same trick to release Namirie, the wolf bitch with whom he has fallen in love. At the same time, Luc has given up trying to get Kavi back by legal means and is ready to try springing him, although obviously they cannot stay in New Prince George if he does, and Luc will have to give up his girl friend. Naturally there are complications, plus the dangers of Kavi or his friends’ deaths, and Luc being caught and losing his new life in New Prince George. Kyle leads the novel to a breakneck, suspenseful, terrible conclusion.
Kavishar is very well-written and well-plotted. The dangers, and the actions of the Good Guys to get out of them, are clever and believable. All through the adventure, Kyle keeps Kavishar’s thoughts and actions based on real wolf behavior. In so doing, she shows why real wolves would not make good pets in an urban setting. The anthropomorphism here is slight, but Kavishar is a novel that most Furry fans, especially wolf fans, will really enjoy.