Release date: 25 June 2023
Synopsis: In an ancient world of peasant farmers an orphan boy befriends a wolf.
The two become outcasts.
They flee to a strange land where they must make their way in the face of many threats - to their freedom, to the wolf's survival.
They are captured by a ruthless baron, himself soon on the run from a paranoid king.
All travel down a great river until their way is blocked.
Tensions build to a violent climax.
A holy crone and a demonic bandit play their parts in the outcome, along with the river itself.
I had the distinct honor of receiving a review copy of Peterkin and the First Dog in the mail from the author, and it was an interesting (and quite enjoyable) experience of a read. King-Spooner’s tale of an ancient young farmer and his gift for taming wild animals is by far one of the most unique books I’ve read this year (perhaps because it is an indie and does not follow conventional publishing norms, hmmm?). King-Spooner’s prose was absolutely mesmerizing and the story provided a grand adventure that had my heart in my throat the whole way through. Though the book is a bit rough around the edges and needs some editing, I highly recommend it for those who like to read stories of adventure written with younger folks in mind, provided they don’t mind a bit of language.
Peterkin is a young orphan of about 15 whose mother has recently died when the story opens, which leaves him by himself to tend the small family farm he inherits. While he is dutiful and takes wonderful care of his property, he must deal with pressures from some in his community to cede his land to a near relative and take care of an injured wolf that he is unwilling to kill. All of these outside forces converge on him at once, forcing him to flee his farm and take the wolf with him. While Peterkin’s mother raised him diligently to be self-reliant and responsible, as is important with all humans, he still needs other people and community to thrive. The trouble is that not all people who offer help are good, and those who seem to be stingy are not necessarily bad.
I haven’t read a book with prose quite like this for a while. Many things are inferred, and the reader must stay engaged in the story to understand what is happening. I find this aspect of the book one of its best qualities, as many books written for contemporary young people offer easy-to-read plots and dialogue with a lot of action to entertain—which doesn’t leave much of their thinking provoked or even adequately stimulated. In Peterkin and the First Dog, Peterkin’s story offers a dichotomy of human nature for readers to examine; on one hand, we have humble Peterkin trying to protect life and offer his labor in exchange for help; and on the other, we get to experience the thought process of powerful people who have the resources to help those in need but seek only to exploit the downtrodden.
All things meta in the narrative aside, King-Spooner also offers readers a fantastic variety of characters. What we see hinted at in the synopsis is but a mere sampling of all the wonderful people fleshed out in the story. Peterkin was so endearing, with his loving nature and humble, grateful spirit. Every character who interacts with him changes somehow, whether for the better or worse, the reader may judge.
Peterkin and the First Dog is available to read right now, and I highly recommend it for upper-YA and adult readers who long to read an adventure tale with no romance and a slight historical, speculative aspect. It also comes with beautiful, experience-enhancing illustrations in the print book.
My profuse thanks to Mr. King-Spooner for the review copy, for which I willing give my own, honest opinion.