October 08, 2011

The Valley of the Horses by Jean Auel

This is my favorite book of the series. I'm actually not quite sure why, it has tons of flaws and problems, but be it rational or not, its always been my favorite of the series. It is the 2nd book in the Earth's Children series and while you could probably read it as a stand-alone, I recommend reading the series in order for better understanding of background information.

When we last left Ayla, she had been cursed with death by her Clan and leaving her son behind, set out to find "others" like her in hopes that she may be accepted by them. After a hard journey, she finds a valley that has just the perfect cave for settling in for the winter. All alone, she manages to take good care of herself and even finds companionship. After killing a horse for meat, she takes in its foal and raises it, eventually becoming the first to think about riding a horse. She also finds companionship in a little lion cub that she rescues as well, and while the animals are good company, she longs for humans to socialize with like herself, but is still a bit apprehensive on how they might treat her. Alone in her valley though, she wonders if she will ever meet any of the others.

Meanwhile, Jondalar of the Zelandonii and his brother Thonolan decide to take a journey from their land to the west near the great sea, to the east to follow the Great Mother River to her end. They meet fascinating people along the way, fall in love with the beautiful women of their journey, and face many dangers and hardships that befall when one is traveling so far. As they go further and further East, the Earth mother decides to have plans for them and their futures are very uncertain.

The characters in this novel are very likeable. While this book marks the start of when Ayla becomes a little too perfect, she is still an interesting character and you can relate to her quite easily. Jondalar can be annoying at times, but ultimately is a good person and very devoted to people and his craft. Thonolan, while a side character, is very essential to the novel and I actually wish I could have read more of him. There are other minor characters of course, and the brief interactions with them brought a smile to my face.

The writing is very descriptive but Auel doesn't let you get lost in it. She is able to paint her scenes so well that I can picture them and the people in my head. Her only flaw is giving Jondalar and Ayla too many inventions and idea that they come up with themselves and it makes the story somewhat unbelievable. While I understand she is trying to illustrate how these adaptations came about, it would have been better served to let Ayla and Jondalar meet people who had come up with these things instead of doing it all themselves. For some readers, this book may be uncomfortable. It has explicit detailed sex scenes that leave nothing to the imagination and those that don't like this type of writing should steer clear or skip over those sections.

I really enjoy this series and find it vastly entertaining. It's the type that I can read over and over again and still find something new each time. I highly recommend this book and the series to anyone.

Valley of Horses
Copyright 1982
502 pages

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