Sixth in the Earths’ Children series, a fictional account of life in prehistory.
I have all the previous books in my library. In hardcover. In fact, I can see them right now as I type. And I don’t know if I’ll be adding this book to that collection. As eager as I’ve been for Auel to get this book done, I’d have gladly waited another few years if she had spent some time on it and crafted it to the quality of those earlier books.
There is so little of the fire and action in Land of Painted Caves as in her other novels instead we receive a humdrum account of life and Ayla’s slow progression through the tests of becoming a Zelondoni. Even that was pretty obscure and innocuous. Even the manner in which Auel divided up the book into three parts was vague. Why not provide a quick summary of the intervening years before continuing with the meat of this next “part”?
Then the title. You’d think with a title like Land of Painted Caves that we’d get a tour of those painted caves…and, actually, you’d be right, we do. There were very brief accounts of some amazing cave paintings interspersed amongst the tedious tours of so many others as Zelandoni takes Ayla on a tour of the sacred caves in their lands as part of her acolyte’s training and to introduce Ayla to everyone. An excellent opportunity for conflict over Ayla’s foreign ways and her indecent upbringing with Ayla winning everyone over through her abilities and decency. Oh well. What was Auel thinking? Was she writing in her sleep? We know she can do so much better than this mundane text.
I know people have complained that there was too much sex in the earlier books. It doesn’t mean she had to practically eliminate it in this one. But, more important, there was hardly any conflict in Caves. Sure there were hints and suggestions upon which Auel couldn’t be bothered to act until I was about three-fourths of the way through the book.
The dialog will make you gag it is so incredibly simplistic. I almost expected to hear Jondalar say “ugh”. As for Jondalar’s drifting. Well, it’s a good thing she finally indicated it in the last little bit of the 768 pages. There was no teasing, no buildup, no tension in this story. Then what’s the deal with the Mother and Son? It appears that Auel is promoting their future son or Durc as a Jesus figure but then how does the Mother fit in? So far, the Mother has been Gaia, now she’s turning into the Virgin Mary?
The best I can recall from Land of Painted Caves was an insight by Ayla in one of the caves: “…the animals painted on the walls were just hints in the darkness more like the fleeting glimpses that most people see in the world outside.”
I really, really hope that the little hints and unresolved issues in Caves indicate that there will be a seventh over which Auel will lovingly craft a good story.
I’m unimpressed with the cover. I feel as though I’m back in the Valley of Horses. The teeny bit of cave painting allowed to almost show in the top half of the front belies its title.