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Customer Review

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The same wonderful environments, but the characterisations suffer, 14 Oct. 2010
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This review is from: The Valley of Horses (Earth's Children) (Paperback)
"Clan of the Cave Bear" was a decent book that kept me turning the pages and one that I truly enjoyed. The ending definitely made me want to go out and buy this sequel, "The Valley of Horses". Sadly the sequel was not up to the standards of the first book, although there are plenty of aspects to recommend it.

The richly created environments and vivid descriptions, particularly the environment of the amazing valley of horses where Ayla makes her home, are amazing and definitely one of the strongest things to recommend this book. There's also a lot more action in this book than its prequel, which I was heartened to see, in the form of hunting scenes, but the sequences are a long way from being gripping or thrilling. Ayla's time alone in the valley did seem to drag a bit - I was looking forwards in this book to seeing Ayla finding her own people at last, but she doesn't even meet another Cro-Magnon until about three-quarters of the way through the book! Unfortunately, Ayla turns into a bit of an all-too-perfect Palaeolithic princess - in the book Ayla discovers not just one major discovery of the human race, but several. Highly unlikely that Ayla would invent even one of these revolutionary technologies. Also, she is described as literally charming birds from the trees, taming a savage cave lion even to the point of being able to ride it, and her golden hair and toned body are expounded on much throughout the book. And, what a surprise, she is the only woman who can satisfy Jondalar in all of his years of travel.

Jondalar is described as incredibly tall, broad shouldered, firm-chested, with extremely rare blue eyes plus the same golden hair as Ayla. He has virtually no depth, excepting his constant angst about not being able to fall in love with any woman, which frankly I found whiny, and the reasons for this incapability are never really explained or explored at all... yet of course Ayla is his perfect woman and the only one he can fall in love with. As a result, their romance felt way too set up. That said, Ayla and Jondalar's actual courtship was well done, full of realistic steps backwards through confusion, assumption and misunderstanding, which I thought was quite true to life.

Auel still picks up points for tackling this little written about period, however, and she creates more cultural details in this book, this time of the Cro-Magnon race. The earth mother goddess worship is accurate, and the artefacts of carved female fertility figurines are genuine, however the idea that representing her face is sacrilege and that Jondalar carves Ayla's face on his goddess figurine (based on an actual artefact on which braided hair and a face have been carved, whereas the very few other figurines have this) is, I fear, sentimental fiction. There's no evidence that representing the mother goddess' face was sacrilege to Cro-Magnon people, the very few number of figurines we have cannot imply this with any certainty, and the fact that one of them does bear this representation suggests that it was not sacrilege at all, and may have been frequently done. The other cultural suppositions Auel makes are just that.

A fair sequel, but it doesn't top the first book. My recommendation is to enjoy the first two books as the high points of the series, as, regrettably, it goes downhill from here.
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