Jan 12, 11
I own a copy
** spoiler alert **
Ayla is probably my favorite female character. She is strong, smart and spiritual. The books are long, and the later ones (there is a fifth not listed, Shelters of Stone) at times get too detailed and wordy. Almost too much repetitive description of the landscape. I believe she was trying to get the reader to really "feel" the different geographic areas - but it was a bit of overkill.
As for the main characters, as I said Ayla is a strong,capable woman who faces many dangers, be it from a clan member or creature. She is a "cro-magnon", one of the "others" as the clan calls them. She is found by "the clan of the cave bear" after her parents were killed and she barely escaped from the clutches of a saber toothed tiger. The clan's medicine woman adopts her and teaches her the ways of medicine woman.
Each book takes you on Ayla's next adventure, picking up where the last one left off. The second finds Ayla alone, having left the clan, fending for herself. The book also introduces Ayla's true love, Jondolar (and the first "other" such as herself that she meets) and their paths intercept about midway through.
The third book, the Mammoth Hunters, is the beginning of their journey together back to Jondolar's people. Along the way their journey brings them into contact with new tribes/groups or they pass by tribes/groups Jondolar met on his journey towards Ayla's valley. The Plains of Passage continues their journey and they meet more people/groups, some of whom are not very nice and are dangerous. They deal with all sorts of issues along the way. While Ayla is an other, she was raised by the clan and understands their language, while speaking the language of the others with an "accent". This makes her different and interesting to the 'others'. There is conflict and prejudice between the two groups (clan and others), even though both have similar traditions and beliefs. In many ways, man is still the same today.
I recommend this series if you are willing to jump into a lot of reading and you like a strong female character. And the love between Ayla and Jondolar - it is tested time and again and they prevail. The author, Jean M. Auel, does a lot of research into prehistoric man prior to writing each book. It is not only a novel about Ayla & Jondolar, it is a lesson about the two trees of humanity and how one thrived while the other dwindled. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.