Earth’s Children is a series of six speculative alternative historical fiction novels. The first was published in 1980 and the series was finished in 2011 (maybe). I’ve recently started reading the fifth installment in the Earth’s Children series and I wanted to talk a bit about the series as a whole and my impressions of the first four books. It’s been many years since I read these first four – in part because it took the author, Jean M. Auel, 12 years to finish the fifth book. She says it’s due to life getting in the way – I’ve always felt that it was because the books got progressively worse and that the fourth one was so bad it’s hardly worth reading. But I get ahead of myself… Below, you find my thoughts on the first 4 books in the series (beware – spoilers!).
These were the covers of the my first editions of this series.
My parents then gave me hardcovers but I’ve always loved these the best.
- The Clan of the Cave Bear. I loved this book! I don’t know how many times I’ve read it but it’s an amazing, amazing book. This book tells the story of a young Cro Magnon girl Ayla who is adopted by a Neanderthal Clan and taught their ways, especially when it comes to healing. However, the leader to be hates her and always makes sure to put her in her place.
- The Valley of Horses. Forced to leave the Clan, Ayla has to make it on her own. She finds a sheltered valley and decides to stay there for the winter. In the valley, she learns herself many different skills – as well as tame a horse and a cave lion. She is lonely, though, but when she hears a man screaming, she is in time to save Jondalar and heal him – while he teaches her the ways of his people. This book is almost as good as The Clan of the Cave Bear.
- The Mammoth Hunters. Together with Jondalar, her horse Whinney and the horse’s colt, Ayla leaves the safety of her valley to go out and meet others of her kind. She meets the Mammoth Hunters and is adopted. In this new setting, her and Jondalar’s relationship is seriously tested. This one is not quite as good as the first two but still worth reading.
- The Plains of Passage. Yawn! Are we there yet??? This book heavily details Ayla and Jondalar’s journey across the plains to Jondalar’s home. It details every plant they see on the way – or at least that’s what it feels like. They have sex, eat, travel a bit, see some plants, have some more sex and meet a few people. The first 3 I’ve read several times – I’ve only managed to get through this one once.
I’m currently reading The Shelters of Stone and then I will finish the series with The Land of Painted Caves. Sex, descriptions of how things were made in the Upper Paleolithic era, about 30.000 years ago, plants and such like, have been huge parts of this entire series and so far, The Shelters of the Stone is the same. However, I feel that the writing isn’t that good but I’m not sure to blame the author or the translator. See, I read these books in translation since that’s how I started them many years ago, before I had the skill to read books in English. But some of the writing, especially some of the romance parts, feels almost juvenile and the dialogue so far hasn’t impressed me. It has gotten a little better as I have been slowly dragged into the story but I’m not that impressed yet.
Also, it’s starting to ring a bit false that Ayla is so accomplished. She can speak both the sign language of the Neanderthals and the language of the Cro Magnons. She is an extremely skilled healer and knows everything about plants. She has an incredible memory. She has tamed a horse, a cave lion and a wolf – which nobody has done before. And on top of that, she’s drop dead gorgeous and doesn’t know it… She is almost a Stone Age Super Hero! I know, it can be explained by her upbringing, her living on her own and more – but still, it does get a bit much sometimes.
I’m hoping that these two last books will remind me why I loved this series so much all those years ago. I’ve been dreading reading them since I was afraid they would be as bad as The Plains of Passage. I’ll let you know how it goes!
- Auel may add book 7 to Earth’s Children series – Hillel Italie for SFGate
- Official Jean M. Auel homepage