October 08, 2011

The Mammoth Hunters by Jean Auel

I'm a big fan of the Earth's Children series and really enjoyed this third book of the series. There are some flaws that make it not quite as charming as the first two, but overall, it was still a good read. It could probably be read as a stand-alone, but I highly recommend reading the other two first as to get an idea of the background. For those of you who don't know it, and don't mind spoilers, Ayla was a little girl, who, when orphaned by an earthquake, was found be a clan of Neanderthals and adopted into their cave. She struggles with maintaining the docility expected of Clan women, but finds ways to secretly hunt and be herself. When she is eventually cursed away from the Clan and has to leave her son behind, she journeys to a valley where she finds unlikely companions in a horse and lion cub. She longs for human contact though and when a mysteriously handsome man is injured and she has to nurse him to health, she finds feelings for him she never knew could be.

This novel starts right at the end of the last when Jondalar and Ayla are exploring the area with her horses and come across a group of hunting Mamutoi. The leader, a big burly man named Talut, invites them back to his camp and there they meet friends and share their inventions they have come across and Ayla's horses. Here to, to their surprise is a child of mixed-spirits named Rydag whom Ayla is immediately drawn to in reminder of her son. She teaches the camp how to talk to him through the Clan's sign language. All is not happy however as Jondalar becomes increasingly jealous of the attentions the handsome Ranec gives to Ayla. The whole camp likes her enough though that she is invited to become adopted into their camp and also asked for her hand in marriage (well not quite, but the primitive equivalent). She has tough decisions to make and Jondalar does as well based on those decisions.

The characters are pretty well done in these books. Ayla and Jondalar are just a bit too perfect, but despite that still mostly likeable. Well almost, Jondalar actually drives me a bit nuts with his overdone jealousy in this book and is really quite idiotic. Ayla I can forgive a little bit since she was raised in different settings, but his reactions are not normal for his people. The rest of the people too I was a little impatient with for letting the animosity grow and stating they should stay out of it for unconvincing reasons. My favorite character was Rydag and the depth that he gave to the story while still being quite charming.

The writing is very descriptive but I do find fault with a part of it. Auel makes Jondalar and Ayla discover every new and innovative invention and it gets tiring and unbelievable. I'm sure she just wanted to express how these developments came about but would have been better served to have them meet some people who discovered some of these things instead of laying it all at their feet. For some readers, there are parts of this book that could be uncomfortable. There are very explicit and detailed sex scenes in this book and Auel leaves nothing to the imagination. It might not be for everyone because of this.

Despite some of these problems though, its still a great book and I love reading and re-reading this series as it never grows old for me.

1st book: Clan of the Cave Bear
2nd book: The Valley of Horses

The Mammoth Hunters
Copyright 1985
645 pages

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