Number of pages: 526
This book is set in the fictional Beklan Empire, where the people (including the hero, Kelderek) believe that God will come to earth in the form of "Lord Shardik".
When an injured bear shows up, the people believe the bear to be Lord Shardik, and effectively capture the bear, using it almost like a lucky mascot during a battle, believing that having the bear on their side will help them win, which they do.
The book felt daunting at first, mostly because of the small print on the copy I was reading, but I found it very accessible and got into it easily. Some sections of the book made me think of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, mostly because of the politics that occasionally featured and some of the more shocking chapters (particularly one that featured a character who sold children as slaves).
The book does feel a bit long-winded at first, but I loved the opening description of the bear's journey along the river, and I found myself really caring for the characters (the humans and the bear). It felt a bit like a Biblical allegory, although I wasn't certain whether this was deliberate. I also enjoyed imagining just how the Belkan empire might look.
This was a book that I heard about when I was young, but thought it would be too difficult to try and read; I'm glad I finally read it as an adult, and want to read its sequel, Maia.
Next book: Swallows and Amazons (Arthur Ransome)