Hollow Leg is a white boy being raised by a Lipan family following his parents' brutal death at the hands of the "Buffalo Men" who now plague his dreams. Not long after being given his official Lipan name, Many Wolves, he is forced to flee from the village to avoid being given over to a Nokomi tribe as a peace offering. With only three wolf hawks he rescued and a village dog, he sets off to find a place to live and survive. After five years on his own, Many Wolves' past comes back to haunt him and he must face his greatest fears.
Puha is a true coming-of-age story for Many Wolves as he grows from a young trying to fit in with the Lipan tribe that raised him, to a self-reliant man providing food and shelter for himself and his animal companions, and ultimately to when he feels ready to stand up to Laughing Crow. However, it is also something of a coming-of-age story for Laughing Crow as well. While the Nokomi war leader always seems to lust for power, blood, and revenge, he comes to realize at different intervals that other things matter as well, even if he doesn't react in what is considered to be the correct way.
There is violence and blood in this story, though it all serves a purpose to the story and is not just thrown in to add to the page count. There were a few times I had to take a break because of it, but I always managed to continue on with the story because I was already so invested in the characters, their lives, and needed to know what was going to happen to them. Without going into too much depth, there are, aside from animals being killed to feed people, there are fights between tribes, and scalpings - among other things. One scene that ranked amongst the more upsetting ones for me was not about any of the fights or scalpings, but featured a rattlesnake. Then again, I do have a great fear of snakes so it is not surprising.
J. Bradley Van Tighem did a wonderful job creating well-developed and multilayered characters. While Many Wolves is the character I connected with the most, I also found myself being able to relate to Laughing Crow despite his arrogant and bloodthirsty personality.
Many Wolves' animal friends and companions are depicted like human characters with their different personalities and relationships with him. Chiquito, one of the wolf hawks, was my favorite of the animals, not just because his small size and slower learning curve very much resembled Many Wolves' state before he went off on his own, but the duo's bond was truly like that of someone and a beloved pet, more so than some of the other animal companions. Nature as a whole was depicted as a character in itself in addition to being a setting and it worked really well. In fact, had nature not played as large of a part as it did, Puha would not have been as enjoyable.
You can read the rest of my review at my blog: http://readerlymusings.com/2014/04/14/book-review-puha-by-j-bradley-van-tighem/