Earth’s Children 6: Land of the Painted Caves – A Review

Land of the Painted Caves

Earth's Children Book 6

We’ve been waiting for years but finally the last book in the Earth’s Children series by Jean Auel is finally in stores! If the series doesn’t sound familiar you might recognize the name of the first book: Clan of the Cave Bear. Yes, it is a somewhat cheesy movie but the book itself is well written and enjoyable. There are now 6 books total in the series and though I read the first four back in 1995 or so, the wait for the last two books was completely worth it.

Now that I’ve finished reading the newest book, “Land of the Painted Caves”, I wanted to share my thoughts on it with you guys and find out what you think about this last book. Beware, spoilers abound after the break!

The book picks up a few years after the end of the 5th book, “Shelters of Stone”. It was a bit of a gap but not surprising. I guess I kinda missed Jondalar’s initial reaction to Ayla’s news about joining the Zelandonia. Still, I can understand the need to skip ahead. The book started off with action which I enjoyed and I was somewhat surprised that there wasn’t a single bit of sex until nearly page 200. Considering that the last 4 books seemed to have sex happening by page 20 this was a bit weird but then again, it did fit with Ayla’s training.

While it does sit and expand on various points in Ayla’s training, there are moments when we skip forward a few years and it’s almost a jolt. Not since the first book have I felt such jumps in time and I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it. To me it felt as though she was trying to rush this book a little, trying to stuff as much into it as she could to finish the series. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy what was there but I do think it would have been more enjoyable if it had been split into two books and expanded a bit.

I was extremely happy to read more about Lanoga, Bologan and their siblings. I was so wanting them to have a happy end to their part in the story. As for Marona and Jondalar…yeah, let’s just say I haven’t felt such disgust at Jondalar since book 3. True, the nature of their society didn’t dictate monogamy but for Jondalar to hide his dalliances with Marona and continue knowing that Ayla would be hurt if she found out, that was low.

I was thrilled, however, at the appearance of Danug and Druwez from the third book. I’d always wondered if any of the characters from that novel would make an appearance again though it seemed unlikely given the distance between the two lands in the novels. Yet, to have them appear at the end actually had me grinning each time I read about them.

Again, the ending of the book felt extremely rushed. From Ayla’s “calling” in the cave to her trip to the Summer Meeting and discovery of Jondalar and Marona to the revelation of the Gift to the rest of the people….it just seemed to happen too quickly. And I’m not even going to go into Ayla’s choosing of Laramar just to anger Jondalar. Though I can see her doing such a thing, I can’t see her doing it with two other men involved as well, drunkenly and in front of everyone. Ayla’s upbringing and nature is in direct contrast to that incident. I understand that it was needed so that Jondalar’s reaction would make sense but still…

All in all, I really did enjoy the book. I wouldn’t have minded if it was longer or even two separate books. There was definitely enough story in there to keep me reading. I do feel like it ended on a strangely uncertain note with many different plotlines unresolved or at least, they felt unresolved to me. Part of me hopes that Miss Auel might release another book or at least a smaller follow-up to the series. Though I know it’s not likely, I’d still love to see how certain things resolve themselves in story and I’d love to know what happens to the Mamutoi that came to that fateful Summer Meeting. More than anything I think I’m just sad to know the series that I’ve been reading for many many years is now over.

Have you read the novel? What were your thoughts on it? Do you think it might have done better as a longer book or two separate ones?