Lucky, a former city dog who has joined a wild pack of dogs, finds himself in the middle of conflicts between their leader Alpha, who is losing his confidence, and several other individuals and factions within the pack. Lucky's pack has been recently threatened by the neighboring Fierce Dog pack, and their objective is to find new territory far from this pack. They also worry about a bad, ash-like, stinging rain that sometimes comes in place of regular rain, and from which they must constantly take refuge. Though it would lovely to outrun, they seem to believe this problem may well be everywhere and anywhere they go given the state of their world.
A number of conflicts arise over the course of the book. Lick, a Fierce Dog pup who has abandoned his pack for Lucky's, has difficulty obtaining the trust of his pack mates, and misses his siblings who are still in the Fierce Dog pack. Lucky finds him visiting one of them on several occasions, and warns him against this because he knows how other pack members are likely to react, yet still protects him when it comes time to report to Alpha. Alpha nonetheless does not trust Lick. When it comes time to hold a naming ceremony for two other pups who are about Lick's age, Lick is not allowed to participate. (During the naming ceremony, each pup chooses his adult name. Lucky never had a naming ceremony within a dog pack due to his background and can't remember how he received his name, though the reader finds out in chapter 1.)
Conflict also arises between the former city dogs and dogs who have always been wild. Especially for those dogs who spent much of their lives as pets with human ("longpaw") masters, their point of view is often quite different from those who have always been wild. Lucky finds himself on the wild end of the city dog group, having been born under human mastery, but having spent significant time wandering and surviving in the city without a master. He is thus able to understand both groups a little better and act more diplomatically in this regard than some of the other dogs.
Alpha's decreasing confidence and increasing indecision is the last major source of conflict. The pack senses his insecurity, though Beta (the second in command, also known as Sweet) loyally prompts and supports him at every turn. Finally, Fierce, a relatively highly ranking dog in the pack and the father of the two newly named pups, challenges Alpha for leadership. When he is caught in a trap and taken by humans, Alpha refuses to go after him because it is "too dangerous," though Lucky and several others perceive that it is perhaps because he does not want to face Fierce's challenge. The pack has been staying in a deserted human village for several days by then, and Alpha is ready to move on - without Fierce.
Fierce's mate, Moon, refuses to go on without trying to rescue him. After much resistance, Alpha allows those who wish to do so to go attempt a rescue while the remainder of the pack moves on. Moon, Lucky, Bella (Lucky's sister), and one more dog head off to the rescue. Lick also follows them in secret until it is too late to send him back. As they track Fierce down, they encounter a strange but violent "Terror" Pack with a leader who seems to be mad, and they attempt to keep out of their way. They realize they know one of the dogs in this pack, and this dog sneaks away at great risk of retaliation from the Terror Pack's leader to help Lucky and his friends. They find Fierce with quite a menagerie of other captured animals who have been subject to experiments with bad water that has been making them sick. They also realize that the Terror pack leader must have drunk the bad water given how he is behaving.
As they make their way away from the cages (from which they free all the other animals as well), the group has a run-in with the Terror Pack. Lick proves himself through his fatal attacks on the Terror Pack leader when Lucky begins to falter. Once their leader is dead, the Terror Pack scatters; they are no longer a threat. Fierce, however, does not make it through. After holding a funeral for him, they head back onto the trail to catch up with their pack. As it becomes late, Lucky announces they will stop for the night and conduct one other important bit of business. Lick has his naming ceremony and chooses his adult name: Storm.
This is the fourth book in the Survivors series. It remains to be seen in the fifth how the rest of the pack fared in the absence of Lucky and the others who went after Fierce, and how Alpha will react to Lick's new name.
Best part of story, including ending:
The story portrays well relationships and individual states of mind that can apply to humans, also, such as Alpha's insecurities and Lick's desire to prove himself. Middle schoolers seem to enjoy Hunter's use of animals (in this series, packs of dogs) to portray the characters' adventures.
Best scene in story:
When Lick receives his name, the reader is happy for him, but also realizes that Lucky, in spite of his constant defense of Lick, has doubts lingering in the back of his mind. He believes that something happened when the Terror Dog leader died, something Lick did that he did not see and that might have been important.
Opinion about the main character:
Lucky seems like a good narrator for this story because he is a more neutral character when it comes to the city and wild dog groups, though he nonetheless falls more into the "city dog" group. At the same time, he is polarized enough to have a definite opinion about things that sometimes conflicts with their leader.