The Plains of Passage
Earth’s Children series: Book Four
Author: Jean M. Auel
Book Four of the Earth’s Children series tells the story of Jondalar and Ayla’s trip back to Jondalar’s homeland. The voyage originally took Jondalar and his brother a few years to make, and cost Jondalar’s brother his life. Ayla and Jondalar will try to make the trip much quicker with the help of their two horses, stopping at all of the big stops from Jondalar’s initial voyage and a few new places for dramatic tension as well.
Aside from the long journey in this book, there are a few moments of high tension. There’s the first groups of evil humans, one a group of women who keep men locked up and emaciated, and another group of young men who go around gang raping whatever young women or young neanderthal women they come across. The crossing of an ice glacier also puts the entire group in grave danger. Ayla and Jondalar also meet their first clan people on their journey, and even the horses get some adventures. Although there are numerous new groups of characters introduced, none of them were as interesting at the Mamutoi from the previous book.
I’m giving this book three stars as a compromise. I really enjoy this series, particularly Ayla’s growth as a character and as a person who is different from all of the other human and Clan people. The collection of animals, tools and people she meets are also very interesting and almost give the book series a Legend of Zelda type feel where Ayla goes village to village meeting people, leveling up her skills and items before proceeding on her next adventure.
Despite my love of the series, this was by far by least favorite book so far and it’s mainly due to the character Jondalar. With all of the Ayla stories we’ve told so far, there’s a pretty clear order of how interesting a story is based on who Ayla is with. The story is the best when Ayla is interacting with Clan people. After that it’s when she is meeting new people. If you can’t have that, Ayla living on her own in the wild is pretty good too. The only combination that doesn’t work great is when Ayla is alone with Jondalar.
It’s not just because about 20% of the time the two characters are alone that the book turns into cheesy hardcore porno, although that’s certainly getting tedious to read four books into the series. The bigger problem is that Jondalar is written to create most of the conflict in the book because there are so few other characters and because it would be out of character for Ayla to generate conflict. So it’s Jondalar who spends one whole book being jealous and not discussing it, or dragging Ayla on a cross continent trip that she doesn’t want to go on, or jumping to the conclusion that it’s best to murder their horses.