Ramblefoot - Ken Kaufman Ramblefoot is the tale of the orphan wolf Raspail, his early life in the pack that adopts him, his various betrayals and misadventures, and his slow (but rather obvious) growth into "Facet" (alpha wolf).

this is a long, digressive, fairly engrossing tale of adventure. the wolves are semi-anthropomorphized: they are given many "human" attributes, but essential aspects of their nature remain resolutely wolfish. Ramblefoot is an adult epic. there is a ton of violence - many throats torn out, animals slaughtered, at one point a rather pathetic pregnant coyote is gleefully killed and eaten by our always-hungry protagonists. there is a lot of pissing, which i guess is understandable. and there is a good deal of vomit-eating and ass-sniffing, which i found to be a bit taxing at times. still, it is highly readable.

the book does have some serious flaws. it is in dire need of an editor. it is perhaps longer than it should be and overly digressive. although the prose can be quite marvelous - rich and beautiful and clever and raw... almost as often, the language is downright clumsy, crude, or thuddingly obvious. action tends to be fairly well-done, and dynamic... but sometimes things get unnecessarily confusing, rushed. i think a stern editor could do wonders.

i also had a problem with the logic behind the central villain's characterization: an omega-wolf named Hesser, full of barely hidden resentments and eager to become top dog. my understanding of canine/lupine mentality - based on a lot of conversation with my vet friends and a dog-trainer i know - is that one of the unique qualities of a pack (a dog or wolf pack, as opposed to a human pack) is the lack of resentment at the roles given to individual members. however, this is just minor quibbling - for all i know, it may happen; Hesser is an intriguing character and his place in the narrative works fine.

anyway, back to the good stuff... much like Watership Down, there are intriguing elements of animal mythology that are detailed. also similarly, humans are included at various times and they are portrayed as both oblique and terrifying. Raspail has a clever raven ally, a fellow outsider named Poitu, and their relationship is lovely. a favorite character of mine is the complicated dwarf wolf Repetto. there is a hilarious sequence when Raspail and his mate Kileo, physically bonded post-sex by that 'knot' thing that some animals have on their dicks, are forced to run off together while bonded, and then turn and fight, as one. the villains are fascinating: the above-mentioned Hesser, the truly unpleasant Siksac (later turned into a cave-dwelling war-machine by immersion within some boiling water: nerve endings killed, skin & hair & dirt & debris all bonded together to form an unbreachable coat), and especially the ruthless, righteous, treacherous and beautiful she-wolf Sarassin. and the names are rather wonderful: Raspail... Sarassin... Poitu... Cob Ash... Balfort... Maddocq... Cortess... Aratus... Abillon... Draguignon.

overall, a substantially flawed but interesting and unusual book.

here's a little taste of the wolfiness:
"Did we not share our childhood?" Abillon pleaded. "Did we not play and hunt together? Can you not think of a single happy moment we enjoyed together?"

Raspail cocked his head as if to fondly recollect. "I suppose we did share one happy moment."

"What happy moment, Raspail? I can think of many, not just one!" Abillon said hopefully, thinking it might dredge up Raspail's mercy.

"It was that happy moment... when I killed you." Raspail said.

And as Abillon arched his neck to howl... Raspail lunged at his throat and pinched it shut before the vibrations fomenting in his chest could escape.