Title: Man of the Cave Bear
Author: Kate Roman
Length: 13,300 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m fantasy historical romance
To attain manhood with his clan, Taran hunts a savage, one of the fearsome bear-like beasts inhabiting the mountains above his home. From infancy, Taran’s been taught to fear and hate them, but Taran’s savage, Roke, has other ideas, and after a night of passion, Taran cannot bring himself to kill his new companion. Instead he returns to his clan with a lie on his lips and an ache in his heart. But when the clan discovers Roke near their village, they take to the warpath. Torn between his clan and his heart, will Taran leave everything he’s known for a love he could never have imagined?
I like the pun in the title from Clan of the Cave Bear, the book by Jean M Auel, because this story does have a slightly similar setting of prehistoric times with added pterosaurs. It tells of Taran who specialises in cutting quartz into knives and other implements. He’s just turned 18 and the rules of the clan say that in order to be a man and marry he must venture out into the wilderness an kill one of the savages who live in the hills outside their village. Taran has never killed anything in his life and plans to return after three days having failed his quest and be left alone to live a peaceful life. However, he meets Roke, one of the savages and finds out that he is not the beast that the village elders claim the savages are.
I rather enjoyed the unusual setting to this story with a character who felt out of place in his own village. Taran is kind but also very proud of his ability to fashion knives from quartz. He’s also stubborn minded and even when he’s absolved from his quest, he resolves to prove himself and disappear into the wilderness for three days. However, he’s also sensitive and realistic about his chances to kill a ‘savage’. When he meets Roke, I enjoyed the way that his preconceptions were destroyed by Roke’s gentleness and the scenes with them together were hot but also did well in showing a growing regard. It’s quite hard to show something like this when neither of them can communicate well, but I was satisfied with an ending where their feelings may have seemed sudden in other situations.
The story also had a good mix of thoughtful moments and action scenes, although the part with the pterosaur was a little far-fetched for my liking. Still, it added a frisson of danger to the idyll created by the two men. The scenes where Taran returns to the village didn’t work quite as well for me, especially as I couldn’t quite work out whether the village elders were deliberately covering up or just refused to listen to Taran. Also, during the story Taran worries about the villagers coming to find him and Roke if he doesn’t return after three days, but then once the story ends he stops worrying that they will try and find him. Perhaps the villagers just assume that Taran will die in the wilderness without the protection of the village, but that isn’t made clear.
Those niggles weren’t enough to spoil my enjoyment of this story too much though and if the thought of a hairy Neanderthal type hero doesn’t put you off then this would be a book I would recommend as a bit different from the usual contemporaries.