The front cover of my ARC states, "Three decades in the telling..." Well, fellow readers, it seems as if it took me nearly that long to read this particular book, the conclusion (book #6) to the Earth's Children Series. I eagerly snapped it up when it was offered in the vine newsletter and started it right away. Now, over a month and a half later, I finally finished. I'm a fast reader, usually can read a book within a day or two. I don't know why this one took so long -- perhaps because it was insufficiently edited, tedious, repetitious, and frankly -- sometimes boring. How often did we need to be reminded that Ayla was a foreigner (her accent), that she was beautiful, that she tamed horses and a wolf, that she was an incredible healer and visionary, or that she was a skilled hunter who could take care of herself? Many other reviewers have already remarked on the tendency of author Jean Auel to be redundant and burden her readers with overkill on detail. How many times did we have to read the "Mother Song" to get the point of the song, for instance? Much of that just took up space in a hefty tome that must weigh about 3 pounds at 757 pages!
Regardless, I am finally finished with Ayla, Jondalar and all the rest of the early "Others" who came to life in the thousands of pages I've read over these years. I was a little disappointed that this last book consisted mostly of traveling to and fro and less about human interplay. The novel only really becomes exciting (somewhat) during the last third of the book as Ayla finally reaches her destiny. Without spoilers, I found the ending a bit anticlimactic and the series ends with a whimper rather than with a bang. I had to suppress a small scoff of disbelief considering how Ayla's "discoveries" during her vision definitely will be changing how the people of this early land live and experience family life!
I won't rehash the plot (there really isn't much of one anyway) but will suggest that all fans of this series will likely spend days and perhaps even weeks wading through this final offering and coming to their own conclusions with the end of a series that was introduced with The Clan Of The Cave Bear - Earth's Children over 31 years ago! This is not a stand alone novel and readers who want the full impact of this monumental epic should start with that first book -- which I consider the best of them all.
All told, I am glad I read it; now I can put Ayla and her escapades aside.