- Title: The Land of Painted Caves
- Author: Jean Auel
- Series: Earth’s Children #6
- Genre: Prehistoric Romance (?)
- Format: Hardback
- Source: Own copy
- Reviewed by: GRD
- Rating: 1 out of 5
Description: The highly anticipated sixth book of Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children® series, The Land of Painted Caves, is the culmination fans have been waiting for. Continuing the story of Ayla and Jondalar, Auel combines her brilliant narrative skills and appealing characters with a remarkable re-creation of the way life was lived more than 25,000 years ago. The Land of Painted Caves is an exquisite achievement by one of the world’s most beloved authors.
Review: Oh dear. The description above already says it all really: even the publishers haven’t got a clue what the plot of this book is, so all they can do is rave about generic things.
But let me start at the beginning. Most people looking to buy or read this book will have read the entire series prior to this. They maybe got bored reading part five, which is entirely understandable, because I certainly did. So here they are, wondering whether they should bother with part six.
For those people I have one piece of advice: Don’t. Seriously, just leave it be. Spend your money and time on something more worthwhile, like painting your walls and then watching them dry.
Technically you could stop reading here, because you have your answer, but if you’re curious as to why, do keep reading. For the completely uninitiated, this book is the sixth and last (hurray!) part in the Earth’s Children series. I’ll give a quick rundown of books one to five:
The Clan of the Cave Bear is a brilliant, gripping tale of a prehistoric girl, Ayla, who loses her family in an earthquake and ends up being raised by a tribe of Neanderthals. Five stars.
The Valley of Horses is a gripping tale of Ayla’s struggle for survival after being expelled from the tribe, interspersed with the adventures of Jondalar and his brother as they go on a big walking trip, until the two finally meet. Five stars.
The Mammoth Hunters is a pretty gripping tale of Ayla’s struggle to understand, and fit in with, other people of her own race, and the subsequent misunderstandings between her and Jondalar. Throughout the book I wanted to slap them both silly for being idiots, so four stars.
The Plains of Passage is a tale of the year-long trip Ayla and Jondalar have to take to go back to Jondalar’s home. A decent read if you don’t mind half of your book being descriptions of the landscape they’re travelling through and mammoths having sex. Three stars.
The Shelters of Stone is about when they finally reach Jondalar’s home. To be honest, I don’t really remember much about it other than some incident with some really tight leather shorts. (Down, fetishists! It wasn’t as exciting as it sounds.) Two stars.
And then this one which is about… Well… What is it about? I’m not sure anyone really knows, because I’ve rarely read a book which lacked a plot as much as this one did.
Let me try anyway. People familiar with the series will know by now that Ayla is some sort of combination of Wonder Woman, Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci, having invented pretty much everything from the domestication of wild animals to stitching up wounds. If there’s ever a book seven she’ll probably invent the wheel as well. Oh, but she’s not perfect, because she can’t sing. I can just imagine Jean Auel desperately trying to think of something to ensure that us normal mortals can relate to Ayla, before coming up with that. Anyway, in this book she has to learn to be even more awesome and become the tribe’s main shaman-type person.
Jondalar is the perfect man and the perfect lover. Well, not to me because he’s blond, so he can keep his oversized penis away from my vagina, but that’s by the by. Except he’s not smart enough to realise that shagging your ex-girlfriend repeatedly because your wife is too busy watching the sun go down is a Bad Thing To Do.
So anyway, the books have always been pretty heavy on description. Auel has done a shedload of research into both the time period and how to survive in the wild, to the point that if the books were illustrated, you’d probably be just as good at surviving out in the wilderness with Auel’s back catalog as you would be if you had Bear Grylls with you. This was fine in the earlier books, because it supplemented the plot. In book six, there is little else but description. Jondalar’s tribe lives in what is now southern France, near the Lascaux caves which are full of prehistoric art. Most of the book consists of detailed descriptions of the pictures in these caves. Or maybe it wasn’t, but it sure felt like it, and I can remember little else about this book. Even the sex was boring.
So, to wrap this up, here’s some more advice:
~ If you’re interested in the Lascaux cave art, get yourself one of those pretty, glossy coffee table photo books, not this piece of drivel.
~ If you’ve only just started reading this series, stop at book three, or maybe book four, because it does have some good bits, and know this: Ayla goes home with Jondalar, they have a kid and they live happily ever after. Because really? That’s all you need to know about how this series ends. One star.