This is a lyrical tale that weaves the modern-day story of the hound and kittens with the ancient story of a group of mythical shape-shifting creatures. Eventually, the two story-lines intertwine. The lone human character is a damaged (both physically and emotionally) man named Gar Face who is evil and mistreats the animals. This story is definitely not for the reader who is sensitive to animal suffering. One cat dies, though it's handled in an age-appropriate, somewhat vague way. Gar Face is cruel to Ranger, the dog, and the animals hunt smaller critters to survive, but the descriptions are not graphic. The language in this book is very stylized and descriptive, and at times the plot is very focused on the current state of the characters instead of forward movement--probably not the right choice for readers looking for cover-to-cover action. However, it is beautifully told and richly descriptive. Ultimately, love prevails over hate, and the ending is satisfying. It would make a good family read-aloud.