cover image Fire Bringer

Fire Bringer

David Clement-Davies. Dutton Children's Books, $19.95 (498pp) ISBN 978-0-525-46492-1

Clement-Davies's suspenseful debut novel centers on a cast of deer, who, like the rabbits in Watership Down, often use their own special vocabulary (deer, for instance, are ""Herla""; an insult to a Herla would be to call him a ""brailah,"" or hedgehog). Soon after the novel opens, the deer are fleeing from the power-hungry Lord of the Herd, Sgorr, a buck with a mysterious past who is slowly building a militaristic following. An ancient prophecy states that a fawn with an oak leaf-shaped mark on his forehead is destined to free his kind from the ""lord of lies."" When Rannoch is born with such a mark, the elders know to protect him from Sgorr and arrange his escape with a pack of friends. Rannoch discovers as they travel that he can talk to--and even heal--other animals. Meanwhile, Sgorr conquers herd after herd and uses other wildlife as fodder for his militia's training. Rannoch doesn't want to fight, but when an assassin murders the hind who raised him, he knows he must confront Sgorr--and fulfill the rest of the prophecy. The struggle between good and evil builds right up to the final face-off. Some chapters drag a bit, and the narration occasionally breaks out of the deer's point of view to fill in scientific facts about mating or herd behavior, but for the most part the adventures are likely to captivate readers. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)