Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson
Orbit, 2013. ISBN 9780356500447.
(Age: Senior secondary - Adult) Shaman is a lengthy novel, set in the last Ice Age, at a time when the Neanderthals are dying out (the Old Ones), and the Cro-Magnons, our ancestors, are well and truly on the road to success. This is the story of Loon, a young Cro-Magnon set to become the shaman of his pack, and the struggle he has coming to terms with his place in the world.
Essentially, Shaman is a coming-of-age story. The author paints a very detailed world, with much description and little dialogue. We follow Loon's initiation into manhood, his difficulties accepting the path that has been chosen for him, and then his various adventures which inevitably lead to his maturation and acceptance of his place in the scheme of things as he grows in wisdom and responsibility.
This is an interesting novel, well written, certainly gripping in parts, and quite thought-provoking. It has been well researched, and interestingly, self-styled by the author as a science fiction with the rationale that it stems from the study of a science - archaeology. You can draw your own conclusions about a speculative work of fiction set 30,000 years in the past. To me, it calls The Clan of the Cave Bear series by Jean Auel to mind. Another text to compare it with might be the documentary film Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) about the Chauvet caves, as there is a lot of painting described in Shaman, based on these very caves.
Shaman would not work as a classroom text, but as an addition to a school library it may appeal to competent senior students.