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The Valley of Horses is the second novel in Jean M. Auel's epic Earths Children series. In the first, The Clan of The Cave Bear, we met Ayla, a Cro-Magnon girl adopted by the Clan, Neanderthals.
In The Valley of Horses, Ayla is now alone and searching for her people, the Others as they are known to the Clan. She finds a sheltered valley where she adopts some animals and settles down, liking her way of life and scared the Others will not allow her to laugh, hunt or keep her animals.
We also meet Jondalar and his brother Thonolan, men of the Others, who are on a Journey, exploring land new to them and meeting new people. Tragedy brings Jondalar to Ayla's valley, where she begins to learn about the Others.
As with The Clan of the Cave Bear, the story is superbly crafted. Auel's research and attention to detail is impeccable. I say impeccable because although I know little about this time and such far-back history, it all makes perfect sense and the detail is incredible. I may be incorrect about the historical facts being perfect, but to someone who is not in the know, it reads like it is. The fact that Auel is respected by the archaeological and historical communities speaks for itself. There are long descriptive passages which give the read a vivid picture of the landscape and animals of the time, and of course how people lived.
The character of Ayla is very endearing and you can't help but grow attached to her. She misses her Clan terribly, but it is fascinating to see her living by herself and learning new things. I adored her relationship with the animals, particularly Baby (I won't spoil it by telling you what he is...). I did find that I missed the Clan, despite events at the end of the first novel, and Broud's cruelty to Ayla. I did enjoy the new experiences Ayla had, however the Clan represented warmth and comfort, and I missed that, much like Ayla did.
Jondalar is not so endearing, but he is fascinating none-the-less given he is so different, yet so similar, to the Clan. As much as I enjoyed his and Thonolan's story, I preferred Ayla's and I found I was desperate for them to meet, as the blurb on the back had told me they would.
Jondalar and Thonolan's story is, however, the perfect introduction to the Others. With them we meet many different tribes, see their ways of life and their differences and similarities. By introducing us to the Others through their Journey, we are meeting these tribes through two men who do not know every tribe they meet, so we learn about the people along with Jondalar and Thonolan.
Auel's style is perfectly suited to her subject. She is descriptive, and there is a quality to her writing which fits her pre-historic characters and puts you right there with them. The Valley of Horses is fairly easy to read, but there is a huge amount of detail to take in. After the first few chapters however, I could hardly put the book down.
I would highly recommend The Valley of Horses, but only after reading The Clan of the Cave Bear - the series is to complex (and too good) to be dipped into.
The second novel in Jean M. Auel's magnificent epic of life on the glacial continent of the last Ice Age, when two kinds of human beings, Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon, shared the earth.
~ Plot ~
Since being cursed and outcast from her home where she was brought up with a clan of Neanderthals in The Clan of the Cave Bear, the first book in the Earth's Children series, the story of the beautiful and courageous Ayla continues.
Ayla sets out alone on a quest to find the Others, people the same as her. But a long and difficult journey awaits her in a land of freezing ice mountains, dangerous landscapes and animals and a silence that only another's voice can fill. She finds herself a temporary home in the Valley of horses but the warm shelter of the cave, the familiar surroundings and the comfort of the horses nearby, make it hard for her to leave.
Meanwhile, Jondalar and his brother make their way across the land on their Journey, where Jondalar ends up stumbling into Ayla's home. As the two get to know each other, Ayla fights a battle between fear and desire towards this strange man and both will travel on an epic journey of discovery, finding out things about the world, each other and themselves they never knew possible.
~ My opinion ~
Seeing as I was named after Ayla, the main character in this series of books, I thought it was about time I read them. After reading the first book in the series, The Clan of the Cave Bear, which I loved but was pretty hard reading, I thought I'd move onto a lighter book and come back to the Earth's Children series a bit later on. But I surprised myself in actually missing the story of Ayla so I wanted to quickly get back into the second book as soon as I could.
The Valley of Horses, although still a fairly hard read, is much easier than The Clan of the Cave Bear. Whereas the first was mainly description, this book contains much more dialect in the form of 'the Others' who are Cro-Magnons, or early modern humans. The inclusion of the Others means that we can immediately relate to them as their ways are a lot more similar to ours than the ways of the Neanderthals from the Clan as they are more human-like. Unlike the Clan, the Others actually use their voices to speak and communicate much more and so the dialect fills up half of the book when we are following Jondalar and his brother. There is still a lot of description though as Ayla is now living alone with no one to speak to so these parts of the book merely describe her life and the only dialect here is what she is thinking or saying to herself. Each chapter swaps from focusing on either Ayla's or Jondalar's journey though so the switch between description and dialect makes the book an interesting and enjoyable read.
The one and only thing that annoyed me about the book was that Ayla and Jondalar didn't meet until well after half way through and I eventually got so fed up of waiting for this to happen that I kept having to flick forward to find out how much I had left to read before they met. But when it eventually happened, I could not put the book down for a single second. Regardless of the fact that they couldn't communicate with each other at first, as they both speak in different ways and languages, the connection and spark between them was immediate and this is what made the book so compelling and brilliant.
I wouldn't recommend this book to younger readers. Apart from the fact that it's an overly-descriptive and pretty hard going book to read, it contains extremely sexually explicit narrative. Although the description that Auel went into regarding intimacy and sex (or Pleasures as it is described in the book) is brilliant with the depth she goes into to let us know exactly what is happening and the feelings that each person has, I found myself thinking that my grandad has read this book and he shouldn't be reading stuff like this! It's far too detailed naughtiness!
To understand properly what is going on in this book, you absolutely have to read the first novel, otherwise you won't have a clue what the hell is going on. Even though most things can be picked up easily enough, none of the detail or description of what has previously happened will be known and this is essential to get the most out of this amazing series of books.
I've read the first three books in this series, and so far The Valley of Horses is by far my favourite. I love the connection and intimacy that Ayla and Jondalar find with each other and the happiness that Ayla eventually finds after so long of being a misfit and never being able to truly be herself. If you've read the first novel or fancy giving this a go, I would thoroughly recommend the series, which takes you on a journey of history, survival and love in prehistoric times.
The sequel to "clan of the cavebears" is an interesing book indeed. After reading and loving clan of the cavebears, and getting this book in a buy one get one free offer, i began reading it straight after finishing the other book. *I highly reccommend reading the books in order as it could be confusing and would not be such a good experience*
Without giving too much away, the story introduces another character into the wood works, and with the main character Ayla alone, these characters soon meet up.
While i do not think this book had the same charm as the first one, I still enjoyed it and am glad i read it, as it lead me on to purchase the other 3 books in the series.
As i said in my review of "clan of the cavebear", I was quite young when I read the books, and I did not expect such in depth descriptions of hardcore sex in the book! This did make me laugh in my immaturity, but I really didn't expect it!
The story is not as strong as the first book, but it was still interesting. And the character of Ayla seems to become a bit too perfect; at one point she has birds sat on her finger as she sings to them...
Now here's a suprise for you - I've just had a category added! Yes, you did read that right. After asking for this book to be added and receiving a standard reply that nothing was or could ever added ever again (or something along those lines), here we are. There is hope for dooyoo yet... ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ --------- A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a review on a favourite book of mine that I had just re-read for the first time in several years - "The Clan of the Cave Bear" by Jean Auel. This book is the first in a series of novels called Earth's Children that have received worldwide acclaim and popularity. Well, now I have just finished book two of the series (The Valley of Horses), and have decided to become the first dooyooer to review it. Despite the success of Clan of the Cave Bear, many people find they have not heard of or did not enjoy so much the subsequent novels in the series, which is presumably why you can read any number of reviews of the first book, but struggle to find much on the later ones. However, I was certainly as gripped with this story as I was with the first instalment, but as with all of Auel's epic books, they are rather daunting to write an opinion on - I do hope I manage to do justice to this work. · The background Being the second part of the epic storyline that runs through the Earth's Children series, I really need to provide a bit of background information to put the rest of my review into context. This book is set in the Palaeolithic era (Old Stone Age - the first and longest period of human past as classified by archaeologists), around 30,000 years ago. The landscape in which the story is played out is one completely different to that of today's Europe, as this is during an Ice Age, when huge ice sheets from the arctic swept as far as northern Europe, and the mountain ranges of the continent were filled
with massive glaciers. The ice changed the geography of the continent, as sea levels were lower, and the regions we now think of as central and southern Europe were in the grip of a cold, periglacial climate, much like you would get in northern Canada today. In this landscape there lives two distinct types of human - the Neanderthals (the older of the two, who had been around for some 200,000 years) and the Cro Magnons (the newer species, and an early version of Homo Sapiens). The central character of the Earth's Children book is our heroine, Ayla. She is born to the Cro Magnon people, but orphaned at age five by an earthquake - lucky to survive it, she is left wandering alone in this icy environment until rescue arrives in the form of a band of travelling Neanderthal. Nursed back to health by these people, Ayla is adopted and raised by them, having to learn their language, culture and traditions to be able to survive: these people are the Clan of the Cave Bear. However, as she grows, she finds herself to be very different from the Clan, and unwittingly gets on the wrong side of Broud, who is destined to become leader of their community. This is the worst thing possible as far as her new adoptive mother Iza is concerned, as she knows one day Ayla is bound to be forced to leave by him - a prediction which comes true, when Broud makes his first task as leader to put a death curse on Ayla. The death curse means that for all intents and purposes, Ayla was then dead to the rest of the Clan, and doomed to wander alone in a world where only groups of people have a hope of surviving. So, at age 14, Ayla is forced to gather what little belongings she has and leave the Clan - including her adopted sister Uba, and her son Durc, a child of "mixed spirits" conceived after Broud takes his anger out by repeatedly raping her. This is where the first book of the series ends, and where The Valley of Horses picks up the story. · So, what is this b
ook about? We start the book by picking up the cliffhanger that Clan of the Cave Bear left us on. Ayla has now been forced away from the Clan - the only people she can remember - with only her few belongings and the words of Iza telling her to seek out her own people, who are thought to live north of the Clan's cave. Ayla only knows these people as the Others, and can remember nothing of what they are like, but finding them remains her only hope of long-term survival and happiness. Trekking north from the cave, she wanders for weeks on end without seeing another human, but fortunately is uniquely situated to be able to survive alone - she has trained herself to use a sling from childhood, despite it being banned amongst women of the Clan, and is also a medicine woman as her adoptive mother Iza was. Ayla can therefore manage to hunt small animals to feed herself, and is able to treat herself for most ills; most importantly though, Ayla has the confidence in her abilities and a determination to survive brought on by her childhood survival of the earthquake. Soon though, winter approaches and still Ayla has found no people of her own kind. She is faced with an awful decision - should she keep searching to try and find people before the harsh winter sets in, or find some permanent shelter herself in which to sit out the cold season? The decision is almost made for her when she finds a sheltered valley - the valley of horses - which provides for all her basic needs. Having not found any of the Others so far, Ayla moves into a small cave in the valley and sets about preparing for winter, telling herself that if she manages to get through this difficult season, she can continue her search in the next spring. To offset her loneliness, Ayla adopts two animals to form her own small Clan in the cave - Whinney, a motherless horse and Baby, an abandoned cave lion. Together, the three of them live an unlikely but successful existence in the valley of horses, but
Ayla still dreams of following Iza's words and finding her own people to live with. Meanwhile, we are introduced to another two characters, two brothers also of Cro Magnon birth who live in the west of the Continent. These are men of the people Ayla knows as the Others, but who call themselves Earth's Children. The men - Jondalar and Thonolan - are on a journey, an adventure to meet other people and find new cultures as they cross the known world in search of the end of the Great Mother River. When we first meet up with the brothers, they have not long left their home, and are following the river eastwards - it is the younger of the two, Thonolan, who proposed the trip, while Jondalar accompanies him more from a sense of loyalty and protectiveness than from any desire for adventure. We are witnesses to their long journey as they move over the continent, and are used as a way of introducing us to the world of the Earth's Children, with their belief system, cultural organisation and view of the Clan (who they regard as animals and call "flatheads") and world. Slowly, they move toward the valley of horses where Ayla is now quietly living - are these the Others she is destined to meet? · Who wrote this book? The author is a wonderful lady called Jean M Auel (pronounced "owl") from Oregon in the US. She has written 5 books in the Earth's children series so far, with least another one intended. The incredible thing about Auel is that she is not just a writer. Having decided to write a series of books set the Palaeolithic, she set about researching the era to such a high standard that she has earned the respect of many scientists, anthropologists and archaeologists around the world. It is this attention to detail that helps to create such a highly believable, realistic and absorbing world. · What did I think? Personally, I enjoyed The Valley of Horses every bit as much as the Clan of the Cave
Bear - although I will concede that perhaps the writing isn't of quite such a standard as the first book. The world into which the characters have been placed has been recreated magnificently, using all of the evidence available to build up the Palaeolithic into a reality as near as you can get to what we think it would have been like then. A world in which there are two forms of human is an intriguing situation, and sets up the possibility of the ultimate culture clash, as each of the two groups is ignorant and wary of the other. This is a truly fascinating period into which to set a story, and you have to admire the amount of effort that must have gone into the research for it! The main character, Ayla, is believable and highly likeable - and it is very easy to empathise with her situation. However, I have to admit that as the book progresses she seems to be something of a perfect woman, almost a Disney-like character in the way she is tall, beautiful, intelligent, a fast learner, able to invent several new technologies, etc. Sometimes I just found myself wishing she would get just one thing wrong just to be that bit more human, and a little more rounded. Of the other two characters we meet, this isn't a problem - although I am quite sure from the author's description than Jondalar is far too handsome for his own good! The plot of this book is in some ways highly predictable - you know as soon as we are introduced to the men that these are the Others that Ayla will somehow meet, and that one of them will undoubtedly become her mate. Still, it didn't stop me enjoying the subtle sub-plots of the story, and you are almost willed to read on until you finally have the main characters meeting one another. The writing is very good, but I just didn't feel it had quite the edge of the first book somehow. Maybe this was because the first book had so many unusual people to meet in it, and having a story based around Neanderthals had suc
h novelty value - or maybe it was that the success of Clan of the Cave Bear put too much pressure on Auel when she was writing this follow-up. Even so though, I am sure most readers of the first book in the series will want to read on and find out what Ayla gets up to - I certainly did, and I will definitely read on to the end of the series as well! Recommended to - any reader who enjoys epic stories and historical novels, aged from 15 upwards. Suitable for both adult and teenagers, but some readers may find the 600-page length a little daunting. The Valley of Horses cannot be read alone, but needs to be preceded by Clan of the Cave Bear to make sense. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- The full series of Earth's Children are: 1) The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980) 2) The Valley of Horses (1982) 3) The Mammoth Hunters (1985) 4) The Plains of Passage (1990) 5) The Shelters of Stone (2001) Useful stuff: http://ecfans.com/ Excellent fan site, with all sorts of articles on the author, the books and recent archaeological work on the Palaeolithic http://www.mikedust.com/history/neanderthal.html See what the Neanderthal looked like (as far as we know!) http://www.mikedust.com/history/cromagnon.html Read more about the early homo sapiens of Ayla's species http://www.geocities.com/auelpage/series/bk1clan.htm See a Neanderthal morph into a Cro Magnon Price - £7.99 in paperback. Published by - Coronet Books, see www.madaboutbooks.com