The Land of Painted Caves
Earth’s Children Book Six
Author: Jean M. Auel
The final book in the Earth’s Children series is The Land of Painted Caves, This series kicked off with one of my favorite books in memory, The Clan of the Cave Bear. I’m going to spoil the end of that book right here, so quit reading if you haven’t read the beginning of this series. *******Spoilers Follow******* At the end of that book, Ayla is leaving the Clan people she has spent nearly all of her life with as well as leaving behind her child Durc who is born of mixed spirits. I was interested then in what would happen to her son, as well as to all of the Clan under the new leader. Five books later I am really disappointed that aside from one brief encounter with two Clan people and a few others of mixed spirits that whole storyline is forgotten in favor of Jondolar’s amazing manhood and his journey home.
Throughout the series, I found the even numbered books to be worse than the odd ones. Book one introduced Ayla to the Clan; book three to her first human tribe, and book five to her forever home. Conversely, book two was Ayla meeting Jondolar, book four was traveling with Jondolar, and book six is married strife with Jondolar. Auel tries to recapture some of the excitement of new settings by having Ayla go on a tour when she becomes a spirit woman, but it falls flat as the formula of “look at her wolf, she talks funny, let’s look at cave paintings” gets repetitive on the second go around and downright tedious each time after that.
The majority of the story is Ayla learning to be a Zelandoni, the equivalent of a shaman and a healer. To do so, she spends much of the beginning of the book studying and traveling. This ends up causing some problems in her relationship with Jondolar. Auel set up three potential antagonists in book five of the series (Shelters of Stone) that seem like they’ll cause a big issue in book six. Madroman is the guy who Jondolar permanently affected by knocking his teeth out when they were juveniles, and now he’s a phony trying to become a Zelandoni as well. Brukeval is a man of mixed spirits who loves Ayla but hates the Clan. Laramar is the local drunk who is jealous of Jondolar.
Of the three, Brukeval is dispatched with no interesting outcome at all. Madroman is basically written out of the book when he’s not even present, and Laramar’s big scene at the end is just a reminder of what a loser Jondolar is. (As an aside, I’ve always hated this character and everything in this book reminds me of what a whiny, arrogant character he is.) Ayla and Jondolar’s daughter is basically absent throughout much of the book and doesn’t add anything to the story when she is present. Her parents are ok both abandoning her at various points because they’re sad about each other.
As a conclusion to the series, this was very disappointing. Auel completely ignored the most interesting part of the prior books and the big dramatic moments (an infidelity, a jealous lover) are quickly forgiven and I doubt most readers even end up caring about them. I did enjoy a few visitors from books three and four of the series returning to give some closure to dangling storylines from those books, but the fact that we never found out about Durc or the Clan or had any sort of additional run in with them was a huge letdown.