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on 7 April 2011
Ok before I start this review contains SPOILERS!
I love the Earth's Children series! I first read The Valley of Horses when I was 17 or 18 yrs old (I am nearly 40 now), I then immediately purchased all the others which had been published and read them from Clan of the Cave Bear through to Plains of Passage. I fell even more in love with these books and re read them countless times. I replaced all my books with second hand Hardback versions, I trawled boot sales and Hay on Wye! That is why I am SO disappointed with this and somewhat with the book before. I enjoyed Shelters however I found myself agreeing with those that wrote reviews, that it was repetitive, especially the endless Mother's song (yawn). I eagerly awaited this last book and as soon as I received the email about it's release I pre-ordered it. It arrived! I got down to some serious reading and found yet more Mother's song(yawn), but NO, wait, what is this, something new? Oh my goodness Jean Auel has accidentally incorporated her diary of "What I did on my vacation in France, featuring endless pointless descriptions of cave paintings", surely she must have realized? perhaps the real story is lost somewhere in the black void of Clan roots. Seriously I was so looking forward to her developing Jonayla's character, perhaps more babies for Ayla and Jondalar. I also thought it would be nice perhaps if someone from Ayla's original family turned up. I always fantasized that perhaps Ayla's Mother's family may have searched for them when they didn't return, perhaps asked caves along the river if they had met the young couple with a young pretty blond daughter. Perhaps an Uncle or Cousin on a journey searching in vain until he hears tales of an extraordinary young woman with a name not dissimilar to his niece. Or maybe as some other Fans have suggested, Durc leaves the Clan and encounter's Danug and travels to find his Mother. Anything would be preferable to Zelandoni dragging Ayla and Jondalar through endless caves. Also in this book Ayla is a less than perfect Mother, neglecting Jonayla to become a Zelandoni.I fail to understand how a ten year old girl who has a difficult pregnancy and birth caused by being raped by a hateful man, can become a fabulous mother to a mixed child, but then when she is older, more mature and meets the mate of her dreams and has a much longed for child to ease the pain of leaving the other child, she suddenly becomes neglectful career obsessed and considers leaving Jondalar and the child. Sorry Jean but this book contains a very poor story line that does not serve your wonderful characters at all well. It is repetitive, at times dull has glaring continuity errors (e.g. Willomar in books 2-4 becomes Willamar, Bokovan is considerably younger than Jonayla despite Ayla and Joplaya being pregnant at the same time.)I am saddened that such a wonderful series and companion to my youth has become so obviously a chore for Ms Auel.
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on 23 April 2011
What a waste of money, I think Jean Auel's publisher just cobbled the first 2/3 of the book out of the previous five books and Jean Auel just wrote the better last 1/3. I would of given it zero stars if I could, as waiting 10 years for this book is so disappointing and I expect so much better from such an excellent author.

Having spent the first couple hundred pages carefully giving us the background on every character we meet and Ayla occasionally going off in a daydream and recants in detail, something from a previous book on PAGE 269 it jumps forward FOUR YEARS making the first 268 pages completely pointless.

Ayla now listens so much to the First. On page 284 we meet a young woman whom is in agony with her teeth. Ayla asks to treat her. 'No' says the patient. The First says 'fair enough we are off to our meeting' and says in passing to Ayla, 'shame that woman will die young'. Ayla agrees and off they tromp to their next cave. No attempt to help her. Very out of character for Ayla.

Many description of caves with no explanations just blob here, line there...boring. One exception to this is the big most sacred cave visit on P411. If you read a bit, you can track the real pictures online.

Page 412 we get yet another rendition of the Mothers Song. I can honestly say start reading at this point and you would miss nothing...nothing. If you intend on reading this novel start on page 412. Trust me.

First mention of the clan people is when we read on Page 425 that they sneak into the big sacred cave from time to time and the modern humans let them be (like animals) had big hopes that Ayla might meet up with the clan, teach the Watcher et al more about them and have a chat set up some trading or something...nope never mentioned again in the book. Just a few references to mixed race people and Ayla's clan experiences.

Another out of character moment is on page 484, Ayla intends to leave a stressed out heavily pregnant mother who has miscarriaged several times without medical care, so she can pop along to the Summar camp and make another baby with Jondalar.

Jondalar might have his good points but nearly killing a man for the second time in his life FFS, due to his uncontrollable temper. Loads of 'he can't help it, he never learnt to control himself' tripe from other people. Yet by Page 581 Ayla has convinced herself that it is all her fault. Get a grip woman. She is really coming across as a wimp in this book.

By page 608 Jondalar has such an arrogant attitude, I want to close the book but I forced myself to finish it.

What a waste, the earlier books had some good ideas, storylines and overall were very enjoyable. I really think this book need rewriting as it really spoils an otherwise very interesting series.

Liked the additional verse to the mothers song and the talks about what that meant to the culture, could of been explored more I feel.


No one else has any horses or wolves to try to tame. Why not. After 6 years of watching Ayla say how easy it is, no one else has tried to catch a horse ? Surely that would of made an interesting off shoot, catching and taming horses.

Jondalar's punishment for nearly killing a man, is look after the beaten man's mate and children. Not much punishment as early in the book it said that the oldest daughter and her mate had adopted the children and was already raising them ! (see Pages 550 and 656)
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on 8 April 2011
I love the Earth's childrens books and I was so excited about the final installment I pre-ordered my book almost a year in advance, I even got it a day earlier than Amazon said I would, and on opening it I honestly feel soo disappointed.

Like a lot of readers I scan read the mothers song, although I had gotten into the habit of that during book 5. There seemed to be big chunks of explanation missing and the whole story ran flat halfway through the first quater of the book 4 years elapse with no back reference, nothing seems to have transpired in the interim and there is no elaboration Jonayla goes from being a baby to a 5 year old and Jondalar seems to have been completely forgotton for the majority of the book.

After a series of well written complex emotion driven books this one failed to ignite my interest, in fact i read it in four days because I was scan reading so many excerpts from previous books - Let's face it, no-one is going to start reading a series at the final book, especially given the epic proportions of them, so I don't see why the meeting of Jondalar and Ayla needed inserting ver bartim, nor the mogur experience from the first book. Fan's of this series know all of that infomation, and it's not the kind of series you just pick up at book six and expect a full recount of all previous books.

The only feeling this book aroused was the utter outrage at the turn the book took about three quaters through for 1 chapter (Marona - won't elaborate for spoilers) I mean AS IF?! All of the character development was lost and then it ended without resolving anything - The Clan Vs Others relationship is not expanded on Brukeval's character appears for about 3 pages and the ending is incredibly week - (and the final drinking of the special clan drink?!) that scenario just doesn't fit with the strong independent character that has graced the previous books

like several others have mentioned there is far too much made of the painted caves, it was tedious in book 5 even though it was slight there but I was left feeling bored and almost dropped off to sleep during the "Donier Tour" it all seemed very pointless and more to elaborate on exactly what Ms. Auel had been doing prior to writing the book - i.e spending 2 days in a library reading books on cave paintings of ancient Europe - or at least that is how it comes across - the work read like a half baked dissertation with human interest thrown in.

On a side note Datura is mentioned far too many times (about 4 - with a description of properties and uses), on several occassions Ayla refers to it as thorn apple and then further on doesn't know the "zelandonii" name for it and is told by the first that it is called "Thorn Apple" - completely pointless

This was a real let down and I was left feeling that there should have been another complete book to come - this was more of a summary of previous exploits with no direction. If you have all of the other books then I am sure you will be wanting to buy this one to find out how it ends but unfortunately I think like the rest of us here you will be disappointed in the direction Ms. Auel has taken.

really disappointed customer
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on 1 April 2011
Frustrated, angry and majorly diappointed. A desicration of a truly brilliant story. Will pretend this book was never written anyone want to buy my copy I dont want it.......Still crying inside.
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on 13 April 2011
Echoing what all the other reviews have said - this book is a waste of time, and certainly not the 'conclusion to the Earth Children series'. Were ANY of the questions that the previous books set up answered at all? A few examples: what is the meaning of Ayla's dream of her two son's meeting? Why aren't the Zelandoni starting trade with the Clan? What is going to happen to the spirit of the Clan which Ayla is still carrying in her amulet? Is anyone going to take them back? etc. etc.
I understand the caves are beautiful, Ayla's going to be first Zelandonii when Zelandoni dies, but really was that worth a whole book. Would definitely recommend against purchasing, get it from a library if you must read it.
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on 16 April 2011
Like most reviewers, I was hugely disappointed with this book. Having followed the entire Earth's Children series from late teens to late thirties and waited several years for the finale, I just feel totally let down. The previous instalment was not great, but I put that partly down to the needs of the story - introducing the customs of the Zelandonii tribe as Ayla got to know them, and recapping Ayla and Jondalar's previous adventures as they recounted them to his people. I certainly expected this one to be a fitting conclusion to the series and bring a proper resolution to at least some of the storylines that had been covered in the other books. But instead, I got a turgid 600+ pages of constant repetition of information I already knew, tedious descriptions of numerous painted cave sites and no finale whatsoever. I will not go into detail on the "Mother's Song", words fail me. There was precious little drama in the narrative - even the supposedly perilous episode near the end was almost a verbatim rehash of an event from Book 3. The characters appear to have changed their personalities from previous books, although characterisation generally in this book was superficial in the extreme. I would have liked to know more about young Jonayla, the long hoped for daughter of the two main protagonists, but their pet wolf's character was developed more and we hardly got to know their child at all. Ayla herself seemed motivated by totally different forces than before, while Jondalar was incidental for most of the story and his emotional journey was almost identical to the one in Book 3. With other characters, the author seemed more interested in quantity than quality. The key storyline of the whole series - namely the "Others"/Clan conflict - was almost totally absent and left unresolved. In my opinion, it would have been pushing credibility to have a reunion with Ayla's son, but I felt some kind of encounter between the two peoples, maybe even an easing of coexistence thanks to Ayla and Jondalar, needed to be in there. There were characters from the pair's previous adventures, but they came into the book far too late to be properly developed, and seemed very much like a token effort to make some kind of link to the previous story.

To add to the problems in the story itself, the book as published is very poorly edited. Characters have the same conversation twice a few pages apart on several occasions, and are constantly telling each other things they already know. I also found numerous spelling mistakes, including characters' names, which is not helpful when they are all invented names and many are similar anyway.

Overall, I am left feeling very sad after finishing the book today. The author has let down readers and her own fantastic characters alike with this effort. Some people have said there was a lack of ideas, but the ideas were all in place from the previous books, and she did not pick up on them and bring them to a true conclusion. Somewhere out there in the ether is a true resolution to the Earth's Children series that we have all followed so devotedly for decades, but this book is not it.
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on 26 April 2011
When I first read Clan of the Cave Bear on first release, I was mesmorised. Appreciating much artistic license was taken with the "truth" nevertheless I found the world as envisaged by Jean Auel fascinating and very thought provoking. I loved the next two books, then found I was losing impetus as the repetition of so many aspects in the latter books became frankly provoking (from Ayla's accent, to her medicine bag to the lovemaking scenes which were almost word for word the same). However, I lived in hope that all would come good in the final book and the freshness and orginality of the early books would be captured.


In fact, the failures of the 4th and 5th books have been greatly magnified in the 6th - and I should know - to prepare for the 6th, I went back and reread all 5! AARRGGHHH. What was her editor thinking? I am so sad to say that the 6th book just smacks of a money spinner finale cooked up over a boozy lunch b/w publisher and author and the cut and paste machine in overdrive. I am so sorry to say this as I know that creating a book is a huge undertaking but Jean, 350 pages of pithy and original and well worked plot and character development would be infinitely preferable to 700 pages of unending repetition. You do your fervent fans a great disservice and by the 6th book, you should be writing for them, not the newbies, and even a newbie does not need to know over and over that Ayla has an accent, or that Jondular has amazing blue eyes, or the zelandoni of the 14th cave is jealous of The First and and and.

So - if you are new to the franchise, read books 1 to 3 for sure and 4 and 5 maybe. And leave this one out. If you love the franchise, borrow book 6 and speed read it just "so you know". But sadly not one to cherish.
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on 22 April 2011
On page 311 The One Who Is First Among Those Who Serve The Great Earth Mother herself says:
"People should know, you don't always get what you want."
How succinctly and aptly put, this book is simply awfull.
Just a pity there is not a zero star rating here, one star sems too good for it.
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on 2 April 2011
I finished reading this book yesterday and was so disappointed. While book 5 wasn't great it did at least introduce some new characters and had a few plot developments. I had hoped that book 6 would be back on form but that was not to be. I totally agree with the comments to date of those who have given this book less than 5 stars and won't repeat them but would like to add (possible minor plot spoilers coming up):
- the horses and wolf are backdrop. You would have thought that over the 4/5 years which this book covers others would have realised the benefits that they bring especially since A keeps on about how there is nothing magical about training them. Instead A&J are the only ones to have them.
- the one instance of something actually happening is due to a completely out of character behaviour from one of the main people. It entirely put me off him/her.

This is a sad end to what was otherwise one of the best stories ever.
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on 15 June 2011
Despite having had nine years to work on this since the release of The Shelters of Stone, the finale which Auel has delivered feels rushed to press and unready for publication. I found typos and strange grammatical errors throughout but they got more frequent and worse towards the end of the book, really giving the impression that the actual plot really was just hastily tacked onto the end. This feels sloppy and hurried. Frequently Auel broke off from the main story to deliver a totally anachronistic comment about something that occurred long before or after the book's setting. This completely ruined the atmosphere of the Upper Palaeolithic world that Auel was trying to craft and jarred me out of my immersion in the story.

Repetition is a major problem in The Land of Painted Caves. Certain themes or sentences are repeated over and over again, characters would pause right in the middle of a scene to embark upon a lengthy reminisce about an event from one of the previous books, characters would even speak to one another about such prior incidents as if the other person hadn't been there at the time and didn't know what had happened. The repetition was so interminable that towards the last third of the novel incidents that had happened earlier in the book were revisited and readers reminded of them. Second to the repetition is the sheer dryness of the descriptions. The sheer page space devoted to description alone overwhelms all other aspects - plot, action, characterisations - and as a result those elements really suffer from being sparsely drawn and not nearly developed enough. Had these descriptions been written with skill, vigour, or imagination, it might not have been too bad, but unfortunately the vast majority of descriptions in Painted Caves are dry, dull and technical. This drags the pacing down incessantly, turning the book into a tedious, laboured drudge that takes real effort to get through, or even pick up. If I wanted a coldly factual site report I'd read an academic publication about it - I am not looking for this level of dry detail in a fictional novel which I am reading for personal entertainment. Unfortunately Auel seems to have shoved every last one of her research notes in here, tacked on a lame plot at the end, had it published and called it a fictional novel.

Painted Caves might still have been salvageable had it had a decent plot, but it doesn't. There's very little plot to speak of in the first three-quarters of the book, the first whiff of a real plot doesn't even show up until three-quarters of the way into the book, and by that time, clichéd and awful as this last minute contrivance is, you're desperate for something, anything, to happen in this breeze block of a tome. When the actual plot does show up it's so awkward and artificial that it just falls flat. The first strand of the plot, the big revelation, falls flat because it's not actually a big revelation at all, but something that we and Ayla already knew. The second strand of the plot was, I suspect, supposed to inject some drama and add some human failings to the all-too-perfect characters. The problem is that this particular plot point just doesn't ring true. Without proper development, this particular plot strand just makes the protagonists seem strangely out-of-character. The ending is just a complete copy and paste of the same incident in The Mammoth Hunters.

The Land of Painted Caves got it wrong on so many levels, but it could have been so much better. A more severe editor could have tightened up the errors and the repetition, and whilst the description here was unbelievably dry there were glimmers of the kind of vivid, vibrant descriptions that Auel used to write. There were also so many missed opportunities that could have made for a great plot in this book. With a decent plot, and the feisty Ayla from The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Land of Painted Caves could have been as gripping a read as the first instalment was. Disappointing is the word that comes foremost to my own mind in regards to this final instalment in the Earth's Children saga, and it's certainly the word I've seen bandied about the most in regards to The Land of Painted Caves.
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