The Deer King
Author: Nahoko Uehashi
Specifications: ISBN  978-4041018880
565 pages
13.5 x 19.5 cm / 5.4 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Kadokawa Corporation
Tokyo, 2014
Awards: Booksellers Award, 2015
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On the western edge of the kingdom of Zol, black wolf fever sweeps through a salt mine, wiping out the slave laborers and their overseers. The virulent and incurable virus, which has lain dormant for two centuries, appears to have been carried by a pack of savage, wolf-like dogs that attacked the mine.

The story’s protagonist, Van (40), was originally from the mountain-dwelling Gansa tribe in Aquafa, a land recently annexed by Zol. He was banished to the salt mines for his part in the tribe’s armed resistance?a resistance that was in defiance of the king of Aquafa’s pledge of allegiance to Zol. Despite a fierce battle, the Gansa, mounted on fleet-footed deer known as Pyuika, were defeated.

It is while Van is incarcerated in the mines that the dogs attack. He survives, despite being bitten, and escapes with one other survivor, a little girl he names Yuna. Van had originally joined the resistance out of despair at the loss of his wife and son, who died of illness, but as he flees with Yuna, the bond of love he once felt for his own child is revived. Both he and Yuna find that their senses have become extraordinarily acute since being bitten. Van occasionally slips into a state where he loses touch with his human consciousness, as if he has been transformed into a beast.

Several months later, the king of Aquafa invites the governor-general of Zol to a falcon hunt, but the hunting party is attacked by the same type of dogs that attacked the mine. The governor-general’s eldest son and grandson contract black wolf fever, and the son dies. The tribes of Aquafa, however, appear to be resistant to the disease, and, as all the casualties are Zolian, many fear that the attack is some kind of curse for Zol’s subjugation of the land. Ensuing investigations, however, gradually uncover a complex sequence of events.

After the Zolians settled in Aquafa, horses began dying from a poisonous grain that sprouted from the ground. Dogs that ate their flesh, however, survived unscathed. An elderly breeder bred these dogs with wolves to produce a new breed known as Kinma. The breeder’s son, Ohfan, is the leader of the Afal Oma, People of the Fire Horse, and it is he who has instigated the attacks, using the dogs as biological weapons. Ohfan wants Van to join forces with him against the Zolians, and he kidnaps Yuna in an attempt to force Van to comply.

Two years after the attack on the salt mine, Zol sends representatives to inspect its occupied territories. Ohfan plans a final showdown at a ceremony held for this inspection tour. To prevent an epidemic of black wolf fever, which is spread not only by the Kinma, but by the fleas and mites that travel with them, Van moves to stop the attack . . .

Into a tale reminiscent of Michael Crichton’s medical thrillers, the author weaves an intricate web of political intrigue, terrorism, science, and parental love to create a page turner that will keep you on the edge of your seat.