This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

26 July, 2012

THE LAND OF PAINTED CAVES

Cover art (Lions): Larry Rostant
Cover photo (hills): Irene Suchocki/Trevillion Pictures

THE LAND OF PAINTED CAVES
EARTH'S CHILDREN BOOK SIX
BY
JEAN M. AUEL

ISBN: 978-1-444-72057-0
Pages: 774
Publisher: Hodder/Hodder & Stoughton
First published: 29 March 2011
This edition published: 22 November 2012

On the cover:

 A STORY FROM THE BEGINNINGS OF OUR TIME

A remarkable woman - a huntress and healer who challenges every rule, but who yearns for acceptance.

Ayla lost her own people when she was a child. In the harsh landscape of the Ice Age, where to be alone is the greatest threat, her life has been a fight for survival - and a search for belonging.

But Ayla has an overwhelming sense of destiny that pulls against the needs of her heart. She hungers for knowledge and experience of the world. And what she learns will change life forever.

   This is the final volume in the story of Ayla. And as a enjoyed the previous ones I was really looking forward to see how her story was going to end. Unfortunately I was left rather disappointed.
   Auel is very good at telling the history of the people of the Stone Age/Ice Age, and it was my interest in history that brought me too these books in the first place. And that aspect of the novel works very well, you get quite a good insight into daily life in the period it's set, and there's no doubt that much of it is at the very least plausible.
   Before I go into specifics, I think I should mention that reviewing books has made me a more critical reader, and I may not have felt that the book had as much problems if I had been reading this before I started reviewing.

   The central story is in itself an interesting one, Ayla is taken in a direction that means we get closer to certain aspects of Stone Age life, but there's not really enough story in this journey to fill all the pages of this book. -And it shows.
   There is a lot of infodumping here, and while much of it has to do with Stone Age life and is quite interesting in itself, it breaks up the narrative. It can even be confusing at times as to where the non-fiction description in the narrative starts and begins. Personally I would have preferred this to be separated out with footnotes that referred to an appendix at the back of the book.
   In itself these non-fiction passages wouldn't have bothered me much, but there's lots of other small things that slow down the narrative and seems unnecessary.

   Repetition is a problem, we are told the same thing several times. This got on my nerves quite often, and it seemed like Auel was trying to hammer home things that were clear the first time. There is also much repetition of what has happened in the previous volumes, and even though it's more than five years since I read those I felt it was way too many reminders. Some of them where even repeated.
   Further repetition is made in the story itself. There are elements, that while happening at different times and locations, are very much alike. These come while Ayla is travelling, something that I felt was the strength of the previous volumes, but just didn't work here due to there being very little new on the journey.

   This novel isn't all bad. Despite the problems I have outlined above, there is really much that is good here. Auel still tells a very interesting story centered on Stone Age society, and the history is really fascinating. There is no doubt that Auel has done her research, and although it does shine through too much, it is really good to see a story that really feels like it could be a story from the time it is set in.
   The delving deeper into shamanism is also done very well, and it makes for the most interesting part of the book - and also what feels the freshest.

   I had some trouble with the ending of the book. It just didn't feel like a satisfying end to the story of Ayla, and it felt a bit abrupt.
   But to be fair, it was good to read about Ayla, Jondalar, and all the others again. And I do think that those who have liked this series so far will find it a good read despite its shortcomings. I know I am glad I read it, and I in no way wish I had refrained from reading this novel.
   This is a flawed finish to the Earth's Children series, but it is well worth reading anyway. Other readers may not find what I have mentioned as distracting as I did. And for those who have an interest in Stone Age history I would say the series as a whole is essential reading.

LINKS: Jean M. Auel  Hodder & Stoughton

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