After reading a few just so-so books, I really wanted to get lost in a great tome of a story. The Kin was just the ticket. The book is actually four novels published in one volume, weighing in at just over 600 pages. The story is paced really well, so I would look up from reading and realize I had just knocked out 50 or 75 pages in no time. I'm a huge history fan and have always been interested in the history of early mankind. Set in prehistoric Africa, this novel imagines what life was like for the clans of people surviving in the African deserts.
The stories of Suth, Noli, Po, and Mana are interspersed with Oldtales, or creation stories about the Kin's First Ones, which I found to be really interesting and illuminating as to how the characters behaved and reacted to life in the wild. Each First One is an animal, such as a monkey or a pocupine, and each Kin is named after a First One. The mixture of myth and history was just perfect and very entertaining.
A most interesting aspect of this book is how Dickinson imagined communication between speaking and non-speaking humans. The four children the stories follow belong to the Moonhawk Kin, which consists of highly verbal humans. Along the way, they encounter the Porcupine Kin, who are nonverbal but are still very communicative through sounds and gestures. Some of the Moonhawks say that the Porcupine Kin are not really 'people' because they can't speak words, but others, particularly Noli, are convinced that the Porcupine are just as human as anyone else even though they are different.
All in all, this novel is a very interesting and thought-provoking work of 'prehistorical' fiction.