Book Review: The Land of Painted Caves by Jean Auel

Land of the Painted Caves cover

Thirty years in the making, fans of the Earth’s Children series, no longer have to wait for the highly anticipated final installment of the popular historical fiction series. The sixth and proposed final book, The Land of Painted Caves came out in late March. Auel again brings her extensive research and lively descriptions of prehistoric life to The Land of Painted Caves. While the book falls a little short in the strength of it characters and moves slow at times, it is definitely worth the read.

If you are not familiar with the series, beginning in 1980, author, Jean Auel began wowing readers with her first installment, The Clan of Cave Bear. The series follows the life of Ayla, a young Cro- Magnon girl that was found and raised by a Neanderthal family after the tragic loss of her family. As the series develops, Ayla grows into womanhood and faces new challenges in the world in which she lives.

The Land of Painted Caves, again follows the lives of Ayla, her lover and her daughter as they journey through their region and meet new challenges. The book reads in three parts. The first parts follow Ayla as she journeys through the caves of Zelandonni. This gives readers great descriptions of the environment in which they lived and the challenges they encounter. Auel provides great detail in her description of Ayla’s pilgrimage to the most sacred caves in the land.

Auel also illustrates Ayla’s relationship with her lover and her daughter. Several years pass and this provides great detail of family and tribal life in prehistoric times.

In the end of book 5, The Shelters of Stone, readers learn that Ayla is chosen to work with a spiritual leader and become a “acolyte”, which is a great honor. In this book, readers follow Ayla’s training to become spiritual healer, including her completion and the discoveries she makes on the way.

All in all, this book should be read for its great depictions of the prehistoric environment and the detail of the lives in which they lived. It reads a lot like The Shelters of Stone. The descriptions of the sacred caves and Ayla’s transformation from young girl to hunter, spiritual healer, lover and mother make this a must read to finish the series.

Fans that have waited with great expectations and high anticipation since the last book in 2002, may be slightly disappointed. Auel leaves the story hanging in some regards and many may be left wanting more of Ayla’s story. For now and 30 years in the making, this is the final book and final chapter of Ayla’s heroic prehistoric life.