Earths Children Part 2

Earth’s Children Series Book Reviews Part 2

For ease of reading and writing, my book reviews of the Earth’s Children Series have been broken down into three parts. In part 1 of my review of the Earth’s Children Series I expressed my admiration for this series as a whole and gave my book review of the first book in this series, The Clan of the Cave Bear.

Here I will be reviewing books 2, 3, and 4:

Again, each of these books are packed with dense information about paleolithic man, Neanderthals, the ice age, and various perspectives of living life during that time period.

Series Arc

From the overall, story arch we start the series in the world of Neanderthals (The Clan of the Cave Bear). Then we are introduced to the greater world of “the Others” — modern humans in The Valley of Horses through Ayla’s isolation and the introduction of more characters. In The Mammoth Hunters the reader and Ayla are introduced to a small community of “Others.” And in The Plains of Passage the reader and Ayla learns about how varying peoples live, interact, and react to Ayla’s differentness.

When you think of this series as specific stepping stones in Ayla’s experience we understand what it means to evolve from one step to the next. The trials start out small at first and experience leads to more and more difficult situations that encourage personal and social growth.

The Valley of Horses

Auel-24 out of 5 stars

In the Valley of Horses the series takes a bit of a more historical romance turn. This is the book where Ayla starts her journey to find “the Others” — other cro-magnon humans like herself. And this book also introduces the series’s hero, Jondalar of the Zelandoni. I’m sure you can see where this is going. This is where Auel introduces her ideas about what the cultures of the Goddess worshiping cro-magnon humans are like. This is where the differences and similarities among modern humans and Neanderthals are shown to the reader.

The Valley of Horses is just as steeped in historical accuracy as the previous book, from the landscapes explored, to how people make tools, hunting strategies, nomadic and stationary practices, etc. Even so, this is still a human story about human relationships, the need for human contact, and the resilience of the human spirit. It’s about the importance of family ties and human interaction, and the story shows the tolerances and intolerances of humans.

The Story Seen Through My Writer’s Lens

Like Clan of the Cave Bear there’s a lot of informative narration, which is accepted as Auel’s writing style. The reader will learn all kinds of information that they normally wouldn’t know, the only problem with this is that it does occasionally bog down the momentum of the story, but in most cases the information is so fascinating that you barely feel it.

Three quarters of the book is build up to Ayla’s and Jondalar’s meeting, which could be frustrating for those looking forward to an immediate romance. But all the build-up is important because this is the part where the reader understands the lives of Ayla and Jondalar as individuals and can now anticipate the potential conflicts that will arise when they come together.

I’m not an expert on the romance genre, but I found that the romance between the two lead characters in The Valley of Horses to be believable. The romance grew naturally for each character involved even though it was complicated by the idea of Jondalar being the first man of the Others Ayla has ever seen. That complication is actually explored and not ignored with in the story, which makes the struggle feel more authentic. The emotions that each character must deal with are genuine and the reader sympathizes with both parties due to the information given earlier on in the story.

Each action that the characters make are motivated by desires and needs that are explicitly stated to the reader, which is nice because you don’t have to guess why things are happening.

For those who do not know, this is an X rated novel. As I’ve stated before, I don’t read a lot of romance, but I have an understanding of the emotional connection that must be developed between the two lead characters that then lead to sex. I’m sure some people have comments about the actual mechanics of the sex, but I don’t feel qualified to address, comment, or criticize such content. For me, the important aspect of the sexual tension and sexual content is the emotional connection that is express, the confusion that is generated, and the resolution of heart felt communication — all of which happen during the course of the blossoming relationship. So as far as I’m concerned, the story does it’s job as a romance.

As for last scenes, the book ends with a great cliffhanger, which totally makes you want to pick up the next book and start reading. The nice thing is now we can!

Ayla’s Character Arc

As far as Ayla’s character arc is concerned, this is where she struggles to support herself as she travels alone in search of her own people. It’s about how she works out strategies to do things, such as hunt large game, by herself, activities that normally would be done in groups. Alya becomes her own woman; and because she is alone is allowed to explore her true self and do things that she may never have otherwise done among other people, such as decide to rear a foal and keep her as a friend or raise a cave lion cub.

This is also the time when Ayla meets the first person of “the others,” someone who is like her. She struggles to communicate and understand the strange and forgotten customs of the people she was born to. This is also where she begins her struggle to reconcile her Neanderthal upbringing with the customers and expectations of “the Others.”

Jondalar’s Character Arc

This is the book where the reader is introduced to Jondalar of the Zelandoni, a young man who has natural gifts but isn’t satisfied with his current state in life and desires to fill a void that he can not explain, even to himself. Luckily his younger brother Thonolan invites him to journey the land with him and explore the unknown world. His love for his brother and his desire to change his life in some way, Jondalar begins his journey of self-discovery. For Jondalar, though he is on a physical journey, his real journey is more emotional. Being a very passionate man he has a hard time dealing with his strong emotions and much of the challenges he experience deal with his interpersonal relationships.

Jondalar’s journey subtly begins as a search for romantic love that he can feel a deep connection to and not just a physical one.

Gushing

I’ve read this series more than once, and it wasn’t until the last time I read this book that I really appreciated this book in particular. The first reading I was impatient for the romance to happen and as a result didn’t appreciate the complexities of the personal struggles and missed many of the foreshadowing gems that occur during the course the story.

It’s important to understand how and why Ayla develops while she is alone. As the reader, we watch her become more self-reliant and we begin to see the things that she does that no other human of the time would ever consider — such as not killing a foal for food, instead she decides to take care of it as if she were it’s mother. This is the first moment she shows the reader that she can think beyond her experience and also that she is willing to be innovative when the opportunity presents itself.

Through Jondalar, the reader learns about some of the obstacles that Ayla will have to overcome to be accepted in society.

The Mammoth Hunters

Auel-34 out of 5 stars

The Mammoth Hunters is my second favorite of the books. The characters are developed more and the intricacies of the story are more emotionally charged due to the introduction of a greater society. At the end of The Valley of Horses, Ayla and Jondalar encounter a group of hunters and The Mammoth Hunters starts where the previous book leaves off.

The Story Seen Through My Writer’s Lens

In this book the “romance” is complicated by a love triangle. The love triangle where we have two men liking the same woman is done a lot in romance. Here it creates a lot of emotional tension, which moves the story forward. The miscommunication that perpetuates the situation can be taken by some as a plot device, but is justified due to the personalities and the upbringing of each person involved. When you think about how various cultures miscommunicate it makes sense that customers and ways of thinking can be misinterpreted by individuals. From my perspective, the miscommunication is very believable, even though I may get frustrated by it as a reader.

Ayla’s Character Arc

In The Mammoth Hunters Ayla is exposed to the Lion Camp of the Mamutoi, a lodge of approximately twenty-five people, and later learn that there are many small communities like the Lion Camp that gather together in summertime to trade, barter, and hunt mammoths as a larger group. So now she goes from knowing one of “the Others” to knowing many people like her. Meeting a group of people challenges her because she wants to be accepted by these new people and their customs are different still from those she learned from Jondalar; but due to what she learned from Jondalar, there is a threat that many people may treat her differently or reject her completely because of how and buy whom she was raised.

This is where Ayla must come to terms with the prejudices of other people and where she shows that she’s not ashamed of who she is, how she was raised, or how she has lived her life since leaving the Clan. She learns to appreciate her own skills and she also learns that there may be a more spiritual path to her journey (this is something that is foreshadowed in The Clan of the Cave Bear). Ayla experiences her spiritual calling within The Mammoth Hunters and begins her struggle of whether or not she wants to walk a more spiritual path or the path of a “normal” person who has a family.

Through the course of the story Ayla must come to terms with whether or not she will return to the Clan and reclaim her son, who she was forced to leave behind, now that she’s part of a community. Will her new community accept him? Will he remember her? Will it be right for her to take him away from a community that he knows and who accept him to a community that may not?

Ayla is also socially and romantically challenged. Will she make friends? How will she deal with advances of other men toward her? How does she reconcile her training with the customs of “the Others?”

Jondalar’s Character Arc

Jondalar’s Character arc is a very emotional one. It’s emotional from a romantic level, but it’s also emotional from a self-respecting level. He struggles with his feeling for Ayla and believes that she should be left to make her own choices. He also struggles his perceived opinions of other people. He struggles with self-centered shame, envy, and his overbearing protectiveness. Can he accept Ayla for who she is and can he accept himself for loving her? Can he rely on himself to remain beside her if others reject her?

Gushing

The Mammoth Hunters is my second favorite book because I really enjoy learning about the Mamutoi through Aylay’s eyes. I love the way that she becomes a great example of being unashamed of being who you are. Ayla gives of herself and loves freely, which encourages others to love her in return. I also love the addition of Wolf to Ayla’s personal clan of animal friends. It’s so obvious that Auel learned a lot about wolves and domestic dogs for writing this book and created a very believable scenario to explain how the first domestic dog could have been created.

The Plains of Passage

Auel-44 out of 5 stars

For the longest time, this was the last book in the Earth’s Children Series and it wasn’t too bad of an ending either. Our lovely couple go through a lot of trials as Ayla and Jondalar journey back to settle in Jondalar’s native land of the Zelandoni. This book was a lot less emotionally charged than the previous books. There are more small adventures that occurs within the greater story. Some groups of the people met in The Valley of Horses are encountered again along with new groups of people.

The Story Seen Through My Writer’s Lens

In The Plains of Passage the conflicts and growth occurred more in the people that Ayla and Jondalar mete rather than in them themselves. The story as a whole sometimes feels a little more meandering than continuously active. There are many lulls in the action that turn into a mini anthropology lesson or an ice-age national geographic episode. These moments are educational, but could get a bit dry for the reader.

Of course Ayla and Jondalar each have their own small evolutions to overcome, but for the most part they are more catalysts of change in others and that is the focus of the story. This is where reading this book in context with the last two books come in handy because the fact that they are catalysts fits within the greater story arc. Throughout these pages and the pages of The Valley of Horses and The Mammoth Hunters both Ayla and Jondalar are involved in creating new things. They are innovators and are willing to share their findings and creations with others. So once they learn something new they are want to share with the world versus keeping secrets to themselves.

Ayla’s Character Arc

Ayla’s biggest personal struggles revolve mostly around her clutching at the idea of leaving her son behind with the Clan as she travels farther and farther away from him. Her second struggle is her anxiety about being accepted by Jondalar’s people, did she make the right choice to go back wit him? Will they be able to make it back to his people?

Through out The Plains of Passage, Ayla shows her strength, determination, self-reliance, friendly attitude, and caring of others. I feel that The Plains of Passage is more an example of how a matured person can help change the world by being themselves.

Jondalar’s Character Arc

Jondalar’s biggest personal struggle is his appreciation of the animals that they travel with — the horses are useful, but the wolf seems to be more trouble than he’s worth. His second struggle is his desire to be with his own people; he’s both excited and anxious about this. He’s more focused on the actuality of making the journey within a specific period of time. This attitude causes much conflict throughout the story.

Gushing & Lacking

The adventures that happen are a lot of fun, especially when Jondalar learns about Wolf’s true value. The relationships that Ayla and Jondalar form at various parts of their journey are enriching. And learning about accidental creation of soap or creating pottery are fun facts that are interesting to think about.

Though some of the beginning pages of The Plains of Passage get a bit dull, the last third of the book is quite exciting and worth the read.

Your Thoughts

Have you ever read The Valley of Horses, The Mammoth Hunters, The Plains of Passage, or any other of the books from the Earth’s Children Series? Leave a comments, I’d love to chat about these books.

Read On!

If you enjoyed this post maybe you’ll be interested in one of the following posts by writeralina:

Earth’s Children Series Book Reviews Part 1

Code Name Verity Book Review

The Golem and the Jinni

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