Anthony McGowan’s Dogs of the Deadlands is a heart-wrenching story set in the wilderness of Ukraine. The Chernobyl Disaster changes the lives of Natasha and her beloved dog, Zoya. McGowan depicts the after-effects of the tragedy and the way animals struggled to survive in the area when all humans evacuated. 


Dogs are a man’s best friend. However, what happens when there are no men available for a dog to befriend? Do they survive and if they do then how? Conversely, what happens to a person who is compelled to lose their dog, their best friend? 

The year is 1986. Natasha Taranova is beyond the moon after receiving the gift of her dreams on her seventh birthday. Her loving parents surprise her with a samoyed puppy whom she names Zoya. She is all set to teach Zoya new tricks in the morning so that her papa allows her to sleep on her bed. Little does she know that the next morning would bring nothing but disaster. Reactor Number 4 explodes in Chernobyl. The entire area is evacuated. Natasha is compelled to leave behind her beloved Zoya in a land where no man lives anymore. 

Will Zoya survive? If so, how will she make a life for herself in the wild? What about Natasha? How will her life be after losing everything including her beloved puppy? Will she ever be able to reunite with Zoya? 

The answer to all these questions can be found in Anthony McGowan’s spellbinding novel, Dogs of the Deadlands. The award-winning author weaves a tale that is bound to tug at your heartstrings right from the beginning. His writing style is vivid and has a lyrical lilt to it. Each and every word seems to speak to you and make you feel like a character of the story. I was indeed moved by the intense descriptions of hunger and loss, love and loyalty. The travails of the animals, their desperate attempt to quench hunger, the fight to stay alive, and the intense battles with dangerous predators like lynxes, bears, and wolves keep you on the edge throughout the story. Add to that, a dash of romance, a pinch of deep friendships, and sacrificial familial loyalty, and you have yourself a winner. The beautiful sketches by Keith Robinson enliven the story even more. 

Undoubtedly, McGowan is an accomplished author. All the characters of the book are masterfully drawn, be they animals or humans. The bond between Misha and his brother, Bratan, is beautiful. Right from birth, their mother impressed upon Misha that he has to take care of his brother as his legs are misshapen. Misha never faltered from his duty. Surprisingly, Bratan had an unerring sense of familial loyalty as well. Time and again, he managed to surprise both his family and us. Indeed, he is one of my favorite characters. It was heartening to see the dogs braving the forests of the deadlands. In the absence of humans, the woods were filled with lynxes, bears, catfish, and wolves, along with other predators. All these animals were doing their best to survive. Hence, it was a dangerous place for everyone. Yet, friendships cropped up at the most unexpected times. It was fun to see Misha and Bratan befriend a bear, the sworn enemy of dogs and wolves. The bond among the animals on the farm was heart-touching as well. Shepherd, Terrier, Saluki, Laika, Scrag, Shorty, and Sokha were a motley bunch. Circumstances brought this crew together yet theirs was a bond not to be trifled with. The transformation of Laika was as intriguing to witness as the growing proximity between Misha and Saluki. McGowan did a wonderful job of creating a character like Natasha. The Chernobyl Disaster had left an indelible mark on her. She lost her smile and her faith in humanity. The way the author shows her character development is amazing. It was indeed a treat to see her finally rediscover her true self. I have to mention I was deeply moved by Katerina Sobal as well. The lonely yet kind recluse indeed appeared to be Baba Yaga to me. 

Overall, Dogs of the Deadlands is a magical tale of love, loss, loyalty, hope, survival, separation, and reconciliation. It not only teaches us a lot about the animal kingdom but also gives us deep insights into humanity. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. People who love dogs and tales of survival would especially enjoy this book. 

Book Details

  • Title: Dogs of the Deadlands
  • Author: Anthony McGowan
  • Genre: Children’s Illustrated Book
  • Theme: Survival, Hope, Love, Loyalty
  • Publication Date: September 1 2022
  • Number of Pages: 274
  • Minimum Audience Age: 10

Book Themes

(Note: 0=none, 1=a few, 2=considerable, 3=pronounced, 4=excessive)

  • Sexual themes: 0
  • Religious themes: 0
  • Violence, self-harm, etc.: 1
  • Crude language, expletives, swearing, etc.: 0
  • Other adult themes: 0

Children’s Book Features

  • Good role models for younger ones: Yes
  • Moral values: Yes
  • Good social manners: Yes
  • Age-appropriate language and topics: Yes
  • Age-appropriate illustrations: Yes


  • Content: 5 stars
  • Writing Style: 5
  • Appeal to Target Audience: 5 stars
  • Uniqueness: 5 stars
  • Editing: 5 stars
  • Other factors: 5 stars
  • Overall: 5 out of 5

Featured Book: “Dogs of the Deadlands” by Anthony McGowan

Book Details Synopsis Chernobyl, 1986. How will dogs manage to stay alive in the absence of humans? As people tried to escape the nuclear tragedy, they were compelled to abandon their animals as they ran. In the absence of humans, wildlife such as lynx, bears, and wolves started to populate the woods that surrounded the…

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By Kajori Sheryl Paul

Reading is my passion, and writing is my compulsion. I started reading from a very early age. Since then, I have not stopped. I have garnered this addiction from my father. I have always loved reading his books. As you can see, books are my world. I escape this world to traverse the world of my books. Naturally, I have an affinity to create worlds of my own. There are thoughts constantly swirling in my head. These are the thoughts that I jot down. Sometimes, they become poems while sometimes stories. More often than not, they are just reviews of the plethora of books I read and the things I do.

One thought on “A Book Review by Kajori: “Dogs of the Deadlands” by Anthony McGowan”
  1. We can all learn from animal’s loyalty, especially dogs. I find the sibling relationship especially lovely. My husband would love this book, even if he’s not a kid 😛 I’ll keep it in mind. Good job!