October 08, 2011

The Shelters of Stone by Jean Auelt

This fifth book in the Earth's Children series lacks the wonderfulness of the first four. While Auel's bad is definitely better than some author's good, it may prove to be a disappointment to some readers, and I definitely recommend that anyone whose never read the series before start at the beginning with Clan of the Cave Bear. This book does not suit well as a stand-alone.

For those not familiar with the series (and a possible spoiler) Ayla was a little girl when she was adopted into a clan of Neanderthals. She was raised by them but eventually had to leave, and in doing so leave her son behind, to try to find others like herself. She didn't find them right away and instead spent time in a valley where she makes unlikely friends with a horse and lion. Eventually though, a handsome "other" named Jondalar ends up in her valley and they fall in love. The travel for awhile and stay with a tribe of people called the Mamutoi for a bit until finally making a perilous journey far to the west where Jondalar's people dwell.

This book starts when they first reach the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii, Jondalar's home. People are excited and anxious for awhile as Jondalar and Ayla have brought their two horses and wolf pup with them, which before now, had never been heard of. They meet several people and have to convince them of Ayla's worthiness to join the Zelandoni. Some people are taking far too much of an interest in her however, and the First of the Zelandoni (spiritual leaders, healers, etc.) wants her to become a Zelandoni herself as she is believed to be too dangerous left to her own devices. But all Ayla wants is to have her matrimonial with Jondalar and raise the baby that she is currently pregnant with.

The characters are not as well written in this book. Ayla and Jondalar are once again too perfect. All of Jondalar's immediate family is too perfect as well and it would have been nice to even see some average people that were close to him instead of exceptional ones. It would have made the story much more believable. Those that aren't the nicest of people are usually far away from his family. The Zelandoni kind of creep me out too and I'm sure Auel wanted to make them sound important, but to me they just sound like a cult wanting to bring people "into the fold."

The writing is very descriptive but it doesn't work well for Auel in this novel. It gets boring at parts and often times, I really didn't care what a certain cave that is only mentioned once in the entire novel looked like up and down and inside and out. I was also disappointed with how she chose to incorporate her research. There were new things she must have learned and wanted to add but made it seem awkward if you were familiar with the other books. For example, she goes to great lengths to describe an Elan (spirit of a person) and uses it quite heavily in this book, however, Jondalar never mentions it in any of the other books. Auel explains this by having Jondalar trying to keep it simple for Ayla, but one would think that something so important to his culture would be the first thing he share with her. I can understand wanting to include research, but sometimes it just hurts the book instead. Another thing people should note about the writing of this book is that it has a lot of sex scenes that are very descriptive.

I like the series and as said before Auel's bad is still pretty good. I look forward to reading the finale and seeing what resolutions are made for Jondalar and Ayla's adventures.

Book 1: The Clan of the Cave Bear
Book 2: The Valley of Horses
Book 3: The Mammoth Hunters
Book 4: The Plains of Passage

The Shelters of Stone
Copyright 2002
749 pages + Character Listing

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