The Dog Master: A Novel of the First Dog

Written by W. Bruce Cameron
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

Before there was written history, man traveled in tribes or clans as hunter/gatherers, always searching for food and shelter. Upon the death of his father, Silex becomes the leader of a tribe, the Wolfen, which emulates the wolf in both habits and customs. The Mother Council rules the Kindred tribe. They decide the pairings for marriages and determine when to move the tribe north or south each year.

When Calli, wife of Palloc of the Kindred tribe, gives birth to a deformed child, Mal, there is friction when the Great Mother, Albi, deems he is bad luck and must be destroyed. Saved by the Mother Council, Mal grows older yet is unable to keep up with the other males because of his deformed foot. Eventually he is forced by the Mother Council to leave. He later stumbles upon an injured female wolf and her cubs and seeks refuge in a cave with them.

I found this debut novel entertaining, with details of what life could have been like during this early stage of human existence. This is a fictionalized account of man’s first relationship with the wolf, which would eventually evolve into many species of domesticated dogs. The in-depth writing about early man, told in an epic tale of tribal warfare and customs and forbidden love, is fascinating. My only negative comment is about the number of characters; the story moves from tribe to tribe within each chapter, so I had to make a list of characters in each tribe to follow along. With that done, this became a rather minor point. For those who enjoy fictionalized books about prehistory, you should add this book to your library.