October 08, 2011

The Plains of Passage by Jean Auel

The Plains of Passage is the fourth book in Auel's wonderful Earth's Children series. Unlike the others, I don't recommend that this one be read as a stand-alone. There is just too much background information and the series should be read in order. For those unfamiliar with the series (and this could be a possible spoiler) it revolves around Ayla, a little girl who was orphaned and raised by a clan of Neanderthals who took her in, taught her their ways and their sign language. When she is forced to leave the Clan and her son behind, she makes her way to a remote valley where she makes unlikely friends in the animals there and eventually, a tall handsome man who is on a journey from the West, Jondalar, discovers her there. They fall in love and make a small trip where they meet the Mamutoi people and they gain not only friends, but family as well in the meeting. However, Jondalar is anxious to return home and he and Ayla start back on a journey to the lands of the Zelandonii far to the west.

This book is about that journey. It starts shortly after they leave the summer gathering of the Mamutoi and start heading west to get back to the Great Mother River who they will follow all the way to the end in the West. Along the way they encounter several different types of people, some good and some bad, and learn their ways and make new friends. With them are Ayla's two horses and the wolf cub she has raised from a pup which causes both fear and admiration from the people along the way. Not all are so impressed however and it is up to Ayla to rescue Jondalar when he is captured and their future seems uncertain as to whether they will make it back to Jondalar's home.

The characters in this book are more rushed than they have been in the previous books. Ayla and Jondalar are a little too perfect and it makes them unbelievable and doesn't promote connectedness in their characters. The other people in the book are only mentioned briefly as they are on a journey that takes them away from everyone quickly and therefore don't have the richness that is seen in the Mamutoi tribe or Ayla's clan in the previous books.

The writing is very descriptive and while that's normally a plus in Auel's book, here it makes the reading very tedious. Since they are on a journey they pass through many lands and vegetation and Auel takes the time to describe ALL of it. But, on a better note, she actually has other people invent things instead of Ayla and Jondalar for once and this makes the book a little more believable than some instances in the previous three. Readers should be warned that there are several explicit sex scenes in this book (and the others) and Auel leaves nothing to the imagination in them. Some people may like this, others may not.

While its not my favorite book in the series and arguably not as good as the first three, I still enjoyed this continuation of Ayla and Jondalar's story. I would rate it about 3 1/2 stars as its not bad, but definitely not up to par with Auel's normal work.

Book 1: The Clan of the Cave Bear
Book 2: The Valley of Horses
Book 3: The Mammoth Hunters

The Plains of Passage
Copyright 1990
757 pages

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