Born in a Treacherous Time: Book Review

As some of you know, I like torturing quizzing authors about their books before I spill my review. Jacqui Murray has been everywhere sharing her latest, Born in a Treacherous Time. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about paleo-fiction. Paleo fiction? Hmm. But, Jacqui is immensely talented, and I’ve enjoyed her other books, so I figured I’d give it a go.

Well, move over Jean Auel (Clan of the Cavebear), Jacqui Murray has written a mesmerizing book! And I have to rave a little.

Her world-building is fascinating, and one of the things that most impressed me was her full immersion into the prehistoric timeframe that shares so little with our current way of life. I didn’t sense, at any point, that modern sensibilities were leaking into the characters or action. The ancient humans were deftly integrated into the harsh landscape and its primordial life, perfectly balanced between primate and human. The meticulous care taken to create this reality was stunning. What I wanted to know was – how did Jacqui stay on track? How did she keep the characters so honest to the developmental time in history? Here’s her response:

Jacqui Murray

What a great question, Diana.

The short answer is, I spent a lot of time living in Lucy’s world (of Homo habilis). I started by reading everything I could get my hands on about life in that era (a lot of paleo topics like paleoclimate and paleogeology). But scientists have so few artifacts of those ancestors, I had to dig deeply into the worlds of the Great Apes (the animals that came immediately before upright man)—apes gorillas, orangutans. Through the sensibilities and work of women like Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas, I gained tremendous admiration for these predecessors who ultimately shaped man. In fact, now, when I look at one of these creatures, I no longer see an animal; I see a human. Primitive but with the seeds of who we are.  I am disgusted at the barbarian practice of using apes for drug testing as though they are less than human. They aren’t less than me, just different.

Once I grounded myself, I had to remember Lucy’s world had no fire, no clothing, no religion or art, no music, no spoken language, no symbolic names (their call signs were sounds). No cultural rules. Attachments revolved around survival not emotion. And her animal instinct was super-charged with her brilliant brain. As I wrote, I had to make sure I was true to those guidelines.

Here’s an example. I knew hunting (which to them was scavenging carcasses) involved long periods of waiting while the alpha predator finished its meal and other scavengers got first crack at the remains. Lucy would crouch in grass (early human bottoms didn’t allow them to sit yet), the humidity pressing in, the crawly creatures biting through her hair/fur, the sun beating down or maybe rain. I had to remember Lucy didn’t care about any of this and never relaxed while waiting. She was always busy smelling what was around her, smelling for those who hunted with her to know where they were, sniffing to find other scavengers who might try to take her food. She was weaker than every predator in her habitat with worse offensive and defensive capabilities (flat teeth, dull nails, thin skin). But she did have a brain that could plan, think, and problem-solve (in a primitive fashion).  Other animals could do that but their actions were based in instinct. Lucy’s was driven by her growing intellect.

Over all, I kept Lucy honest to her true self because I developed absolute respect for her, who she was, her primitive moral core, her ability to never feel sorry for herself. She’s who I would love to be in a sense but I’m simply not tough enough!

***

And now for my review:

Move over Jean Auel (Clan of the Cave Bear) for Jacqui Murray. I went to bed right after dinner last night because I had to finish this book and would have stayed up all night to do it. What a fabulous read.

Born in a Treacherous Time takes place at the very start of mankind’s development – we are inventive, communal, thoughtful, emotional beings, but still deeply rooted in our animal origins, fully integrated into the harsh volcanic landscape and with the creatures who share our world. Survival is an ongoing challenge and hunger a constant companion. Overlaying the struggles of daily life is the threat of man-who-preys, the next generation of mankind.

The story follows Lucy (Woo-See) through a period of years. She’s a strong character, a healer and a hunter who’s eager to learn new skills that not only make her an asset to her group but leave her an outsider. There are a number of compelling characters, fully developed and distinct, with a wide range of personalities.

No doubt, Murray did her research, but so little is truly known about this time, that I’m certain she had to employ her imagination as well. The world-building is meticulous. Murray deftly presents a world as seen through the eyes of those who inhabit it. She created words (and hand-signals) to describe the landscape based on the characters’ observations: “Night Sun” instead of moon, “Fire Mountain” instead of volcano. Her attention to creating a logical and detailed reality is stunning. I was honestly enthralled.

The world-building extends to characters as well, and I loved that none of them had “modern” sensibilities that would have tainted the believability of the story. No one is squeamish about raw food or bodily functions, and death is viewed as a natural occurrence. The characters have many of the natural abilities and acute senses of the animals living around them, yet unlike their animal cousins, their understanding of the world grows with each experience.

Best of all, as a reader I became quite attached to these primitive humans, empathizing with their struggles, losses, and choices. There is a depth of emotion, spirit of community, and generous nobility that stretches through the hundreds of thousands of years to our current lives. A captivating book that I recommend to any reader who enjoys adventures, exquisite world-building, or works of historical fiction and prehistory.

Want a book that will keep you up all night?

Here’s a global Amazon link: Born in a Treacherous Time.

Check out Jacqui’s blog too: Word Dreams

 

 

207 thoughts on “Born in a Treacherous Time: Book Review

  1. V Ramasamy says:

    Nice review

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Zoey H. says:

    I just downloaded this with my Kindle Unlimited Subscription. PaleoLife has always been a fascination of mine. When most little girls are 5 they want to be a princess or a ballerina. When I was 5 I wanted to be a Paleontologist. My mom couldn’t say the word until I was probably 7! I have the Land Before Time to thank for that- and you to thank for this review!! So thank you!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great review, Diana! I’m a fanatical researcher myself, whether my story is set in present day, the eighteenth century, or at the bottom of the sea. (And I’ve written in all three settings!) But I seriously can’t fathom the kind of imagination one has to employ to write for an anthropomorphic character in a Paleolithic setting! Bully for Jacqui! And the response to this book has been so overwhelmingly good, I can’t wait to see what all the fuss is about…

    Liked by 3 people

    • I have to say, Sean, the world-building that is so important to fantasy helped me a lot. I have only rocks and a few artifacts but the connections I make must be drawn from those, and make sense. It actually is a lot of fun.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The great thing about writing in an historical context is that research into the time period winds up suggesting things — scenes, plot twists, characters — that you would’ve never imagined on your own! That frees up your imagination to fill in the gaps in the historical record. I took an historical fiction workshop a few years with David Morrell, and he talked about the necessity of balancing both the “historical” and “fiction” aspects of the genre.

        Liked by 2 people

    • It was really good, Sean. As I read, my brain kept whispering “wow” at the world-building/character building. Everything was so cohesive and immersive. I hope you give it a try. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. […] via Born in a Treacherous Time: Book Review — Myths of the Mirror […]

    Liked by 2 people

  5. misifusa says:

    Oh my gosh! I would have never thought of that time period as romantic nor about reading anything like it. But this one, this review, caught my interest. I love that you interviewed her as well. There’s a lot to think about too – not sitting etc! Wow! That opens up a whole new world of thinking for me!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Teri Polen says:

    Excellent review, Diana. What a challenge it would be to write a book set in this world. Sounds like Jacqui definitely met that challenge!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Antonia says:

    This is great, Diana! I just adore Jacqui!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Sarah says:

    Wonderful review and torture – eh, interviewing, Diana! 😉❤

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I’m like you–who knew there was such a thing as paleo-fiction? And you make it sound riveting. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for taking a peek at the review, Ellen. I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed Jacqui’s writing and storytelling, but I was surprised at how I was mesmerized by this book. The world-building is stunning, and I never knew what was going to happen next. I hope you give it a try sometime. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen ‘paleofiction’ but I usually defer to ‘prehistoric’. Too many people don’t get the’paleo’ reference (or think it’s food!).

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I already have this one ready and waiting! It’s been getting great feedback, I can’t wait to get to it. 💖💖🍻

    Liked by 2 people

  11. This is an awesome review, Diana! I can’t wait to read this. I never read Jean Auel’s stuff (I think some of the lame prehistoric movies like 10,000 BC might’ve had something to do with it), but I’ve always been fascinated by the route we took when we evolved from the great apes. Especially now that science has learned more about how those cousins of ours behave, sometimes an awful lot like us 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was a gripping read, Julie, and I flew through it in no time. The adventure is fun in itself, but the peek at our ancestors and the world they lived in is truly fascinating. I was honestly riveted to every detail. I hope you add it to your teetering TBR pile. Ha ha. Thanks for the visit and have a great week. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m constantly amazed how many have read Jean Auel–but probably no other prehistoric fiction. She is the face of this genre. I read her entire series!

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Annika Perry says:

    Diana, if anyone knows about world-building it is you – quite the expert with years of experience and you’d sniff out any deviations from the imagined world in a flash. Well done to Jacqui for her fantastic recreation of Lucy’s world and staying true to the time throughout … so far apart from anything known to us. I imagine returning to reality could be a bit of a shock! Superb review and one that Jacqui must be delighted with!😀😀

    Liked by 3 people

    • Diana probably doesn’t realize this but I discovered her blog about the time I was ‘fixing’ Born in a Treacherous Time. She had a big impact on how I restructured my world building in this story.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Aw. Thank you, Jacqui. I’m so honored to hear that. I’m not sure I could have done the amazing job you did with your book. You’re the champ now. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Annika Perry says:

        Ahh…she’ll be touched to read this. Diana along with others have had a big influence on my writing … another wonderful and unexpected result from blogging. So happy you completed this project … I think it needed the time to become just right! 😀

        Liked by 2 people

    • Such a good book, Annika. Jacqui did a meticulous job controlling the language to keep the reader in a prehistoric time frame. And the reality of the behaviors was mesmerizing. Quite a different read from my usual fare, but well worth it. I’ll be reading more in the series when it comes out. Thanks for the visit and Have an awesome week!

      Liked by 3 people

  13. FYI: The hotlink to Jacqui’s blog goes to the Amazon page.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I’m really intrigued by this. Aaaaaand now I’m off to check out her blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Spectacular review, Diana. Again. I know Jacqui is over-the-moon (or the “night sun”) here as you share your enjoyment of her new book. I’ll admit, my one worry about reading this book (and yes, I read Jean Auel ages ago and enjoyed those books) was character development. Would Jacqui have a way of “humanizing” so to speak, a primitive human so that I, the reader, would make some connection to/with her? You answered that question in your review. The book sounds like a winner. Congrats, Jacqui!

    Liked by 2 people

    • You made me laugh, Pam–Night Sun. Love close readers! And you’re right to wonder about humanizing an ‘animal’ (because we are all of the animal kingdom) that is so unlike modern man. I tried to pick those characteristics that set us apart from apes, wolves, and every other smart animal like planning, decision-making, putting aside instinct to evaluate. That sort. I’m so happy to see that Diana got all of that.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the visit, Pam. Jacqui did an admirable balancing act in this book – getting all the pieces of this world in place as well as creating characters that I cared about… and not just Lucy, but others as well. I went into the book uncertain and came out a fan (obviously). Lol. I hope your concussion is now a thing of the past! Have a wonderful week, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Jina Bazzar says:

    This is a great review, Diana!
    being able to empathize with the struggles of early humans, their struggles and adventures shows how great this book is. I can’t compute how much research Jacqui must have made to be able to immerse the characters and style of life and all into a world that is known very little about.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. acflory says:

    I’m a huge ‘Clan of the Cave Bear’ fan so I did wonder how ‘Born in a Treacherous Time’ would compare in terms of scientific accuracy. Diana’s review, and Jacqui’s explanations, left me convinced that she had written a book of integrity. ‘Born in a Treacherous Time’ is downloading to my Kindle as I type, and I’m itching to get started. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Widdershins says:

    Just as Jean M Auel’s books were game-changers in this genre, I think this one will be too. 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  19. dgkaye says:

    Wow! Jacqui must be over the moon for such high and early praise for her newest release. Fabulous, engaging review Diana, and huge congrats to Jacqui. 🙂 x

    Liked by 2 people

  20. A fantastic review that says a lot about Jacqui and her book. Thanks for sharing, Diana.

    Jacqui, it was interesting to hear about your research in the opening interview. Congrats on the book and review.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. iScriblr says:

    Such a wonderful review!👏👏

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Reblogged this on DSM Publications and commented:
    Check out this review of the book, Born in a Treacherous Time, by Jacqui Murray, as featured in this post from the Myths in the Mirror blog

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Silent Hour says:

    A difficult task — setting a story in prehistoric times. This book sounds compelling!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Diana Wallace reviews Born in a Treacherous Time by Jacqui Murray.. on my reader and looking forward to…

    Liked by 2 people

  25. robbiecheadle says:

    A fabulously detailed review of this book, Diana. It is a really interesting period of history to write about.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. mylilplace says:

    This review makes me really curious about this book. Another one for the summer for sure. Thanks, Diana! Amazing job, Jacqui!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s such an unusual book, my friend. Great story-telling and world-building that absorbed my attention completely. Yes, a fun summer read. 😀 Have a great weekend and Happy Summer!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I spent some time over at your blog (I was looking for your name–didn’t find it–I’ll look deeper!). Any blog that includes a quote from Fyodor Dostoevsky has my attention. that guy understands more than I ever will about the human condition.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mylilplace says:

        Thank you for stopping over. I didn’t quite leave my name anywhere on my blog. I haven’t told my family yet…since I started this on a kind of of a whim. I figured I should tell them before I put my name anywhere. Weird, right? 🙂 I love Dostoevsky…Brother Karamazov was one of my fav books of his. I thought his perspective on human nature is just so spot on. Lots of raw honesty in his work and just so well written. I am glad to meet another fan of his work. I will visit your site soon. Has been tough getting to my laptop lately…and I miss writing terribly.

        Liked by 1 person

  27. Tina Frisco says:

    I’m so looking forward to reading this. I love Jean Auel’s books and find world-building and language creation fascinating. Super question, Diana, and Jacqui’s answer defines the essence of a compelling author ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

  28. balroop2013 says:

    I agree with you Diana, Born in a Treacherous Time is a book that has the potential of keeping you up all night! I am a slow reader but I couldn’t believe myself when I finished it within a few days, finishing the first 25% in one sitting! You have written a fabulous review! Congrats to Jacqui.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Fabulous review and such a fascinating quiz! 🙂 I can’t wait to read Born in a Treacherous Time… Kudos, Jacqui! Thanks for your wonderful insight, Diana.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Sounds very intriguing. I’ll add it to my wish list. Thanks for such a thorough review with no spoilers, and especially for the extra ‘behind the scenes’ peek into the process. Nice!

    Liked by 3 people

  31. This sounds like a “must read”! Great review.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. This is the second review from authors I respect for this book. You mention two aspects that make or break any historical or pre-history novel Diana. The world-building and the understanding of the being who lives within that world. Nothing is more inducive to me wanting to burn a book than reading modern sensibilities and thoughts in a person pre-modern. I’ve just moved the title up on my tbr list . I may never have time for painting again 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Excellent review! I’ve never read a story from that perspective before – definitely on my to-be-read list!

    Liked by 2 people

  34. Mae Clair says:

    P.S….Diana, I don’t think the Amazon link is working, but I’ll have no problem finding it.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. Mae Clair says:

    I’ve been seeing this book pop up on several blogs and it really has me intrigued, especially after reading your wonderful review. My TBR is mammoth, but I’m adding this to the list. The world building aspect has me fascinated.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Thanks so much for hosting me, Diana. I’m so looking forward to chatting with your visitors!

    Liked by 1 person

  37. C.E.Robinson says:

    Diana, your winning review sells the book. It sounds like an out of the ordinary book, and a riveting read. Best Wishes to Jaqui for success. Christine

    Liked by 2 people

  38. Almost Iowa says:

    Gosh, PBS’s NOVA just aired a segment on Homo habilis last night. Very interesting stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

  39. Oh, what a spectacular review, Diana! Now, more than ever, I’m so looking forward to reading it on my upcoming summer vacation. Well done, Jacqui Murray! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  40. It appears to be a fascinating book by an author totally dedicated to her writing, I am impressed by her level of research and focus on her creation. The book review is a really good one Diane, I love getting lost in stories and judging from your critique one could surely do that with Jacqui Murray’s Born In a Treacherous Time. Thank you for the introduction and hats off to Jacqui! This is on my list!

    Liked by 2 people

  41. Carrie Rubin says:

    It’s a fascinating topic for sure, and one that makes for interesting fiction. I imagine a lot of research went into it. Enjoyed reading your review!

    Liked by 2 people

  42. Bernadette says:

    Just put this book on my to read list. Great review
    Diana

    Liked by 2 people

  43. Diana, if the book is half as exciting as your review, then I’m sold. Best to Jacqui. Hugs to you both

    Liked by 2 people

  44. I love this picture of Jacqui! Thanks for sharing, Diana. Congratulations to Jacqui!

    Liked by 2 people

  45. I love how you blog authors stick together. Such a great blogging community. This one will be on my TBR stack!

    Liked by 3 people

  46. I can imagine how much research had to go into a book of this magnitude. Fantastic review!
    I wish Jacqui the very best with Born in a Treacherous Time!

    Liked by 2 people

  47. An absorbing synopsis and review…Jacqui’s book sounds like a sure winner! I’ll get around to reading it soon… I’m writing a lot at the moment. All the best. ♥

    Liked by 2 people

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