From Publishers Weekly
Thirty thousand years in the making and 31 years in the writing, Auel's overlong and underplotted sixth and final volume in the Earth's Children series (The Clan of the Cave Bear; etc.) finds Cro-Magnon Ayla; her mate, Jondalar; and their infant daughter, Jonayla, settling in with the clan of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonaii. Animal whisperer and medicine woman Ayla is an acolyte in training to become a full-fledged Zelandoni (shaman) of the clan, but all is not rosy in this Ice Age setting; there are wild animals to face and earthquakes to survive, as well as a hunter named Balderan, who has targeted Ayla for death, and a potential cave-wrecker named Marona. While gazing on an elaborate cave painting (presumably, the Lascaux caverns in France), Ayla has an epiphany and invents the concept of art appreciation, and after she overdoses on a hallucinogenic root, Ayla and Jondalar come to understand how much they mean to one another, thus giving birth to another concept—monogamy. Otherwise, not much of dramatic interest happens, and Ayla, for all her superwomanish ways, remains unfortunately flat. Nevertheless, readers who enjoyed the previous volumes will relish the opportunity to re-enter pre-history one last time. (Mar.)
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What began 30 years ago with Auel�s best-seller The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980), namely the phenomenally popular Ice Age�era Earth�s Children series, comes to an end in the sixth installment. Now a wife and mother, Ayla lives among the Zelandoni, the people of her mate, Jondalar, but she hasn�t forgotten the ways of the people who raised her. Ayla is training to become a spiritual leader, and her devotion to this calling takes its toll on her union with Jondalar. On their journeys, Ayla and her friends contend with earthquakes, a band of marauding rapists, and even an outbreak of prehistoric chicken pox. When Ayla and Jondalar get wistful for the days when they were alone with their animals, readers might find themselves feeling similarly. As was the case with The Shelters of Stone (2002), there�s not a lot of urgency in this final volume, but the millions of readers who have been with Ayla from the start will want to once again lose themselves in the rich prehistoric world Auel conjures and see how this internationally beloved series concludes. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Auel�s novels have been record-breaking mega-best-sellers, with 45 million copies worldwide, ensuring that readers will clamor for the series finale. --Kristine Huntley
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