The Hunter Returns
David Drake and Jim Kjelgaard
BAEN, Aug 4 2015, $9.99
Worried about the recent shortage of his tribe’s prime meat source bison and aware that the probable cause is the hunters’ overkill by a fiery mass pushing off cliffs, Hawk the Chief Spear Maker notices by accident a strange phenomenon. Following up on his observation, he violates the tribe’s law on weapon-making when he creates a flexible device that shoots spears with greater velocity than a human can toss one. When feral dogs attack the tribe; one breaks through the perimeter of hunters before mangling Willow’s thigh. Women batter it to death; but five members die from the wild dogs’ assault.
The leaders exile Hawk for his unintended violation of the law and Willow for her crippling injury. As the outcasts struggle to survive in a world filled with predators, their tribe also faces starvation due to a scarcity of meat. The only source of sustenance is the women gathering fruits and vegetables. Their only hope of survival resides with accepting Hawk and his weapons modernizations.
This reprint of David Drake’s 1990 expansion of Jim Kjelgaard’s young adult classic (see Fire Hunter) showcases the talents of both writers. The remake keeps the Mr. Kjelgaard’s original content of two outcasts’ survival struggle in a deadly wilderness filled with prehistoric monsters; but adds Mr. Drake’s what happens to the tribe they left behind during hard times made more difficult without their visionary arms-maker. Although my trade paperback copy lacks the awesome art by incredible Charles R. Knight (well worth visits to the Museum of Natural History in New York to see his prehistoric drawings), The Hunter Returns passes the test of time as the novel remains a wonderful thriller.