Mindy's Reviews > The Land of Painted Caves

The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel
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's review
Apr 03, 2011

it was ok
Read in March, 2011

After waiting so long to read the "final" episode in Ayla's story, I can only say: disappointing.

You can read the other reviews to find discussions of the repetition (from previous books, from section to section within the same book, of cave painting descriptions, etc.), and in my opinion, the use of repetition was worse than usual for this author; however, what struck me was that it felt as though each section was written entirely separately as the tone was completely different for each. This would explain a lot of the repetition and why it was so particularly bad this time round. The first two sections were fairly uninteresting. There were a few little gems here and there, but for the most part, could have been easily summarized. The last section, where there is a lot more detail about Ayla's training and the action really picks up (although in a way that was repetitive from previous works in the series), was the most interesting and enjoyable. SPOILER: It livened up a great deal when her Mamutoi friends showed up, which, in my opinion, could have happened a great deal sooner to very good effect.

Perhaps the most disappointing part was that throughout the book, the characters felt one-dimensional, even the two that we readers have spent the most time with: Ayla and Jondalar. There was far less internal dialogue than previously and when it was present, it still felt flat. The "flavor" of their thoughts was missing; sometimes I had difficulty deciding who was doing the talking. On top of that, despite time, motherhood, and achieving her "destiny" as a spiritual leader, her relationship with the most important person in her life (Jondalar) changed not one iota.

I would have liked to see a lot more from the First about the internal struggles of one who holds the spiritual well being of thousands in her hands. She *never* had doubts? What about the time and energy all of this took, on top of which she was now training the one she believed would follow in her footsteps? Would this not be an exacting and exhausting task? Would there not be some one-on-one instruction? It appeared that all of Ayla's training took place in a group. This would have been the place to add all new material.

To revisit the repetition issue once again: if I had to read the Mother's Song one more time, I was going to start ripping pages out! As a matter of fact, I just started skimming those parts. It seemed pointless and was no longer special.

I was saddened by the appearance of poor copy editing in this work. While the typos from the ARC (complained about by other reviewers) appear to have been fixed, there were other problems, such as dropped plot lines (there was a particular ne'er do well family mentioned in the first section, not at all in the second, and suddenly picked up again in the third) and a great deal of internal repetition. While there was a great deal of recycling of material from previous books (already mentioned here and other reviews), descriptions of caves and travel mind-numbingly similar, she often re-mentioned actions that had occurred in previous sections/chapters, almost as if she had forgotten she had already put it in.

I think that perhaps one of my biggest disappointments was that there wasn't an epilogue of some sort showing that Ayla had truly turned into an enigmatic zelandoni, giving up her name, becoming First, perhaps in extreme age looking back on her life and what happened to her mate and children (yes, she had one child in the book but wanted more). It honestly felt like that the author left it open enough to continue the story in some way, assertions on the dust jacket aside ("the last in the series", it said).

When all is said and done, even if I had read the reviews before purchasing this book, I would still have purchased and read it. In my opinion, however, I would much rather have preferred that the series end with the fifth book when I could imagine what happened. SPOILER: The ending of this one was a real let down (the Gift of Knowledge and people *already* starting to fight over paternity.....blech). Overall, it felt like Jean Auel was *really* tired of this project and just wanted to be done with it.

After thinking about it a bit, I just want to point out that the author is 75 years old! I certainly hope that I would be able to put out a tome of this size at that age.
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