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4.3 out of 5 stars
The Plains of Passage (Earth's Children)
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2006
This is the fourth book in the series and sees the two leads make an epic journey home across prehistoric Europe.

I loved the first book in this series and the second one was pretty good too, but it seems that as the series goes on the author struggles to find enough "story" to write about so spends half of her time writing exessive descriptive passages that I have to admit I only skim read until there is more character interaction. Approximately half of each chapter seems to be an in depth account of the geology, flora or fauna of the region - whilst this is informative it does not add anything to the story and the already vivid pictures created in the readers head, making the book longer than necessary. The author seems to need to prove that her work has been meticulously researched when really she doesn't need to, it is obvious anyway, and sadly this sometimes makes her novel seem like a textbook (having just finished Uni I was hoping for an escape from this!).

Another gripe of mine is that the main character Ayla and her boyfriend Jondolar just get more and more perfect and one dimensional with the passage of time, they are always right, no one else can have an opinion and what started out as deep characters are getting shallower and more predictable with each book. They are both gorgeous, morally sound, great in bed, everyone they meet loves them immediately or pretty soon after Ayla has wowed them with her amazing skills of magic, healing, animal taming, inventing the wheel..... (ok so the wheel one was a joke but you get the idea). I would have liked to see some character flaws to make Ayla more "real" as she is becoming more and more god-like in her perfection.

Having said this I can't leave a series unfinished and as a bit of escapism it can be enjoyable so I am currently sarting Auel's 5th one.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 6 November 1999
I read 'The Clan of the Cave Bear' many years ago now, and became hooked. The series of books has successfully continued the amazing quality and suspense of the first, and I re-read them at least once a year!
The books seem to come out every 3-4 years on average, and it is easy to see why they take so long when you realise the incredibly detailed knowledge of the ice-age revealed in these books. Research alone must take a good couple of years, let alone writing the book itself!
However, I always find myself frustrated when the bookshop tells me again that there is no scheduled date for the next to be published. I love the series and am happy to wait, because I know the wait will be worth it, but HURRY UP!!! It is NINE years since The Plains of Passage was released, and now I wonder whether there will be anymore. If anyone knows, please tell us all!
Meanwhile I urge anyone to read these books. The vivid descriptions of an unknown landscape, the trials and hardships of life at that time, and the ageless passion of two people for each other, are a source of joy and solace. Thanks Jean, and PLEASE write another!! I want to know what happens when Ayla and Jondalar get home!!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2002
The story is fast told: Ayla and Jondalar travel back to Jondalars home, across a vast continent. That's about it. It's fun to read anyway, because we visit all the people that Jondalar and Thonolan encountered already in "The Valley of Horses" again and get to know how they fared in the meantime. Could be shorter though, the long descriptions of scenery and vegetation are already known from the previous books, and tend to get boring. For fans of Ayla it is a must-read, but don't expect too much - there isn't much new in it.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 12 October 2003
Fans of Auel's other books in this series will know how long winded and descriptive the books are. This does not change for the 5th book. The paperback I read was about 974 pages and is not an easy read, as she is very descriptive of the plains, the processes and the general wonderfulness of Ayla and Jondalar's relationship.
This book picks up from Book 3, when they leave the Mamutoi and encounter many other tribes (including Clan) along the way. It is one hell of a long journey for both them and the reader. Saying that it is still a fascinating read as they make their new discoveries and meet new people.
Overall I enjoyed it very much, even though I wished she would precis her descriptions somewhat!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2009
I was nearly put off trying this book by scathing reviews on here, but I'm really glad I went ahead. I reckon the more reviews a reviewer has done, the more 'exacting' they're likely to be! The book is scholarly, but the author makes you think about how stone age people really lived, while still giving you an exciting story and some human-interest. I loved the long descriptions of the countryside - but I found it helped to treat the book like an enjoyable journey to be savoured - travel a little each day and then rest, before all the changing scenery becomes too much. Downsides? Well, all the mind-blowing shagging got a bit much; frankly if I want titillation I'll read Nancy Friday, so I just skipped any paragraph containing words like 'throbbing manhood' etc!!! And Jondalar is so anxious about his beloved's safety, but it doesn't occur to the idiot to take more time over his bloody journey, then, so he doesn't end up risking their lives time and time again. And you'd have thought someone as strong-willed as Ayla might have pulled him up on this. He needs to get his priorities in order! Also, as others have commented, Ayla's appreciation of psychology is remarkably progressive for someone living in a stone-age society, and the whole area sounds a bit more like a 1960s free love commune than I might have expected, but hey, that's what makes it a story and not a history/geography textbook!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 25 August 2003
Ayla and Jondalar set out on a long journey. So long indeed that it makes you wonder would it be possible to walk all this distance without roads or even paths in only one year. It’s a long book as well due to all the landscape descriptions but I didn’t find them unnecessary. You will be also pleased to know that Ayla is no longer the most innovative of the kind but the other people get the credit as well. We get to know more about Sharamudoi ability to produce wooden articles and by visiting other people Ayla and Jondalar find out about pottery, coal and soap. Due to strange encounters Jondalar finally realizes that Clan are intelligent people and gets to appreciate wolf’s company. The constants struggle Ayla makes should she tell Jondalar about her contraceptive potion is a bit exaggerated. Her uncanny ability to perceive signals from the spirit world on the other hand isn’t since it’s necessary to continue the story in the 5th book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
In The Plains of Passage we follow Ayla and Jondalar on their epic journey to the home Jondalar left 5 years ago. He wants to return to his people and share the discoveries he has made and Ayla just wants to find a home where she can settle down and start a family. The journey isn't going to be an easy one and they will face various dangers on the way but can they make it across the glacier before spring causes the ice to start melting?

I have to admit that this is my least favorite book in the series, my copy has 975 pages which makes it an incredibly long read and now that I'm on my 5th read through of the series I confess I did skim read through quite a few of the descriptive passages. Jean Auel is able to write fantastic detailed descriptions of the landscape and its plant and animal life but although there are some new things to be learnt in this installment quite a lot of page time is devoted to things we already found out in earlier books. The main part I was really interested in (the part of the journey where they are crossing the glacier) was actually over quite quickly but I did find it really interesting reading. Jean Auel obviously put a lot of thought into how they would get both themselves, and the animals they are travelling with, across safely.

Although the descriptions can be a bit much at times (I now know far more than I ever wanted or needed to about the mating patterns of mammoths for example!) and the numerous love scenes between Ayla and Jondalar have become tiresome what I really enjoyed was their interactions with the groups of people they meet along the way. They make stops at several of the camps that Jondalar and Thonolan visited on their earlier journey and it was nice to see what has been happening with them since we saw them last, the Sharamudoi in particular. We also get to meet several new groups of people and I was pleased that in this installment Ayla isn't the only person who invents every new discovery. She is still a little too perfect, managing to solve problems everywhere she goes, but I can't help really liking her!

I would have enjoyed the book more if it had been trimmed down a bit but I would still recommend this for fans of the series.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Though still retaining much of the magic of the first three books of the series, I have to say this was my least favourite of the four I have read so far. This was mainly down to the first 300 pages which feature no human characters other than the two regulars and just contain too much endless description of the landscape and flora and fauna. The writing of the latter is high quality and obviously very well researched, but just a bit too much. The encounters with other groups of people are good, though one can occasionally get a little tired with Ayla and Jondalar's near perfection in almost all things. This said, I still rate this book very highly and look forward to Book 5.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 October 2010
Once again, Auel has clearly put a great deal of research into the book, furnishing her descriptions with plenty of attention to detail. However, once again, Auel takes it too far at some points, with some passages reading like they'd been lifted directly from an anthropological academic journal. I don't mind being given information about the environment in which characters move, in fact I relish it, but the way it's written, it really feels like a chopped up academic article forcibly inserted into the main text of the historical fiction. I AM an academic, I spend all day researching and reading academic journals - I read novels to get away from that sort of thing! Auel should rather try and incorporate such information into the story, so the explanation seems relevant to the storyline, not stick it in anywhere with no relevance to the text at that point and try to ram it down our throats.

The entire first third of the book, Ayla and Jondalar spend travelling without meeting any people, and Auel describes at length every little detail of their journey down to the Black Sea and upstream along the Danube before they come into contact with the Sharamudoi tribe. It's horribly drawn out, and just about the only occurrence of significance to the plot is when Ayla has a disturbing prophetic dream and barely manages to save them from a flood and a lightning strike - well, I say an occurrence of significance, presumably the scene is meant to develop the plot of her supposed shamanic powers. Other than that, it's an excuse for 250 pages of further dry description of the environment of the regions they're travelling through, and more bad sex scenes. This section of the book could easily be cut right out and you wouldn't miss anything for it. No major occurrences advance the plot, there are no big problems for the characters to solve, and the relationship between Ayla and Jondalar remains exactly the same, and neither of them develops as characters. It's just not necessary, it's the opposite of sharp and concise, which is to say sloppy.

The premise of an epic journey following the travels and struggles of characters in a prehistoric world is a very interesting one, I've seen docu-dramas on the same subject that are wonderfully gripping and interesting, yet Auel's books manage to be inane and boring after "Clan of the Cave Bear". "Clan of the Cave Bear" managed to be a great book because it focused on some real, pressing issues that Ayla as a child had, and focused on her character development as a child. The problem with every book since is that Auel still focuses almost exclusively on character storylines over everything else, but there ISN'T any character development. It's all mindless fluff, nothing of significance ever happens, Ayla and Jondalar do not develop or grow as people whatsoever, they're about as flat as wafer thin paper. All other secondary characters are so frustratingly stereotyped and never get any story of their own, if they show the remotest hint of having interesting, hidden depths, they're killed off or get left far behind. The dialogue she writes for Ayla and Jondalar is painfully unrealistic and cheesy, and the purple prose she uses in the sex scenes is so horribly over the top it's like a Harlequin pulp.

Time and again, Ayla meets a tribe of people, who are awed by her god-like powers, and Teaches Them The Error Of Their Ways. Mainly this involves spreading the message that Neanderthals Are People Too, and that people are Wrong to treat them as animals. I can't help suspecting that it's secretly also about teaching people that they are Wrong to treat Ayla as an abomination for her association with Neanderthals, because of course, Ayla is wonderful and perfect and has invented every significant piece of technology under the sun, and whatever would she do if she were truly outcast, why, then she wouldn't be able to fill her Chosen Destiny as the Best Shaman Ever. It's nauseating. No one gets to have an opinion apart from Ayla and Jondalar, and if anyone can do anything well you can bet that Ayla does it better, and if anyone actually develops a tiny bit of personality and depth (which would be a big threat to the Ayla character since she's so perfect by this instalment that she's little more than shallow fluff), they're punished for it and bad things happen to them.

Final conclusions? The historical setting of the Ice Age, one which is not tackled very often by fiction writers, is on the face of it, of interest. However, Auel makes the people of the Ice Age's lives so inane and banal - nothing of importance ever happens and conversations feel forced and unnatural. The storyline is spends almost 1000 agonising pages describing how the protagonists got from A to B, interspersed with cheesy interludes in which the protagonists save a group of people and teach them the error of their ways with smug self-righteousness that makes you want to smack them. The plot has no arc to speak of, there is no character development in the two protagonists, who lack any depth, complexity, or empathy, whilst secondary characters are little better than stock stereotypes who serve to either sing the praises of the main characters or be humiliatingly belittled by them if they should prove antagonistic, and woe betide any character who has the potential to be a rival to our perfect Ayla, they are immediately written out, either killed, conveniently absent, or condemned to a miserable fate. The plot is not at all engaging or gripping as a result, since you know that the author will never allow anything truly bad to happen to Ayla.

Still, now that Ayla has at last reached her final destination, I'm hoping this breezeblock of an interlude will give way to some real meaty stuff in the next book, and we can get down to her fulfilling whatever fate the author has in mind for her.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 17 July 2006
I just want to underline the fact to all readers of these reviews no to be discouraged by negative comments. Yes the Plains of Passage is a long book and it is full of descriptions, but it is a travel account... So you have to expect it. Auel's writing is so rich in information that it allows readers to picture all the landscapes Ayla, Jondalar and their animal companions are travelling through. I think all the descriptions are worthwile and I especially love all their encounters along the way. I did find the first half a bit difficult at times, but I would say that I could not put my book down during the second half. Enjoy!
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