Fifth volume in the Earth’s Children series, begun with Clan of the Cave Bear, with 34 million copies worldwide. It’s been 12 years since The Plains of Passage (1990) and, although it sold as well as its predecessors, many fans felt a let-down in the series, with the action delayed by hundreds of pages. Here, once again, Auel shows her riches of research, with suspenseless but readable passages of flora, fauna and landscape. Ayla decides to accompany her mate Jondalar back to his home among the Zelandonii, a clan that lives in the caves of massive limestone cliffs and is ruled by Zelandoni, the woman who took Jolandar’s virginity. With them they bring their horses, Whinny and Racer, and Ayla’s tame wolf, all of which astound the Zelandonii. Ayla is now pregnant and probably the smartest Ice Ager alive, full of wisdom and inner conviction, while blond Jondalar remains ever recessive and needing her moral support as he and Ayla try to fit into the Zelandonii with its new ways and mores.
Auel clearly has one more installment to add to her Ice Age saga. Her fans can swim through this behemoth and hope that the next volume doesn’t take 12 years.