So yes. Here we are. I’ve finally finished the entire Earth’s Children series. And – really, I’m not sure how to put this but – this was bad. This was really, really bad. The Land of Painted Caves takes what started as an excellent and fascinating series about a young Cro-Magnon girl who is adopted by Neanderthals, later forced out, finding her own way in the world, falling in love and being accepted by other Cro-Magnon people – it takes all this promising material and brings it to an extremely bad finish that throws such a bad light back upon the rest of the series that I’m not sure I will ever read any of these books again, even though I really liked the first three (The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Valley of the Horses and The Mammoth Hunters).
This final book in the series details Ayla’s training to become a Zelandonia, her Donier tour and relationship issues with Jondalar as well as Ayla being Called to become a Zelandonia. There’s an earth quake and as always, Ayla does amazing things. The plot is divided into three separate parts with jumps in time between each. I really don’t know what more to say about it as nothing much really happens.
So what makes this book so bad? First of, it’s extremely boring. Ayla visits one painted cave after the other and in every single one of them, we get details of the layout of the cave as well as details of all the paintings in the cave. She goes on and on and on and on about painted mammoths, horses, cave bears and red dots. And hand prints. The first one was interesting but when they just travel from cave to cave without much otherwise happening, it really gets annoying to get these descriptions. Yeah, I get that Auel visited these caves – but we don’t need or want to read her travel diary! If she at least had given some plausible explanation to why these artists painted these caves, it might have been worth it, but nope. That was too much to hope for. All we get is, that they felt like it…!
As if this isn’t bad enough, Auel lets one of her characters do something that is so out of character that I almost lost all interest in finishing this book when I read it. It just felt like Auel had realized that she needed some drama to engage her readers (and wake us up!) and so, she just wrote the first thing that got into her head – never mind that it was so out of character that it was unbelievable. I lost all interest in her characters after that and really, just finished the book because that’s what I do. I finish the books I start. I don’t think I can find words to describe how disappointed I was with this plot twist. And to add insult to injury, the actions this provokes, is equally unbelievable. You can’t write 5.5 books about characters and then expect us to buy something that is completely out of the question. He would never do that – she would never do that. I could write so much more about this and I really should so because it wouldn’t be spoilers, it would be a favor if it kept people from reading this book and wasting their time.
I don’t know if anything can make this worse but the one thing that could, is that Auel hints at many interesting plot points she could have explored. Ayla is working hard to become a Zelandonia, a spiritual leader, and the conflicts with doing this and raising a family could have been explored more and been much more interesting. As it is now, this little girl that Ayla really wanted, is just sent off all the time with other people so mom has the time to do more interesting stuff. Again, this is something that doesn’t make any sense since we’ve been told over and over that all Ayla ever wanted was to have a mate and a child – now she has it, and doesn’t seem to care all that much about her little girl…
Add to this, that we get the Mother’s Song repeated over and over and over again and it’s even part of one of the (few) major plot points because Ayla in a trance gets to hear another verse that explains how babies are made … Which of course is an interesting thing since it changes the whole world view from being a society revering the mother to also start understanding that men play a part too when children are conceived – of course Auel doesn’t use it for anything interesting…
It feels like Auel is repeating some of the plot points from her earlier books. Like Ayla again taking the drug from The Clan of the Cave Bear or Ayla and Jondalar again not talking like in The Mammoth Hunters. It’s like it isn’t enough for her to repeat things over and over – again in this book, we get the Mother’s Song repeated again and again, we hear about Ayla’s accent so so so many times, people introduce themselves with long names and she retells everything from the five former novels – but we also have to live through her rehashing scenes from the other books and pretending it’s something new.
I still think that the last three books of this series should have been edited down to one book. I think that would have helped but I’m not sure that the original content in these three (very long) books is enough to actually make one decent novel out of it. I can’t recommend the second half of this series. It’s really sad to see such a great series come to such a lousy and underwhelming end!
- Title: Hulernes Sang (Jordens Børn #6) (The Painted Caves – Earth’s Children #6)
- Author: Jean M. Auel
- Publisher: Gyldendals Bogklubber
- Year: 2011
- Pages: 736 pages
- Source: Own Collection
- Stars: 2 stars out of 5