Saturday, October 27, 2007

Book Review: The Shelters of Stone

This is the fifth book in the Children of Earth series (which began with The Clan of the Cave Bear) by Jean Auel. I didn't realize that she had written this book until I found this copy. The copyright date is 2002, which means Ms. Auel writes more slowly than J.K. Rowling!

Be that as it may...

When last we left Ayla, the H. sapiens woman raised by H. neandertals, and the love of her life, Jondalar, they had just crossed the glacier and were entering the region of Jondalar's family. Ayla is a bit concerned about how she will be accepted, since there is considerable prejudice against the "flatheads," as the Neandertals are referred to. (Ayla refers to them as "Clan.") Jondalar is worried as well. Not only has he been gone for a long time, but he has to tell his mother that his younger brother has died.

But they are not returning empty-handed. Ayla has tamed two horses, which they are riding, and a large wolf. She has discovered how to make fire using flint and iron pyrite and Jondalar has invented a spear thrower that will fling a spear farther and with more accuracy.

Ayla is also a skilled healer. She may also have a special connection with the Spirit world--a connection that the Zelandoni, the spiritual leader of Jondalar's cave, realizes early on.

Not everyone is happy to see Jondalar and Ayla. Marona was supposed to be mated with Jondalar when he decided to go on a Journey with his younger brother. Laramar is ranked low on the social scale, but feels that Ayla, as a stranger, should be ranked lower and is upset when she is placed near the head of the line. And Brukeval, who hates his Clan blood to the point of denying it, resents Ayla pointing it out.

Ms. Auel has spent a lot of time researching prehistoric Europe. Unfortunately, she wants to use it all. What she really needs is a good editor. Not only is there a lot of academic information, it's repeated. Then there is the matter of the poor writing. One of my pet peeves is when words (other than articles) are repeated in the same sentence or within a few short sentences. After awhile, I began to get a sense of deja vu: didn't I just read that description, conversation, action just a minute ago? (And don't get me started about The Mother's Song.

I felt like I was slogging through this book. Even the birth of Ayla and Jondalar's daughter, much discussed and anticipated throughout the book, is rather anticlimactic. It's a "set up" book, setting the stage for the next volume when all these people who object to Ayla will (presumably) begin to act out their parts of the drama. And Ayla has to decide if she will accept that she has a gift and become an acolyte to the Zelandoni.

But, really, it didn't need over 800 pages to tell this story.

On the March Hare scale: 2 out of 5 Golden Bookmarks