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Earth's Children #5

The Shelters of Stone

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The Shelters of Stone opens as Ayla and Jondalar, along with their animal friends, Wolf, Whinney, and Racer, complete their epic journey across Europe and are greeted by Jondalar’s people: the Zelandonii. The people of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii fascinate Ayla. Their clothes, customs, artifacts, even their homes—formed in great cliffs of vertical limestone—are a source of wonder to her. And in the woman Zelandoni, the spiritual leader of the Ninth Cave (and the one who initiated Jondalar into the Gift of Pleasure), she meets a fellow healer with whom to share her knowledge and skills.

But as Ayla and Jondalar prepare for the formal mating at the Summer Meeting, there are difficulties. Not all the Zelandonii are welcoming. Some fear Ayla’s unfamiliar ways and abhor her relationship with those they call flatheads and she calls Clan. Some even oppose her mating with Jondalar, and make their displeasure known. Ayla has to call on all her skills, intelligence, knowledge, and instincts to find her way in this complicated society, to prepare for the birth of her child, and to decide whether she will accept new challenges and play a significant role in the destiny of the Zelandonii.

Jean Auel is at her very best in this superbly textured creation of a prehistoric society. The Shelters of Stone is a sweeping story of love and danger, with all the wonderful detail—based on meticulous research— that makes her novels unique. It is a triumphant continuation of the Earth’s Children® saga that began with The Clan of the Cave Bear. And it includes an amazing rhythmic poem that describes the birth of Earth’s Children and plays its own role in the narrative of The Shelters of Stone.

891 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 2002

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About the author

Jean M. Auel

55 books3,849 followers
Jean M. Auel, née Jean Marie Untinen is an American author best known for her Earth's Children books, a series of historical fiction novels set in prehistoric Europe that explores interactions of Cro-Magnon people with Neanderthals. As of 2010 her books have sold more than 45 million copies worldwide, in many translations.

Auel attended University of Portland, and earned an MBA in 1976. She received honorary degrees from her alma mater, as well as the University of Maine and the Mount Vernon College for Women. She and her husband, Ray Bernard Auel, have five children and live in Portland, Oregon.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,468 reviews
Profile Image for Crystal Starr Light.
1,357 reviews831 followers
April 11, 2012
A Prehistoric Clip Show

Okay, guys, that was really funny. Switching the novel with this fan fiction? Brilliant joke! You got me. Now, where's the real novel?


Uh...THIS is the novel?

Summary: Ayla and Jondalar return to his home. Everyone loves Ayla; Ayla and Jondalar tie the knot; Ayla gives birth to the hellspawn and somehow her name sounds better than Twilight's Renesmee--but only just barely.

Oh, yeah, and EVERY SINGLE STORY FROM THE LAST BOOK IS REPRINTED. So don't bother even READING the previous four books; at some point in this book, Ayla or Jondalar will tell you it.

I don't know whether I should be p!ssed that I spent all this time listening to the book equivalent of a 90's clip show or I should laugh my @ss off at the ridiculous joke of this being published. Or cry thinking about how many trees this piece of sh!t destroyed on its route to the bookstore. Or rage about the number of books that were rejected to make room on the bookseller list for THIS.

I've done my raging about this series; it's been a ridiculous, over the top, barely concealed Mary Sue fanfiction-y ride. But I almost want to go back to all the previous books and bump up the ratings by a star or two (YES, a star or TWO). With ALL the complaints I've had for the last three books (and if you've read my reviews, you know THAT is a laundry list), those books look like literary GOLD next to this piece of Mammoth defecation.

Gone are any attempts at making Ayla a realistic character. Gone are any attempts to take this story to the next level, to have ANYTHING to do with ANYTHING that was foreshadowed in the previous books. Gone are any attempts to treat the reader with intelligence.

I am SHOCKED that this book took 12 years to write. I would have given 12 days: that would be PLENTY to pick through the last four books, copy all the stories from there and paste them into this waste of paper, sprinkling a bunch of senseless research, bad sex, and Ayla Sue prancing around, telling someone off for their "bad behavior".

Ayla is the biggest Mary Sue I've ever read. She is such a flagrant Mary Sue, I had to check to make sure that this wasn't fanfiction; I wouldn't be surprised to see this characterization from a thirteen year old girl on the internet, but from a 60+ woman? You coulda fooled me! Ayla is the sexiest, most attractive, most intelligent, most competent woman that the world has ever seen. She could heal cancer with willow bark tea; she can wear boy's underwear (a big Zelandani no-no) and a top with her boobs hanging out, and no one will mutter a peep about her indiscretion--in fact, women will imitate her and every man will get a huge boner for her (and yes, this does happen). Everyone gasps in admiration about her ability to tame animals, produce fire, use a sewing needle, use stitches to heal wounds; everything she says is as if from the Mother's lips. She rushes into the town drunk's home to rescue his starving family, and the crowds cheer. She heals a stupid boy that was hunting rhino, and the Zelandani roar. Ayla could blaspheme the Mother, destroy their religion, and burn the entire shelter to the ground, and STILL the ENTIRE Zelandani race would cheer her on.

Oh, but POOR AYLA is humiliated when Marona dresses her in boy's underwear!

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Oh, but Ayla can't sing!

Uh, last I checked, those two things don't make a character any less of a Mary Sue. In fact, I took the Mary Sue test for Ayla (http://www.springhole.net/writing/mar...). Wanna know what she got? 161. Know what that corresponds to? ""50+ Kill it dead."

Jondalar is still a whining baby. All he wants is for Ayla to remain flat on her back so he could pound into her all day with his massive dong. The only reason he turns down performing First Rites is because his massive dong would scare off the young virgins and NO ONE could take him all. WOW HOW F@#$ING ROMANTIC!! I wished so many times that he would fall off a cliff or chop off his hand or break his dong on Ayla's "petals of perfection".

It is an insult to call the other characters "characters". The only ones who act even REMOTELY human are Marona, who is p!ssed because her f@#$ing fiance ran off and she was left with NO COMPENSATION (and Jondalar is back, thrusting his new, boobalicious fiancee, the Woman Who Can Do No Wrong, Ayla, in her face), Brukaval, who wants Ayla to f@#$ing mind her own business for once, and the dude that Jondalar punched in the face, thus ruining the dude's livelihood. Marthona, Jondalar's mother, accepts Ayla with barely a second thought. Same with Joharran, the leader of the 9th clan. Zelandani aka Zolena, the Dani woman that Jondalar loved SO MUCH and couldn't be with, is morbidly obese, conveniently "unattractive" to the vapid Jondalar. Everyone else that would have made a shred of conflict for this piece of sh!t is painted so painfully villainous, it would have been more subtle to have them dress in black, twirl their mustaches, and cackle about their evil plans to rule the world.

And all the stupid poor widdle kids that Ayla has to rescue! GAH! For once, I would like this woman to do something selfish, for her own personal gain, instead of rushing over to the town drunk (who hates her) to rescue his POOR FAMILY, to shame all the rest of the clan women into giving the baby their birth milk because, "THAT'S WHAT THE CLAN WOULD DO AND YOU THINK THEY ARE ANIMALS!" In fact, I think Auel "wrote" half the book by just tossing in a new character that Ayla has to fix whenever she ran out of stories from previous books to tell.

There is so much repetition in this book, it's borderline plagiarism. We are reminded TWENTY-TWO TIMES that Ayla has an unusual, exotic accent. I THINK I GOT IT AFTER THE FIRST TEN TIMES!! (I was going to post each one of the 22 quotes where it is mentioned, but I didn't want to get repetitive.) Other conversations that Auel has tortured us with in the past--every f@#$ing story from the last four books, where babies come from, how Iza told Ayla to wash up after having sex, how many times Ayla goes to take a p!ss or crap and how much more often it is now that she is preggers--is repeated over and over and over and over again. And then the introductions! GAH! Here is just ONE introduction:

"I am Folara of the 9th cave of the Zelandani, blessed of Dani, daughter of Marthona, former leader of the 9th cave of the Zelandani, daughter of the hearth of Willamar, master trader of the Zelandani, sister of Joharran, leader of the 9th cave of the Zelandani, sister of Jondalar of the 9th cave of the Zelandani, master flintknapper and returned traveler who is soon to be mated to Ayla of the 9th cave of the Zelandani. She has a bunch of names and ties of her own, but the one I like best is “friend of horses and Wolf”."

Imagine this for nearly EVERY "character" and multiply that by infinity. That is how many times I had to read this. If I didn't know better, I would have thought that twenty different writers wrote this book, threw together their portions in one big pot and sent it to publish.

And if you thought the previous books were in any way misogynist, you haven't even SEEN this book. Here are some WONDERFUL quotes from this supposedly equal-rights culture:

"She had become Ayla of the Zelandani and Jondalar's mate, and that came first."

Though a stigma of shame was placed on those who did not wait until they had their First Rites, some girls inevitably did succumb to the persistent blandishments. But no matter how relentless the pressure, by yielding to it, the girls became ultimately less desirable as mates because it indicated a lack of sufficient self-control."

"It is true that your mate will not be as tempted to look with pleasure upon other women if you satisfy his desires."

"Maybe [Jondalar] should have asked [Ayla] before he started all this [so Ayla could become Zelandani]"

Wow, HOW FAIR! Girls who have sex before First Rites are looked down upon because they can't wait. But boys? NOTHING. If your man leaves, it is YOUR FAULT because you didn't have sex enough with him. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Oddly enough, there are only 3 sex scenes in this book. Not surprisingly, they are pretty much the EXACT SAME sex scene we've read since "Valley of the Horses":

Jondalar goes for Ayla's boobs. (He even asks, at one point, if a baby nursing feels like when he does it. I AM SERIOUS, HE ASKS THIS.)

Jondalar moves to Ayla's "petals".

Ayla moans and can't believe how "ready she is".

Jondalar wants to take her "right now" and can barely hold back.

Insert Tab J into Slot A. Fireworks, explosions, flowers fall from the sky, angels sing, deer dance in the field.

And then we have the Mother's Song. I have a great aunt that used to write poetry about what happened to the family in the past year (and force rhyme to death out of it) and put it into her Christmas cards. The poetry would be something like this:

And Johnny did run to the store one day
To say hello to his Aunt May
And what do you think should happen there?
He found a cute, adorable, cuddly bear!

THAT is better poetry that this horrible mess. And the absolute LAST THING I wanted was Ayla commenting on how moving and wonderful this piece of sh!t poem was.

Sandra Burr has been doing an amazing job narrating these books (and somehow managing to not burst into giggles during the sex scenes). HOWEVER, the Transylvania accent that she suddenly gives Ayla in this book is TOO MUCH. Somehow, it made her even MORE annoying, MORE Mary Sue-ish, AND MORE vampy.

I just have one question: HOW THE F@#$ DID THIS GET PUBLISHED?!?!!!?!? This is, without a doubt, the WORST book of the series so far. It is pointless, it totally negates all the tension of the last four books, wondering and worrying if Ayla would be accepted into the Zelandani. I've read fan fiction better written than this.


P.S. Only one book to go! Can I make it?
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
469 reviews3,255 followers
July 3, 2019
Now in its fifth incarnation of The Clan of the Cave Bear...The Shelters of Stone, the decline is quite noticeable here, there is no real plot just Jondalar taking Ayla back to his home after being away for half a decade. Obviously missing the family , still his future mate is rather nervous understandably, her background ... raised by Flatheads as the Cro-Magnon call their disdained rivals, the less developed Neanderthals. They on the other hand more kindly referred, as the Others, the newcomers, are taking over the territories of the long established Neanderthals who have inhabited the lands for 200,000 years. And are not anxious to leave, nevertheless the static "Flatheads" are having trouble competing, haven't changed in those hundreds of thousands of years. The newcomers numbers are increasing, the original inhabitants, the opposite... survival of the fittest is the law of nature, their rivals strive to progress, always making better spears, knives, shelters, rafts etc., guess who will prevail? Arriving in an area after many tough adventures, ( crossing frozen glaciers, wide rivers, high mountains, not to mention battling wild dangerous animals, and unfriendly people) which someday will be the modern state of France. He Jondalar, is greeted by his mother Marthona, brother Joharran and sister Folara, and lesser relatives. However he needs to explain a missing close member...Yet not all are happy he's return especially bringing a foreign woman, along with her strange horses, and even stranger ways... Whinney, Racer and the lethal, giant wolf named improbably...Wolf, she too seems dangerous... maybe some kind of evil spirit..This group live under cliffs not large caves, rock shelters and very well indeed .The uneasy girl feels uncomfortable, they stare at the clothes, listen as she speaks with a weird accent and the unusual, living among her animals, this is not the Zelandonii custom, Jondalar's people, can she ever assimilate . Morona the beautiful, spoiled former love of Jondalar hates her, does anything to embarrass the foreign girl... Anyhow the couple needs to rest after the endless hardships of traveling together, Ayla wants to stay and belong, the teenager is desperate, having no people of her own, her man... simply...return to live as before . Still dark secrets are hidden , too painful to reveal , the past never forgotten, the memories constantly on her mind....The Clan raised the orphan, fed the little girl, gave a family to her, for a short time , taught her to be a healer...until she was able to take care of herself. The exile was involuntary, but Ayla somehow survived with the help, companionship of her animals in a lush valley, and later meeting Jondalar her lover, more important a friend. The novel has familiar characters and situations, that is a pleasure ...On to the sixth and last in the series, may it be good...
Profile Image for Ani.
34 reviews4 followers
August 1, 2007
I can't believe we had to wait 12 years for this book. It is a far cry from The Clan of the Cave Bear, which was captivating in its detail and character development. This book is in sore need of an editor. There is too much detailed description, and the pace moves incredibly slowly. Ayla is too perfect of a character, and the characters who don't like her are inevitably drunks or jealous bitches.

I feel really committed to this series, since I really loved the first two books, and liked books 3 & 4 just fine, but I was so disappointed in this book. I am not sure what happened- my guess is that Jean Auel doesn't really want to write these anymore, so procrastinates by doing incredibly detailed research (is this really necessary at this point? She has done probably 20 years of research when all is said and done), and phones in the actual manuscript. If book 6 ever comes out (since it's already been 6 years since this book was released), I will read it too, although my expectations have been greatly lowered after reading Shelters of Stone.
Profile Image for Beth.
69 reviews
December 30, 2012
Total Crap. Enough of "Pleasures" and discriptive scenes of ice age Europe. Some new information and a plot would have been great. The series has gone from one of my favorite books (Clan of the Cave Bear) to something I almost didn't finish. The series started crashing with "Plains of Passage" where Jondalar and Ayla "Pleasured" themselves across the continent while righing wrongs, curing injustice and improving life styles in their spare time. "Shelter" just bombed. Can't remember a single scene from the book, nothing happened (I think Ayla got drunk once, puked, and swore never to do that again - it could hurt the baby - whatever), **snore**
Profile Image for Ally.
75 reviews2 followers
September 19, 2011
Auel has written a beautiful saga about prehistoric man, and if I weren't so attached to her characters and their fate, I would have chucked this book long ago. Sadly, this is the worst of the five--mainly because it lacks plot and interest. Auel spends 200 pages on their first day with the Zelandoni, about 600 on the first month or so, then suddenly the last months whizz by in, maybe, 100 pages. She is redundant not only from her previous books, but within the book itself. She makes the same detailed statement 4 or 5 or 6 times. How many times can she tell us, in great detail, of Ayla's special language for the horses? Too many times.

I love the premise of this book. I love the first 4 books (tho they are also quite detailed and redundant to a lesser extreme). This book just annoyed me greatly. Yet, I still like it in a way because it sets up the conclusion of her series. I still want to know what happens to my favorite prehistoric family. Auel leaves you wanting to know Ayla and Jondalar's future, and that's even with an obnoxiously boring book. I look forward to book 6, and I will remain optimistic that she can give us another page-turner.
Profile Image for Hannah.
797 reviews
June 12, 2009
...hindsight being 20/20, I would have wished that Auel had spent an ADDITIONAL 12 years revising this book and gotten a better editor instead of dumping this horrible parody of our beloved Ayla on her fan kingdom. Not even a brief "thank you for your patience" on her dedication page to all of us who put her financial portfolio in the stratosphere these 20+ years.
It apprears she took her loyal readers for granted in a big way. It's obvious from the writing that she doesn't care about her characters or fans anymore. That's her right. It's also my right not to buy any more books from her - not that she needs the bucks.

This book was an insult to her fan's intelligence. She wrote it like we had complete amnesia about Ayla's previous exploits. It was like she was more concerned with making the last 4 books understandable to a brand-new reader - as if any new reader to Auel would pick up book #5 from her series on purpose!

My biggest gripe (and they are legion) is the spooky feeling that Auel didn't really write this book. It's hard to put a finger on, but the writing just doesn't have the same "punch" as the last 4. I think she simply lost her momentum and interest for the story in 12 years. It's obvious that her interests lie more with the archaeology/anthropology aspect than with the creative writing aspect - and it shows.

I still give Auel kudos on her prior masterpieces - she deserves them, but I'll be very cautious about anything else she writes from this point forward, and I won't buy her books sight unseen. I'll read them from the library first!

Jean, I hope you read all these reviews and take them to heart. We love Ayla's story, but are real disappointed in this offering. Fire your editor, and spend more time with your character's lives. Use your prodigious research to enhance the story, not detract from it.

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Profile Image for Danielle.
97 reviews6 followers
October 15, 2008
I couldn't wait for this book to end. Repetitive repetitive repetitive. Auel uses the same phrases and descriptions so many times throughout all five books that it drove me batty. How many formal introductions of the same characters do there have to be? How many times do you have to tell the story of how Ayla acquired her animals, found Jondalar, was raised by flatheads, etc. etc. etc. Did Auel really need to write out the really long mother song multiple times??? And the thing that drove me insane the most were the sex scenes! The same sex scenes have been described repeatedly in the last four books and every time one came up it disturbed me and grossed me out. I am not a prude by any means but these books are supposed to be historical fiction not creepy ice age erotica. I do not need to hear about Ayla's "folds" and "hard nodule" or Jondalar's "tumescent manhood". Telling me once how Ayla learned to cleanse herself after pleasures is enough, you don't have to tell me every freakin' time!

I could go on and on but I think you get the picture that this series of books really annoys me. I don't know if I will read the next one if/when it gets published. If I do it will only be because I don't like to leave a series unfinished.
Profile Image for Lila.
599 reviews186 followers
May 5, 2022
It took me so long to write this review because of personal reasons I was in a reading slump and not on any social media for a while.

Probably one of the first times someone had to embrace a new culture for their partner.

Ayla has a lot of challenges in this book, made only worse by some very unwelcoming individuals among the Zelandonii. I admire her for the way she handled it all. It shows us not to bow to external pressure every time. We can make our own rules in life.

I cannot believe Marona, she is such a bitter woman. In my opinion, this makes her worse than any male character. It may be unfair, but I always expect more from women. I expect men to be pigs, I expect women to be better.

Bringing animals for the first time, having all of Zelandonni adjust to her strange way while at the same time, having to adjust to their customs and to their family, I could see how difficult this was for Ayla. I don't understand why everyone is pressuring her to join the service to the Mother. Even before they really meet her, they just assume she already is, or is about to join.

Jondalar changed a lot, as well. He didn't realize how much until he came back home, and he was a stranger to everyone, as well as all of them being almost strangers to him.

Jean Auel's writing is compelling and descriptive. I love how she describes various plants and what their many uses are. I love how different her POV is and how she simply cannot fully understand why people are finding it so tough to break their traditions and customs that are only holding them back and stifling them.

I always get a little melancholic by the end of this book because I know what happens in the next one and how it all ends (but please, don't let this stop you from reading this series, it is still one of my favourites and I come back to it every year or so).

Just a quick fyi, I LOVE Wolf. He's so adorable and protective of both Ayla and Jondalar as well as Whinny and Racer. He deserves his own novella.
Profile Image for Junkie for the Written Word.
736 reviews110 followers
April 3, 2012
I ran out of books and my husband had bought this because he has a stronger constitution than I.

I will save you the trouble of reading the whole book, here's the condensed version:

Jondalar finally returns home to the Zelandonii, with Ayla at his side. Ayla is introduced to his family and friends and as she gets to know them they love her as much as every other soul on the planet does. Except, of course, the white trash and those ladies who want more of Jondalar's jondalar*. Although very annoying, Jondalar and Ayla are forced to repeat over and over again how she tamed the animals, how to use flint to start a fire, how the spear thrower works and was invented, and how flatheads aren't animals. (randomly insert way too graphic sex content)The end.

*My husband an I have reassigned Jondalar's name to mean: Extraordinarily large and competent penis. Example: "I was a lesbian until I came in contact with his jondalar!!"

I really hate how much I hated this book. I loved Clan of the Cave Bear with every fiber of my being. This gives me a sad.
Profile Image for Malcolm.
Author 3 books10 followers
October 5, 2008
This book took me longer to read that the previous four books - not because it wasn't interesting to read. Rather, I didn't want the book to end. Certainly, this book has some "fill" that could have be cut but it doesn't distract from what is overall, a great read. Ayla and Jondalar cross a great glacier dividing northern Europe to return to Jondalars people who live in natural spacious stone caves. Ayla is accepted by his people, well most of them. Of course, there are a few flies in the ointment in this regard, but it adds to the story. Ayla has become preganant during their trek from the plains and over the glacier. We anxiously await the sixth, and final book in the Earths Children Series. Apparently, Jean Auel is close to completing the book she has been working on for several years now. Despite people telling me the first book was the best and later ones were not as good, I could not disagree more. I found each of the books entertaining, informative, and capable of bringing tears to my eyes as Ayla faces this or that challenge. I will surely miss her when the final book is out and I have read. This is a wonderful series of books. Malcolm
Profile Image for Emily Lakdawalla.
Author 4 books55 followers
October 4, 2007
This book is not worth reading unless you fell in love with Ayla in Clan of the Cave Bear and Valley of the Horses and are desperate to find out how her story continues. Each installment in this series is weighted down with the retelling of all of the previous books in the series, plus all the description that Jean Auel heaps into her books, to the point that this monster advances Ayla's story by barely a year. Typically, the description of technology, biology, and landscape in the Earth's Children series is an interesting lesson in Ice Age Europe, but in this book, there is so much described that is utterly superfluous to the story.

I will rush out and buy the sixth book when it is published, but I swear I will rip the pages out if I have to read the story of Wolf's adoption one more time.
Profile Image for  ♥ Rebecca ♥.
1,361 reviews381 followers
February 22, 2018
1. The Clan of the Cave Bear ★★★★★
2. The Valley of Horses ★★★★★
3. The Mammoth Hunters ★★★★
4. The Plains of Passage ★★★★★
5. The Shelters of Stone ★★★★★

I was worried that this book would have more conflict. After reading the blurb I was scared it was gonna be more like The Mammoth Hunters, which was my least favourite in the series. But this book was great. I love it as much as the rest of them. But I am still looking forward to finally finishing this series. The books are so long!
Profile Image for Cassandra Dexter Colby.
308 reviews152 followers
July 28, 2018
Bueno... más llevadera que la anterior, pero repetitiva en muchas ocasiones. Leo por ahí que pasaron doce años desde el cuarto a éste y supongo que por eso hay cosas que la autora insiste en recordar al lector, pero algunas son innecesarias: el acento de ella, sus ideas sobre la concepción, cómo domesticó a los animales... De nuevo me he saltado las múltiples descripciones y escenas de sexo que sólo hacían ralentizarlo todo. Ayla es superguay de la muerte, pichotil, eso ya lo sabíamos (y si no, ya se ocupa la autora de recordárnoslo). Le pongo tres estrellas porque hay un trabajo detrás, eso se nota, pero no es suficiente para enganchar. A veces la documentación volcada a lo burro hace tediosa la lectura y todo queda al final en un libro sobre cómo vivía la gente en esta época y poco más. Le da vueltas y más vueltas a cosas que vienen de antes, mete a personajes malísimos que bordean lo absurdo (lo de Marona y su jugarreta a Ayla es de película de instituto ochentera). Pronto me lanzaré a la última. Para una serie que hay ya terminada y traducida al español, como para dejarla a medias.
19 reviews
December 11, 2012
What I find most amazing about this book is that Ayla somehow is managing to invent everything known to modern man. Fire, domesticated horses, dogs as pets, baby food, etc...you name it, and the perfect Ayla is doing it. It's too incredible to make the book seem real. And she's too perfect to make her seem like a real character.

Not to mention, I am bored by the pages and pages of descriptive text about every plant, animal and cave dwelling Ayla comes across. WHERE IS THE PLOT!!?!?!??!

I am more than mid-way through the book and have not seen much of a plot yet...thinking about just giving up on reading this one. Except, I don't want to miss where she invents the wheel, and I assume that's coming since she has not invented it...yet.
Profile Image for Iset.
665 reviews491 followers
May 13, 2014

After finishing the doorstop "Plains of Passage" I was not looking forwards to reading this latest book in the saga (apparently there is one more to come but not yet published). Part of me was sort of hoping that it would be better than "Plains of Passage" and "The Mammoth Hunters", because finally Ayla and Jondalar have reached the place that was their goal since three books ago, and finally we might get a somewhat meatier plot. Unfortunately, it was trouble from the moment I read the Acknowledgements. If Auel has an understanding of human nature and motivation, I will eat my hat - all the character dialogue in this book is banal and inane, and so are the characters, little more than flat stereotypes with no depth or complexity to their personalities whatsoever. Auel has no idea of human motivations, and the Ayla-Jondalar relationship is just a prime example of this, since their relationship is essentially a forcibly extended fling with no reasons given for their association beyond their ridiculous sexual compatibility.

The tone of this book felt instantly very different to the previous books after just the first 100 pages. Even early on there are problems. The repetition, oh dear god the repetition. Every time Ayla meets a new person, there is a five minute long introduction which fills up about a page and includes the recitation of every single obscure connection a person has. Auel could just write "and then formal introductions were exchanged", but the reason why she doesn't is quite simple - because then she wouldn't be able to use these endless and pointless introductions as page filler. Ayla's full recital of connections is particularly pompous. Every character has the same reaction to her, verbatim. Multiple explanations of how Ayla came to tame the horses, tame the wolf and introducing people to the wolf by hand-sniffing, multiple demonstrations of how firestones work, of how Ayla's memory skills came to be so good due to her living with Neanderthals, of how Ayla thinks she is ugly and Neanderthals are good looking (which begs the question why she doesn't ditch Jondalar for Brukeval or Echozar but hey, this is Jean Auel we're talking about, this doesn't have to make sense), multiple mentions of how Creb's favourite dish is stuffed ptarmigan and how Ayla would stuff the dish with eggs if it were the season for eggs which it unfortunately isn't. Multiple repetition of a silly poem called the Earth Mother's Song. This thing is seven pages long and is repeated about five times throughout the book (another handy page filler), sometimes broken up by the thoughts of Ayla about a particular verse, just to spell out to the readers in case we're too thick to get the blindingly obvious parallels Auel is trying to draw between Ayla and the earth mother goddess. Without all this ridiculous repetition, this book would be at least a third shorter in my estimation, 550 pages of dull drudgery instead of 800 pages of appalling agony.

Speaking of boring repetition, we come back to the issue of the terrible pulp-like, purple prose filled sex scenes that are the obligatory staple of every Auel book. It's as laughable and ridiculous as ever, and repetition seems to be the theme here. After every single encounter it is explained to us in great detail how Ayla was taught to wash herself after sex by her adoptive Neanderthal mother, Iza. Okay, WE GET IT! Enough already! Why is this repeated so often? Are we supposed to assume that all the other women don't wash and therefore are dirty in comparison to gleaming clean Ayla? Unfortunately no one else ever gets a look in at their own sex scenes, so we're just subjected to Ayla and Jondalar's BORING sessions.

This book had the great potential to have a lot of strife, confrontation and conflict, which would create an actual plot. You have the fact that Ayla has to win the approval of Jondalar's mother, who as a former leader we would expect to be a very strong and experienced woman, as well as Jondalar's elder half-brother Joharran who as leader of the tribe would have the final say about Ayla being adopted into the Zelandonii. Then you have the fact that inevitably at some point, Ayla's past, being raised by Neanderthals and giving birth to a half-Neanderthal, half-Cro Magnon son, would have to come out. This had the potential to become a big sticking point, as Jondalar has been telling Ayla ever since they met about how strongly his people feel about the Neanderthals as sub-human. Then you have the potential for confrontation between Ayla and the two other notable ladies in Jondalar's past, Marona, his jilted fiancée, and Zolena, now the shaman of the tribe, the only woman he has ever loved apart from Ayla. And how are all these potential conflicts handled? Jondalar's family including his mother and brother accept Ayla instantly with no fuss, and whilst the revelation of her origins is surprising, after Ayla demonstrates Clan language once and Willamar suggests maybe the Neanderthals are intelligent after all, that quickly becomes a non-issue. Zelandoni very quickly accepts Ayla too, and far from being wiser than Ayla, wants to learn all of Ayla's technologies. Marona does not accept Ayla, but after one very pathetic attempt to humiliate Ayla, which backfires, she is banished from the next several hundred pages of the book.

The appalling treatment of Ayla completely dispells any possible tension, and indeed any of her likability. The most annoying feature of Ayla's favouritist treatment is that every other character loves her, and any character that does not quickly gets their come uppance, consigned by Auel's writing to death, a miserable fate, or at least total humiliation and the rest of the tribe turning on them. This is also why Ayla's confrontations with Zolena and Marona are also resolved in such an unsatisfactory way. No one must be allowed to rival perfect Ayla, so, guess what, Jondalar finds when he arrives that in his absence Zolena has become extremely fat, so she cannot possibly be any kind of challenger to Ayla for Jondalar's affection. Marona on the other hand is given an extremely ugly personality, and just as Zolena is made fat and Joplaya locked into a miserable union, Auel condemns Marona to infertility. Yep, whilst Ayla proves her glorious fertility by giving birth to Jondalar's child, every other possible rival for his affections is made either miserable, fat, or barren.

And what exactly forms the climax of this wreck of a book? The short answer is that there is no climax. The birth of Ayla and Jondalar's long-awaited baby is supposed to be the big climax of the book, but it only takes up a handful of pages, and Ayla drops the baby easily and promptly names it the most dull and uninventive name possible, without ceremony. Pretty much nothing happens in terms of plot whatsoever. There are no unexpected events or twists in the plot, and nothing much happens at all for the entire book. I don't know what else to say, but please don't spend your money on this book. Get it from the library if you simply must. 0 stars out of 5.
Profile Image for Mike.
1 review
January 28, 2009
This is book 5 in a series I have been following since high school. The first was Clan Of The Cave Bear, followed by Valley Of The Horses, The Mammoth Hunters, Plains Of Passage, and now The Shelters Of Stone. In Clan Of The Cave Bear, I got hooked on the story of the main character, named Ayla. The books are set in prehistoric eras when people were still hunting with spears, living in caves and dodging mammoths on the way home. (what's the dark stuff between a mammoth's toe nails? Slow cavemen.) The author has spent a LOT of time researching historical facts and theory about the life of people and the environment they lived in at that time. Most of which is very interesting, if you like that sort of thing, which I do. If you don't like occasional forays into prehistoric geograpy, herbal remedies, and tools, then you may not enjoy this novel. My only words of caution would be about the author's preoccupation with sex. Most of the series have several, very graphic, very descriptive scenes that would be that would be rated at least NC-17 . There are times I've had to skip 3 pages ahead to get on with the story. While it MAY be historically accurate that primitive cultures were focused on procreation and recreational sex, we don't need to indulge an author's vivid fantasy life by having to read EVERY sordid detail(and I do mean EVERY). That being said, she's done an excellent job of building her characters and staying consistent with them from book to book, this one being no different. It's a great story about a heroine trying to do what's right while still fitting in with new people in new situations. Although the book is based thousands of years ago, with a few minor changes it could be a story about life today and overcoming adversity.
Profile Image for Kim Bui.
115 reviews2 followers
August 1, 2007
I would have liked to like this one more since I waited so long for it, but it seems as if the author just get lazier each book. The research is amazing, but the plot, the characters, all of that fails more with each book.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Reuter.
Author 3 books21 followers
July 30, 2016
After reading and liking Clan of the Cave Bear as a kid, all the vitriol against Auel's Shelters of Stone surprised me, and made me curious despite never having read the volumes in-between.

While I agree with some criticisms, they don't spoil the book in my opinion. Ayla and Jondalar have silly scenes in and out of the sack, but they take up little page time. The story is slow, but doesn't drag so much as meander; Ayla learns about a new culture and meets new people, so the plot is character-based. Ayla is a Mary Sue, but this allows her to be in on various aspects of caveman life (religious ceremonies, tribal meetings, heelings, hunting parties) without jarring point-of-view switches, which helps narrative flow. The detailed descriptions of every fiber of every rug on each floor are interesting to Anthropologically-inclined readers, and others can skip them.

Unfortunately, Auel has a serious problem with exposition. She goes into excruciating detail about everything that happened in earlier books whether we need to know or not. Worse, she repeats things that happened earlier in SoS, sometimes later in the same chapter, or even on the same page. For example, on page 272 Auel gives details about cleaning up after a burial ritual. Then on page 273 Ayla asks why Jondalar is so clean and someone explains to her, in the same detail, about cleaning up after the burial ritual!

All that unnecessary padding dragged down a great story about Ayla struggling to be accepted and learning about a new culture, appealing to fans of drama, history, and soap opera alike. If 200 pages or so had been cut, SoS would be a fantastic book instead of a mediocre one.

As it is, the magic of Clan of the Cave Bear isn't lost, and Ayla's travels have plenty of life in them. Just be ready to do some page-flipping.

-Elizabeth Reuter
Author, Demon of Renaissance Drive
16 reviews
March 29, 2010
Wow, that was an amazing book. Besides the first, it was definitely the best in the series. Throughout the whole book, but especially during the last few chapters, I really found myself thinking about the whole idea of discovery.

During the whole series the main character, Ayla, is always figuring out new techniques and discovering new ideas and possibilities. She seems to be the only one who can figure these things out, although all of the characters (among them the Mamutoi, Zeladonii, and others) are willing to adapt to and use these new improvements. I'm really unsure about what exactly the author is trying to say by that. Does she mean to say that Ayla is the beginning of discovery, of a new age?

In the real world, no one person discovers so many things on their own. Ayla is a very free thinker, probably because of how much time she spent living on her own. In our world, people tend to follow society. No one does things that others wouldn't approve of, and everyone just tries to fit in. I think that this prevents further evolution, and maybe that's why we don't have "flying cars" or other "modern" inventions.

But on the other hand, what is that saying about society; that we should be different... weird? That everyone should think their own way? That's not the way our lives are at all. For some strange reason, most people want to fit in. Those who don't are outcasts, and therefore their ideas are looked upon with disdain.

I think that that is part of what Ayla faces. Some people are afraid of the ideas she has, and immediately disapprove, without even considering. Humans are afraid of change, and afraid of differences. The characters in The Shelters of Stone are no different. When they see a person who is of "mixed spirits" - half flathead - they are afraid and consequentially shun them.

The few who do understand are conservative about it. "I would be careful about whom you discuss this idea with. There are some who would be quite upset..." Zeladoni says to Ayla in the end of the book. This statement, although obvious, is very important. When Ayla first meets up with other people of her kind, she is amazed by how quick they are to judge things. She usually thinks things through, and doesn't understand those who don't.

In our society though, we are more like everyone else. Concepts are just excepted, with no further explanation. I think that by pointing this out Jean M. Auel brings an important point out into the open.

Why is that the way we are? Have we been conditioned? Who's really in charge of what we do: what questions we ask, what actions we perform. I think that these are important questions that are and always will be asked often, but I strongly believe that they will never be answered. Along with the question that Zeladoni asks -what is the meaning of life?- and many other philosophical ponders, one can only wonder.

Now that I think about it, I'm not one to talk. I don't ask these questions very much, and I don't care to find the answers- if there are any. In my opinion, ignorance is bliss.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
823 reviews18 followers
February 20, 2011
First read April 2009.
Sometimes you just need some caveman politics, cultural studies, and soft-core porn to comfort you in rough times. Or at least I do. (Also? This book was the fifth in a buy-four-get-one-free at the library book sale.)

Rereading February 2011 in anticipation of the last book in the series coming out this spring.

This book does not need to be 800+ pages long! If only Auel didn't have Ayla tell and re-tell the same stories every time she meets a new character - stories that readers of the series have already "seen" happen and heard retold in the previous book - it would be much more bearable.

How many pages do you think got used up by characters formally introducing themselves with all their ties and affiliations? How many times do we have to hear Ayla explain about being raised by the Clan, how she found Whinney, Wolf, etc.?

And is anyone else getting tired of Ayla and Jondalar being so perfect, high-status, and right about everything? And have all their foes be crazy-jealous and/or drunks?
Profile Image for Rebecca.
54 reviews4 followers
July 20, 2015
I was excited to read this when I borrowed it from the library. Valley of Horses has been one of my fave books for years and I have read it many times. I read the Mammoth Hunters and Plains of Passage quite a long time ago but I dont remember them being as bad as this book.
NOTHING happens in this book. They arrive back at Jondalars home, they go to the Summer meeting, get mated (these two take FOREVER TO HAPPEN and then the rest is a few chapters at the end....), come home and she has a baby. THAT IS IT!

The most annoying thing for me was the repetitiveness. I dont just mean Ayla explaining to new people how she found the horses or the wolf, but as an example there was an explaination about how there would be too matrimonial ceremonies at the Summer meeting - one at the start and one at the end and why. BUt then just a few pages later it gets explained in detail AGAIN! Dude i got it the first time!
And this happens with many different things within the book. I got so sick of it and i was struggling to finish it.

Aylas run ins with the guy whose mother was half Clan just kept getting more and more extreme and you were all 'ok something is gonna happen soon right?' but no - she has one last arguement with him and has ANOTHER discussion about the fact she 'may have made an enemy there' (which also happened before in the book!) with the First chick and then the book ends.

There was heaps of descriptive stuffin this book but it seemed like thats all there was. The only break from the description and repetitiveness was when Ayla and Jandalar did it and that got boring fast too. haha

Anyway, so yes I was disappointed in this book. Which is sad because I really, really loved Valley of Horses. :(
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rebecca Radnor.
475 reviews50 followers
December 23, 2010
Having read the whole series.... book 1 ROCKED, book 2 was not bad... book 3 was cheesy.... book 4 was a bore, book 5 however seems to be getting back on track and is on par with book 2. Ms. Auel has this nasty habit of repeating everything so much that you have the feeling its to compensate for lack of inspiration. Lady, if we've gotten to book 5 all we need is a reminder (think flat heads) you don't have to tell us everything all over again, and DEFINITELY not more than once per book. That and between book 2 and this book, the sex scenes were coming on so hard and fast that you had the feeling it was because she couldn't think of anything better to write. Thankfully, while we do get the occasional sex scene in this book, we also get the "jondaler made love to ayla for all the rest of that night." rather than 15 pages of blow by grunt detail. Instead, in this book, Ms auel is at least ATTEMPTING to integrate detail reviews into the story line rather than simply dumping paragraphs from previous books on us yet again, and has begun developing some new characters... although the repetitive nature of some of those with previous characters is a little annoying.

Clearly, while a much better effort than her last two, this book is NOT on par with Clan of Cave Bear, although fans of Alya will be placated.
Profile Image for Linda ~ they got the mustard out! ~.
1,634 reviews112 followers
February 27, 2022
Eight years I waited for this book. Twelve years it took for Ms. Auel to write it since book 4. Everything she set up about Ayla meeting Jondolar's people was forgotten, and she finally turned Ayla into a full blown Mary Sue for good. She always had Mary Sue vibes, but she still had at least some struggles. But now she's just good at everything and only the mean, worthless people hated her. Very disappointing. I've thankfully repressed the horrible name she gave their kid.

Terrible early reviews for the final book means I never read it and probably never will since I'd lost interest by the time it came out and the one thing I wanted to happen didn't, so I saw little point in reading it.
Profile Image for Ronda.
18 reviews
June 24, 2009
This is a great book in the series.

We got to learn more about the herbs and thier uses, we got to travel more and meet many new and interesting people with different cultures.

I've enjoyed riding along on the Ayla and Jondular train, I find myself always rooting for them!

Only bad thing about this book is knowing the author has left us fans hanging for too many years now to finally get to read the final conclusion of the series.

Hopefully Jean M Auel will do right by Ayla, Jondular and her fans when she finally, if ever, gets that final book done.

Happy Ayla & Jondular reading!!!
Profile Image for Olivier Delaye.
Author 1 book221 followers
April 6, 2014
I just couldn’t finish this book. There is a limit to how little plot and how much repetition and never-ending description a man can take… and I’ve reached mine big time here. Period. Nothing more to say.
Profile Image for hotsake (André Troesch).
684 reviews12 followers
February 23, 2023
Historical accuracy has pretty much gone out the window at this point. Aside from the horrendous, sex scenes and the 400+ pages of repeated, reused & repetitive sequences. This is more like a Tarzan savage teaching the “civilized” people of moral lessons tale, mixed together with Jane Austen style Hierarchical and social etiquette musings. This is also the book where they cement a lot as some sort of Christ, like savior/leader figure for the Clan and the Zelandonii & the other more advanced peoples.
Profile Image for Xabi1990.
1,991 reviews897 followers
March 1, 2019
8/10. Ver comentario en el primer libro de la saga, "El clan del oso cavernario I"
Profile Image for Deb✨.
319 reviews5 followers
July 15, 2020
I enjoyed this fifth book of this six book series. Ayla and Jondalar have finally made it to the end of their very hard, extremely long journey to his home land of the ninth cave of the Zelandonii. His family and his people were so happy to see him again after being gone for so long and they have met his new mate Ayla, along with her horses and wolf. They were weary of them at first, but most have come to love and respect her. They have learned that she is an excellent healer too and they are impressed. They were heartbroken to learn that Jondalar's brother Thonalon had died, hear how it all happened and the story of how Ayla was at least able to save Jondalar's life. Jondalar and Ayla are formally mated at the summer meeting and I loved how dreamy their mating ceremony went and what they wore...Swoon, it was so awesome! Of course some other interesting things take place as well in this story. After the summer meeting is over they all make their way back home in the fall and before long Ayla has her beautiful baby. The book ends with Ayla having to make a very tough decision. One more book to read...
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Stef.
119 reviews6 followers
November 30, 2007
Meh. What can I say. The series certainly continued on a horrible downward spiral. But why oh why did I read all of it? It couldn;t have been simply compulsion to finish.. And why do I find myself thinking about the story and the setting so much, could it have been because I have read nearly 3,000 pages of it over two months of my life? Hmmm, perhaps I liked it a little bit, if only for the familiarity of characters i have gotten to know (and hate!) so well. I wouldnt recommend anyone to begin this series. But if you are halfway through, you might as well finish. Okay so I admit that I am looking forward to the 6th and final book of the series! There I said it.

ps. ayla sucks.
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