Shadow Valley

Written by Steven Barnes
Review by Michael I. Shoop

Set 30,000 years ago in Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro region, this follow-up to Great Sky Woman has T’Cori, the heroine from the previous novel, on an important quest: to lead her people to a safe haven far from their ruthless enemies, the cruel and brutish Mk*tk. The gods tell T’Cori through dreams that the Ibandis’ only hope for survival is to follow the pathway they provide to another land and settle there. With the support of her husband, the brave and caring Frog Hopping, and the wise elder, Mother Stillshadow, T’Cori is able to lead the peaceful Ibandi tribe to the Shadow Valley, a paradise of plenty, teeming with huge herds, rippling lakes, and vast plains. But underneath the beauty exists the constant threat of the Mk*tk, determined to totally annihilate the Ibandi, and, from within the tribal group, a man thought dead returns to take revenge on those he deems responsible for his misery. An additional complication is the Vokka, strange, light-skinned people who control wolf-like animals, and who seem to be neither friend nor foe—yet.

Barnes has written a wonderfully imaginative story of life in prehistoric Africa, with all its natural beauty and inherent dangers. His depiction of the three tribes, Ibandi, Mk*tk, and Vokka, are interesting and realistic, both culturally and anthropologically. His characters, including the villainous Flat Nose and the tortured Fire Ant, are well drawn, along with scenes of battles, torture and mutilation, disease, childbirth, death, and lion attacks. Certain sections may not be for the faint-hearted, but on the whole, this is an entertaining adventure of how life may have been on the African plains at the beginnings of tribal civilization.