Fire Bringer, by David Clement-Davies
Well, it's warmed over Watership down for sure. Actually, I was a little disappointed in this one. The author never could seem to decide which way he wanted to go: at one moment its an allegory for historical battles and the unification of Scotland, and the next its a much more traditional sentient animal story.
I think the biggest problem here is that his primary characters just did not come across as likable or memorable to me. His villains are pretty good and several of the downlevel characters made a much better impression on me, espcially Bankfoot and the lost reindeer who shows up later in the book.
Basically, prophesied fawn is born, orphaned, exiled from the herd, undertakes a journey, gains enlightenment, returns and sacrifices understanding to restore the instinctive world of Herne's Law. Can you say James Campbell folks?
However, just because it is unoriginal doesn't mean its not interesting. I did find the antagonist's motivation of trying to free the deer from their instinct driven world to actually think to be an interesting twist on this story. At least he had a real motive besides his own greed. Sgorr (The bad guy), made me wish that more time was spent on how and what and why he changed the deers' behavior and not as much on the journey of the protagonist, Rannoch. It covers 6 or 7 years of time and that may be part of its problem as its no where near as long as Watership Down was.
Anyways, as these sort of books go I'd give it a 3 or 3.5 out of 5. Not as good as Watership Down or the Wolves of Time, but better than the run of the mill sentient animal story and it has a lot of decent backstory for how the deers world works. And if you are a deer aficionado then I'm sure you will like it.
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