Jean M. Auel's enthralling Earth's Children series has become a literary phenomenon, beloved by readers around the world. In a brilliant novel as vividly authentic and entertaining as those that came before, Jean M. Auel returns us to the earliest days of humankind and to the captivating adventures of the courageous woman called Ayla. With her companion, Jondalar, Ayla sets out on her most dangerous and daring journey--away from the welcoming hearths of the Mammoth Hunters and into the unknown. Their odyssey spans a beautiful but sparsely populated and treacherous continent, the windswept grasslands of Ice Age Europe, casting the pair among strangers. Some will be intrigued by Ayla and Jondalar, with their many innovative skills, including the taming of wild horses and a wolf; others will avoid them, threatened by what they cannot understand; and some will threaten them. But Ayla, with no memory of her own people, and Jondalar, with a hunger to return to his, are impelled by their own deep drives to continue their trek across the spectacular heart of an unmapped world to find that place they can both call home. Fourth in the acclaimed Earth's Children(R) series
If you liked the people Jondalar met in Valley of Horses, then you'll want to read this one. It's not for people who haven't read the earlier books in the series, and if you thought Mammoth Hunters was tedious then you should skip this one all together. For fans of the previous three ONLY.
Characters: Mary Sue and Marty Stu, plus assorted side characters who never outgrow the stereotypes they are built on. Characterization is not happening here.
Style: Far too much description and not nearly enough action. The book feels disjointed and the scenes don't seem to lead up to anything. Badly written sex scenes. Scenes from earlier books get recycled, similarly enough that they make me wince.
Plus: As with all the books in the series, the descriptions of stone age life.
Minus: It drags. Oh, it drags. A bit of plot would do wonders.
Summary: Don't pick this up if you expect action or adventure. Or some kind of a story, even.
It was nice to revisit the characters from The Valley of Horses, but this book needed a better editor.
Being serious, this novel was one heck of an achievement - to take two characters the full width of a continent, in a time when none of the infrastructure we would recognise today was in existence, and manage to convey the enormity of that journey without the story becoming hopelessly samey and boring. I admit there were times in the first few hundred pages when I felt myself turning into that kid in the back of the car that keeps whining 'Are we nearly there yet?'. Keep going, though, and the action starts, about halfway in.
The end is typical of the series too - I could have predicted exactly where the author would leave it! The next volume is now top of my 'want to read' list.
Ayla is nervous about leaving the Mamutoi, who have adopted her and given her a family of her own. But she loves Jondalar and will go with him despite her qualms. Because she was raised by "flatheads" after her own family died in an earthquake, she frequently faces prejudice from those who don't understand. However, she is always able to win over her detractors by way of her healing skills or personality.
Jondalar started out his Journey with his brother, but ended up with Ayla after a cave lion killed his brother and injured him. While happy to be with Ayla, he is homesick for his own people and convinces Ayla to come with him. After spending several months with the Mamutoi, it is time to move on. Having made the Journey this far, Jondalar knows the way back home and is anxious to get there.
I liked the descriptions of the land and animals that they saw along the way, but my favorite parts were when they encountered other people. The first of these are the Sharamudoi, with whom Jondalar and his brother had stayed before. They arrive to find that the wife of the leader has been hurt and Ayla immediately steps into healer mode to help her. She is successful, of course, which puts her in good graces with the rest of the people. I also enjoyed the reactions to Ayla's wolf and horses. They stay for awhile with the group, who want them to stay, but Jondalar insists that they keep moving.
The next group they encounter are the S'Armunai, with a welcome that is not so pleasant. The leader of the group is a woman who stole the leadership and is mentally unbalanced. Jondalar is captured and is confined with the other men. He does what he can to help the other men while he tries to figure out how to escape and find Ayla. Meanwhile, she has been looking for him, and watches the camp for several days while trying to find the best way to rescue him. How she does so is very dramatic and intense. Of course, she also insists on staying long enough to treat those who have been injured and neglected, before they leave to continue their Journey.
Next up are the Losadunai, who live at the edge of the glacier Jondalar and Ayla must cross to get to his home. Again, they are warmly welcomed and treated well. I enjoyed seeing Ayla getting to know everyone. There is also some drama involving a young girl who was assaulted by some young men. Ayla's empathy helps the girl move past it and embrace her future. As Ayla and Jondalar continue their journey they run into those same young men who have attacked a Clan (flathead) man and woman. After reading them the riot act and sending them on their way, Ayla treats the injured man as they share their fire and a meal. I liked how seeing Ayla with a man of the Clan helped Jondalar understand her a little better.
There is danger as they cross the glacier at the end of the winter. The arrival of spring temperatures can cause dangerous melting, putting them at greater risk of injury or death. After several close calls, they make it off the glacier, to the home cave of some of Jondalar's family. A bit of a romantic tangle is present with a young woman there that adds a bit of angst. Ayla also encounters a man of "mixed spirits" half clan and half Other, who reminds her of her son Durc, left behind in the first book of the series. I really enjoyed their connection and seeing Ayla ease his anger about the way his mother was treated. After a brief period with them, they at last reach Jondalar's home, with a cliffhanger ending as we wait to see how they are welcomed.
I always enjoy seeing Ayla win over new people, and this book was no exception. I also loved seeing reactions to the animals, especially Wolf. I especially loved his part in the rescue of Jondalar from the S'Armunai. It is also really sweet to see Wolf with the various children.
This was not my first reread of this book and it won't be the last.
We still have meticulous research and interesting story line, it's just a little bare of action for me.
We DO meet some interesting characters and see what can happen when the balance of power goes out of whack in a village.
The Plains of Passage continues the epic description of our civilisation as it was 25,000 years ago. Auel's protagonists Ayla the orphan and Jondalar the traveller decide to forsake the comfort and safety of life with the mammoth hunters by the Black Sea, and set out on a daunting odyssey. Their plan is to traverse a continent, heading for the Cro-Magnon settlement which Jondalar called home as a young man. Their journey across unimaginable distances is fraught with spectacular dangers, and their only companions are the half-tame Wolf, the magnificent stallion Racer and the mare Whinney.
As so often in Auel's work, it's the brilliantly evocative scene-setting that makes her narratives of high adventure so impressive. Characterisation is, as always, functional rather than inspired, but it's perfectly suited to the Technicolor landscapes the reader is confronted with.
I am going to stop here; I really don’t want to give away any more information. Please try to read it, I can assure you that you won’t regret it
The charm that was The Clan of the Cave Bear is dead. Dead and buried. Ayla has become a demigod superhero of a protagonist with virtually no flaws, a superhuman intellect, and excessively ridiculous ability to amaze everyone she meets. Jondalar, on the other hand, is wanted by virtually everyone, yet seems incapable of learning anything new. The character development and tension of Book 1 is replaced by a work that could have been written in 100 pages, yet was stretched into 700.
This book made me depressed to the point that I wouldn't continue onward in Ayla's journey...but at the same time, I'm almost to the finish line. Who knows, maybe I'll just read 1 in every 10 pages and count my losses?
Jean Auel is too talented for this.