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Earth's Children #4

The Plains of Passage

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Librarian note: See an alternate cover edition here.

Jean M. Auel’s enthralling Earth’s Children® series has become a literary phenomenon, beloved by readers around the world. In a brilliant novel as vividly authentic and entertaining as those that came before, Jean M. Auel returns us to the earliest days of humankind and to the captivating adventures of the courageous woman called Ayla.

With her companion, Jondalar, Ayla sets out on her most dangerous and daring journey--away from the welcoming hearths of the Mammoth Hunters and into the unknown. Their odyssey spans a beautiful but sparsely populated and treacherous continent, the windswept grasslands of Ice Age Europe, casting the pair among strangers. Some will be intrigued by Ayla and Jondalar, with their many innovative skills, including the taming of wild horses and a wolf; others will avoid them, threatened by what they cannot understand; and some will threaten them. But Ayla, with no memory of her own people, and Jondalar, with a hunger to return to his, are impelled by their own deep drives to continue their trek across the spectacular heart of an unmapped world to find that place they can both call home.

784 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1990

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About the author

Jean M. Auel

55 books3,848 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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Profile Image for Crystal Starr Light.
1,357 reviews831 followers
March 25, 2012
Summary: Ayla and Jondalar travel to his homeland.

Oh, you wanted me to be a bit more specific? Okay.

Summary: Ayla and Jondalar head out to his homeland (because while Ayla is supposed to sacrifice her newfound family, the Mamutoi, Jondalar can whine and complain to get what he wants). They stumble upon Mammoths having sex, the Sharmudoi and the Ramudoi who almost immediately induct Ayla into their clan, a group of Femi-Nazis (aka, what many conservatives think Feminists are), a couple of Clan people, the Losadunai, and Jondalar's sister's people (whoever the hell they are). In the meantime, Ayla and Jondalar cross rivers, have lots of sex, chase after their damn animals, and talk about where babies come from (actually, it's Jondalar doing a lot of the wondering where babies come from--Ayla must have FINALLY come to grips with it).

NOTE: I listened to this on audiobook and am a super lazy person, so I am not even bothering with getting all the new names of peoples and places correct.

This book is a perfect example of what happens when you write a novel and don't have a plot to fill it. The book becomes just a volume of people going here and there, bumping into random tribes for the hell of it, and studying in excruciatingly textbook detail the flora, fauna, and biosphere.

In some ways, this book is actually an improvement over the (in my opinion) dismal "Mammoth Hunters". We don't have any stupid Big Misunderstandings, we get to meet a lot of new peoples and customs, and journey stories are some of my favorites. That said, this book is something that I definitely couldn't call "Mammoth Hunters" and that is BORING.

Journey stories are inherently tough and not everyone is going to like them. I think a good journey story is more than just Character X has to get to Point B. A good journey story will have the CHARACTER undergo a change, some sort of trial, in the midst of the external journey. By the time the character reaches the end of the journey, something should have been learned, characters should grow, knowledge should be gained.

None of that happens in this journey. At the end of the book, Ayla and Jondalar are the same vapid, 1-Dimensional Mary Sue and Marty Stu they were when they started this book. Ayla is perfect in every way; every man wants to tumble in the furs with her, she is the most gorgeous woman ANYONE has ever seen (and EVERYONE will let you know it), everything she does is perfect and wonderful, she can win over people who hate the Clan and anyone associated with it, she can heal a rape victim with a few sympathetic words, she can save a village from Femi-Nazis but come out without having shed ANY blood, she teaches people how to sew (a skill that apparently NO ONE ELSE is capable of learning), and she can get ANY tribe to almost immediately want to have her join their clan. If Ayla has a flaw, it is the "I don't realize how beautiful I am" curse (yes, even after all this time with Jondalar and the bajillion men saying how gorgeous she is, Ayla still thinks she is "Big and Ugly"). Or the "I have to save someone no matter the cost" (but don't worry--unlike in "Clan of the Cave Bear" where Ayla wasn't able to save someone, Ayla never has that problem here!). Both of them are Mary Sue checkmarks in my book.

What makes Ayla more irritating in my book isn't her Mary Sue qualities (although, damn, they were enough to make me want to hit something). What makes me upset is how Ayla falls for the trap so many novels featuring a female protagonist fall for: Ayla gives up EVERYTHING for Jondalar. She even jokes, "Well, I belong to you, don't I?"

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This sort of "I can't live without a man" behavior needs to stop. YESTERDAY. I am sick and tired of reading about a woman who subjects herself to a man and lets him make all the decisions. And Ayla, who is a strong, independent, competent woman, has done that. She wanted to stay with the Mamutoi, her adopted people. But Jondalar whined so she left with him for HIS people. She wanted to stay with the Ramudoi and the Shamudoi, but again, Jondalar whined and Ayla followed him. Time and again, Ayla wants one thing and Jondalar complains. He usually gets his way (the only exception is with the animals--why can't Ayla have that same stubborn attitude in other things???), and Ayla is the one who has to suffer.

But is Jondalar ever shown to be the bad guy? Does Ayla ever hate him because he always gets what he wants?

Of course not! We can't have conflict in these unbelievably perfect, nonexistent people! We can't have Jondalar and Ayla fight about going back to his home because that's what he wants. Then Ayla and Jondalar wouldn't be a Mary Sue and Marty Stu--and we CAN'T have psuedo-realistic people in this book.

Jondalar is the same meathead from "Valley of the Horses" with more equipment in his underwear than personality. You could say that he does change in this book, that he goes from cringing about "Flatheads" to acknowledging the Clan people as being humans. But that conflict was pretty much resolved last book with his "Big Fight" with Ayla. To me, Jondalar is a whiny b!tch. I don't exactly know what Ayla likes about him; his job seems to be complain about how slow their progress is, have great sex with Ayla (uh, doesn't this WASTE time that could be spent traveling???), and get captured. The ONLY scene in this ENTIRE SERIES so far that has shown why Ayla could like him is a scene early on where Jondalar picks some berries for Ayla and gives them to her. For once, Jondalar takes some time to think of what Ayla wants, goes out of his way to get it, and gives it to her selflessly. And even though I don't like Jondalar as a character, this scene was legitimately sweet, and the ONLY time I've ever felt ANY chemistry/romance between the two.

As for other characters, there are so many and they appear so infrequently, I couldn't keep them straight. Furthermore, they come in two classes: those that love Ayla and Jondalar immediately and those that don't and have to be won over with a few choice words from our Mary Sue. Who cares what their names are, if they are basically the same character from that clan a few hundred pages ago?

The same goes for the multiple tribes of people we see. There are some duplicates from "Valley" (the Shamudoi and the Ramudoi), but honestly, with the way all the tribes immediately love Ayla and Jondalar, there is nothing that makes them stand out. I had hoped for more excitement as Jondalar met some of these people back in "Valley", but nope, it is all an Ayla-brag-fest. "Let me show you my spear-thrower...Let me show you my thread puller." "ZOMG, Ayla, you totally rock! Join our tribe, pretty, pretty please?!" It would have been much more interesting had Ayla and Jondalar spent more time with just a few, instead of hopping along like they did.

And here is where I get into one of my other pet peeves about this book: the repetition. Oh. My. God.

It is positively un-frakkin' believable how much repetition is in this book. Everything from the last three books is repeated numerous times. Here are just a few items that Auel repeats constantly:

Where do babies come from? discussions
Ayla and Jondalar having sex
Bodily functions (Ayla's "moontime", people taking a crap or p1ss)
Inventions Ayla or Jondalar have made
Someone mentioning Ayla's "strange" accent
People who almost immediately adore Ayla
Repeating Ayla or Jondalar's story
Someone being in awe of the tamed animals
Someone being surprised at how good with kids Wolf is

And this is only just a sampling. There is a LOT of repetition in this book. At one point, you just want to scream, "ENOUGH ALREADY!"

Another problem that Auel continues to have is mistaking research for story. Now, I appreciate all the research she has done in these novels to make them realistic. I just don't want to READ that research when I am in the middle of a story. It's bad enough when Jondalar and Ayla are journeying, and Auel plunks down a huge textbook description of glaciology. But it is even WORSE when our Perfect Couple are in the middle of what is supposed to be an intense scene (such as being in the middle of the Femi Nazi camp), and they stop to trade secrets on making ceramics (no, I am not kidding!) or have long conversations explaining every last detail of a character's backstory (again, not kidding), all the while diffusing ANY tension from having Ayla and Jondalar in enemy camp. This is FICTION; fiction benefits from good research, but research thrown into the story DOES NOT make a good story.

I need to take the time to talk about one of the worst "plots" in this book. During their year-long journey (and, damn, does it feel like a year long journey for me!), Whinny is kidnapped by wild horses (no, I am not joking). Ayla and Jondalar go after her (after spending WAAAAAAY too much time talking about what they will and will not take). As they try to rescue her, Jondalar is kidnapped by the Wolf Sisters, aka the Femi Nazis. He is thrown into a holding area, not fed, treated with disdain, etc. and Ayla must save the day.

I absolutely hate this scene. Not only because Attaroa, the leader of the Femi Nazis, is lamest leader ever (I still have NO CLUE why ANYONE followed her, especially since it seemed like NO ONE liked her), but also because this Femi Nazi seems to say, "You are right: women can't be trusted to lead. Only men can lead."

Uh, excuse me? Wasn't this supposed to be an empowering novel about how great and awesome and respected women are? I'm certainly not seeing it. In fact, every time I turn around, I see one more instance of where a woman is brought down to build up a man. And, lemme tell you, I hate it.

Auel could have made a nice, poignant, SUBTLE case against patriarchy, but instead, it comes off as support for male dominance. Women can't lead--they would only throw men in a concentration-like camp. Women can't lead--they are crazy and can't unite people and can't be focused. It's disgusting and revolting, and this was THE WORST PART of the book for me.

The ONLY good thing from this whole debacle was the comparison of Attaroa and Ayla's backstories and a glimpse of what Ayla might have become. Of course, much of it was undermined by the Men >>>> Women. And the totally Deus Ex Machina ending (which I totally predicted).

And, because I haven't dedicated near enough time to it, the sex. Jondalar and Ayla have sex. A LOT. They are ALWAYS in the mood to have sex (even when Jondalar is b!tching about how slow their progress is), and their sex is almost ALWAYS the same sex scene (with the same purply prose). Jondalar does this, Ayla screams that, blah, blah, blah. I have never read sex scenes that were more boring or more unsexy. If I could have skipped them on my audiobook, I would have.

Oh and if human sex isn't your thing, don't worry: the book basically opens to Mammoths having sex. Yeah, that was what was missing from the last three books...NOT!

This book was so boring. I really had to push myself to finish it--particularly past the atrocious Femi Nazi parts. Sure, there was stuff that wasn't as bad as "Mammoth Hunters", but there were other parts that just made me want to do physical damage.

And because I love you guys so much...here are some choice quotes from the book. Enjoy!

"With a great overflowing burst, they felt a release that matched the fiery sun in its glowing flame as it shot its last bright rays into the valley and dropped behind the dark and rolling clouds outlined in burnished gold."

[While Jondalar is going for a p!ss] "[Ayla] was standing in shimmering water up to her knees, in a beam of sunlight coming through an opening in the trees, bathing in brilliance that lighted her hair into a golden halo and gleamed off the bare, tanned skin of her supple body...for a moment, his strong feelings of love for her overpowered him..."

"...She looked at him...saw...a familiar, compelling look in his intense blue eyes, then noticed the shape of his manhood changing."

"The medicine woman could not have said that she had administered a drug that inhibited the parasympathetic nervous system and paralyzed the nerve endings"

"Ayla started to call Wolf then hesitated. As usual, he had lifted his leg in the bushes. She had taught him to go outside of dwellings, but not to use special places."

"The smell and the buzzing flies made its purpose obvious, but the sunlight shining through the trees and the sound of birds made it a pleasant place to linger when she found herself moving her bowels as well. She saw a pile of dried moss on the ground nearby and guessed its use. It was not at all scratchy and quite absorbent."

[While on the edge of a cliff] "The bulge in his groin, felt through the thicknesses of fur lined winter parkas, seemed warm, and his lips on hers gave her an indescribable sense of wanting him never to stop."

[When looking down a cliff edge] "Jondalar felt the familiar tightening in his groin as he stared down at the steep drop off"

“Though she didn’t call [certain diseases] “deficiency diseases” or have a name for the vitamins and trace minerals the herbs contained or even know exactly how they worked, she carried them with her in her medicine bag and she regularly made them in the teas they drank…though she did know they were beneficial and had a good idea of when and how to use them.”

[Jondalar, considering babies for the billionth time] "Could it happen so fast? [Thonalan] spent only one night with her. Was his spirit so potent? Or if Ayla is right, could Thonalan have started a baby growing inside Felonia with the essence of his mandhood that night?"

[Jondalar, again] "Whatever it is, a man’s spirit or the essence of his manhood, Thonalan has proved the strength of his. But what about me? Is my essence or spirit potent enough [to make babies]?"

"If you take Jondalar for a hot soak, it will relax the strength right out of his manhood. And it may take a couple of hours before it can stand up again."

[Ayla to Jondalar, grinning] "Well, I belong to you, don't I?"

"Ayla expelled her breath explosively."

Profile Image for Henry Avila.
468 reviews3,255 followers
March 18, 2020
During the Ice Age when temperatures plummeted and the two human races a few scattered nomads, desperately struggled to survive the big freeze, in future Europe there was no love lost between them. Competition may be fun in sports and other contests of muscle or brain, but slow starvation is no joy, neither is becoming hard as a rock though made of flesh once. Our great ancestors ( if any other form of humans still exist, excuse me), would undoubtedly consider the Neanderthal, roaming beasts and they the first inhabitants think us the interlopers, devils for sure after all living 200,000 years is quite an accomplishment in this captivating, exotic paradise nevertheless in fact a
treacherous territory, the hairy men had a right to that opinion...obviously we prevailed... I think...Jondalar misses his family wants to go home, Ayla has none and will follow... she needs a place to settle down in. The endless journey of discovery, meeting bands of interesting people, especially pretty women, he... the woman, good looking or exciting men, rules must have been very loose then for loving couples, implored to stay often however they always leave their new friends. All the fascinating unseen before tools and weapons, to abide in the constant harsh atmosphere of the land of the blue glaciers , just to see another sunrise no place for the weak . Ayla and Jondalar find better, easier ways of hunting and fishing, so they will not become extinct . Still it starts to get tiring, the years slowly pass. The amorous duo, Ayla and Jondalar have many cold rivers to cross, the distinguished Danube in particular as a guide, with the magnificent huge sturgeon fish swimming graceful below the surface, traveling west the wet waters are painful down to the bone, mountains to climb, the mind chilling traversing of an awe- inspiring glacier too, with their menagerie of two horses they ride and a wolf, ( Ayla's precious pets) who also likes to hunt as much as the lovers...You can image how frightened strangers are seeing what looks like humans on top of a horse, impossible, arriving ...these people must be evil spirits and the vicious huge canine, these animals will someday become the modern dog ...many flee for their lives. Quite an adventurous trip, for anyone inclined to learn about cavemen in the very distant days of the impressive Mammoths stomping the plains of southern Europe. You will soon begin after reading a few pages to feel the frigid weather, as the relentless blizzards hit and soak the skins of the indomitable couple, to crush them but they go on, the numerous exotic creatures long gone eating in the vast grasslands, some dangerous others only beautiful and peaceful. Weird plants, gigantic trees gaudy flowers ...yes it sadly has disappeared ...and can now only be enjoyed in books today.
Profile Image for Katie.
15 reviews1 follower
October 30, 2019
Normally I don’t bother with reviews but I decided this time I would. I give this book 4 stars because despite so much repetition it was still a good read and I am eagerly getting to the next one. After I read the last book and read some quite funny reviews about how often things were mentioned (like we’d forget) I decided to keep a tally list for this book for some of the most frequently mentioned things. Enjoy.

7 x we are told Ayla can control whinny with her muscles in her legs.
8 x we get long descriptions of trees.
7 x we are told how subtle clan language, nuances etc.
14 x we are reminded of the terrible pain Jondalar feels for Thonalon
5 x we are told of Ayla’s staggeringly beautiful smile.
10 whole scenes of pleasures…. Urgh.
9 x we are told Ayla perfectly mimics animal sounds.
9 x we are told Ayla left Durc behind.
7 x we are told Ayla is cursed.
10 x we are told that babies come from a man’s organ.

And probably the two of my least favourite repititions throughout the series –

22 x we are told of Ayla’s strange accent.
A whopping 29 x we are told that Jondalar’s eyes are blue…. My goodness you’d think no one ever had blue eyes!!

Very fun read none the less…
Profile Image for Debbie W..
761 reviews569 followers
October 5, 2022
I was extremely disappointed with this particular book in Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children series. The first three books had me riveted, but in this book, what couldn't Ayla do? I was waiting for her to invent the tampon!
Profile Image for Calista.
4,069 reviews31.3k followers
May 25, 2020
This is the beginning of the decline in the series for me. My favorite book in the series is the Mammoth Hunters and I consider it the apex of the series. This is a good story as they are traveling through the world back to France and spreading all this new knowledge to people.

There were several times I wanted them to just settle down and live with several peoples. I thought the Glacier was a thrilling scene. The scene with the horse people who had enslaved all the men and the women were ruling was weird and could have been cut.

This story is very long and I think a bit bloated. Again, she has been writing the same sex scenes for 2 books now and they are simply boring at this point. It's all the same really.

The series is worth reading and it's a great story told.

Profile Image for Karen.
809 reviews1,026 followers
October 10, 2015

Another fabulous saga from Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series. I’m really enjoying my trek across ancient Europe with Ayla and Jondalar, long as it may be. And I never dreamed I’d learn so much about glaciers!

Even though a good bit of this story took place between Ayla and Jondalar, alone as they made their way back to Jondalar’s homeland, they did encounter several groups of people along the way. Some good… and some not so good.

But the two managed to get even closer to each other, and come to depend on each other in ways they had not done so before. Also, they depended on their animals, and supported them throughout their journey.

I have a feeling that some serious issues are soon to follow, when they finally reach the land of the Zelandonii. Like Ayla’s acceptance.

I hope Jondalar is strong enough to stand up for the woman he loves. Especially against his own people.

Looking forward to book 5!

Profile Image for Stef.
119 reviews6 followers
November 10, 2007
Okay, good. I liked this one slightly better than the last one. Ayla and Jondalar have kissed and made up and are on their way back to his home in Zelandonii. They meet some people, have some laughs, do it in the bushes, and show everyone they meet how awesome they are.

Also Ayla's superwoman transformation is complete. The girl can learn languages almost immediately, control horses and wolves, she practically invented fire, sewing needles, is a master at her weapons of choice- the sling, she can imitate animals, is a doctor-pharmacologist-botanist, she is absolutely stunning and all men desire her but of course she is humble and a dynamo in the sack, she is super strong and highly observant due to her clan upbringing. I know I am forgetting something.

Oh Ayla, you obviously have me under some twisted spell. I only have one more book and I am through with you.
Profile Image for Kerry.
27 reviews84 followers
November 19, 2007
I'm still at the very, very beginning of the book, but see that one little star? That's because the book essentially opens with an extremely graphic mammoth sex scene.

Oh, Jean...what am I going to do with you?
Profile Image for Renee.
27 reviews
August 22, 2007
I get it. The struggle of the longest journey. The challenge came once I read it for the 3rd time... yes I love the series that much....then I realized I had to skip over 10 chapters, #13 - #23 as I flipped and scanned it was all a tedious and meticulous description of the landscape. The same animals that roamed the stepps, from mammoths, to horses/onagers, aurochs, deer, and mouflon, etc. I enjoyed the natural geographic studies of these sections, as I would any...but I'd already read it in the first three books and several times already in this one. Although I agree with most people on the redundant quality of the descriptions presented here, I have to admit, it was necessary. I mean, Ayla and Jonadalar were just as tired of traveling as the reader was. It was needed to relate to the next book, to be ready to settle into a hearth. Just finished this book, for the um-teenth time, and about to start page one of The Shelters of Stone.
Profile Image for Lila.
599 reviews186 followers
April 5, 2022
How different and yet the same people are.

It is funny how everyone considers them weird spirits and are reluctant to change their views even after meeting Ayla and Jondalar. I have to admit, though, I had a weird satisfaction when it came to the S'Armunai. Some men today might benefit from such treatment.

This book further emphasizes just how much Jondalar is connected to his Zelandoni identity. Ayla cannot remember who her people are so she is able to connect more deeply to anyone they meet. However, Jondalar needs to go home back to his people and his family. It is because Ayla understands him so well they are such a good pair.

Jean M. Auel tries to connect any relics found in our time to the corresponding territory and integrate it into their customs. But, at the same time, she is slowly showing us the progress humans were making in the Ice Age on their way to the technological discoveries.

Absolutely thrilling finale in their long Journey!
Profile Image for Grada (BoekenTrol).
1,905 reviews3 followers
May 22, 2009
The more books are published in this series, the less magical the life of Ayla and Jondalar becomes to me.
First of all I have the feeling that whole text passages are just 'copy-pasted' from (a) previous book(s) into this one, because in my opinion there is a lot of repetition. These books are quite unique, and therefore it is not neccessary to repeat so much. It is disturbing the reading process and has no use: no book (at least not one that I read or heard of) looks like these. There's no chance that one could mistake Ayla's journey with another main character's journey. Apart from that, once you got into the books, there's no way that you could forget the main stream plot. Here and there a detail will get lost, but not the overall picture.
It is a pity to me that the author choose to do so.
Or, if Auel chose different words or scenes and did not repeat this many times, it may be the translators?
I still wanted to know what happened to Ayla, so I kept on reading. Not so eagerly as before though.
Profile Image for Kirsti.
2,456 reviews84 followers
May 14, 2019
Next in my reread of this series, and this is where I intended to stop. I think I will go on with Shelters of Stone though, because I just don't feel done yet. I will have to see how I feel about the final, dreaded book though.

I loved this one again, even if it is the 'travel' book. Jean has a tendency to info dump, something I didn't even know the meaning of ten years ago. I still enjoy these, even without them really moving the plot forward. Mostly I looked forward to when Ayla and Jondalar were among other people, and the unexpected encounters there. These books follow a formula more than I realized too, but there is an odd comfort in that.

I'm going to add this is the first book I've read on my new Kindle Paperwhite, and I've got to say I did like the new backlight and generally feel of the Kindle. It uses more battery than my old one, even in Airplane mode though; that's the only disappointing thing.

I'm going to leave my old review down the bottom here too, to show the passage of time.

You get some real revelations in this one, the 'travelling' book of the series. Jondalar and Ayla learn more about their world and the people within it. For many years, this was it. This was where I ended the series in the wait for a new book, and I think I was content with that. I'll have to read this again to get full details for my review, but I adored this series, so hopefully you do too!
Profile Image for Iset.
665 reviews491 followers
May 13, 2014

Once again, Auel has clearly put a great deal of research into the book, furnishing her descriptions with plenty of attention to detail. However, once again, Auel takes it too far at some points, with some passages reading like they'd been lifted directly from an anthropological academic journal. I don't mind being given information about the environment in which characters move, in fact I relish it, but the way it's written, it really feels like a chopped up academic article forcibly inserted into the main text of the historical fiction. I AM an academic, I spend all day researching and reading academic journals - I read novels to get away from that sort of thing! Auel should rather try and incorporate such information into the story, so the explanation seems relevant to the storyline, not stick it in anywhere with no relevance to the text at that point and try to ram it down our throats.

The entire first third of the book, Ayla and Jondalar spend travelling without meeting any people, and Auel describes at length every little detail of their journey down to the Black Sea and upstream along the Danube before they come into contact with the Sharamudoi tribe. It's horribly drawn out, and just about the only occurrence of significance to the plot is when Ayla has a disturbing prophetic dream and barely manages to save them from a flood and a lightning strike - well, I say an occurrence of significance, presumably the scene is meant to develop the plot of her supposed shamanic powers. Other than that, it's an excuse for 250 pages of further dry description of the environment of the regions they're travelling through, and more bad sex scenes. This section of the book could easily be cut right out and you wouldn't miss anything for it. No major occurrences advance the plot, there are no big problems for the characters to solve, and the relationship between Ayla and Jondalar remains exactly the same, and neither of them develops as characters. It's just not necessary, it's the opposite of sharp and concise, which is to say sloppy.

The premise of an epic journey following the travels and struggles of characters in a prehistoric world is a very interesting one, I've seen docu-dramas on the same subject that are wonderfully gripping and interesting, yet Auel's books manage to be inane and boring after "Clan of the Cave Bear". "Clan of the Cave Bear" managed to be a great book because it focused on some real, pressing issues that Ayla as a child had, and focused on her character development as a child. The problem with every book since is that Auel still focuses almost exclusively on character storylines over everything else, but there ISN'T any character development. It's all mindless fluff, nothing of significance ever happens, Ayla and Jondalar do not develop or grow as people whatsoever, they're about as flat as wafer thin paper. All other secondary characters are so frustratingly stereotyped and never get any story of their own, if they show the remotest hint of having interesting, hidden depths, they're killed off or get left far behind. The dialogue she writes for Ayla and Jondalar is painfully unrealistic and cheesy, and the purple prose she uses in the sex scenes is so horribly over the top it's like a Harlequin pulp.

Time and again, Ayla meets a tribe of people, who are awed by her god-like powers, and Teaches Them The Error Of Their Ways. Mainly this involves spreading the message that Neanderthals Are People Too, and that people are Wrong to treat them as animals. I can't help suspecting that it's secretly also about teaching people that they are Wrong to treat Ayla as an abomination for her association with Neanderthals, because of course, Ayla is wonderful and perfect and has invented every significant piece of technology under the sun, and whatever would she do if she were truly outcast, why, then she wouldn't be able to fill her Chosen Destiny as the Best Shaman Ever. It's nauseating. No one gets to have an opinion apart from Ayla and Jondalar, and if anyone can do anything well you can bet that Ayla does it better, and if anyone actually develops a tiny bit of personality and depth (which would be a big threat to the Ayla character since she's so perfect by this instalment that she's little more than shallow fluff), they're punished for it and bad things happen to them.

Final conclusions? The historical setting of the Ice Age, one which is not tackled very often by fiction writers, is on the face of it, of interest. However, Auel makes the people of the Ice Age's lives so inane and banal - nothing of importance ever happens and conversations feel forced and unnatural. The storyline is spends almost 1000 agonising pages describing how the protagonists got from A to B, interspersed with cheesy interludes in which the protagonists save a group of people and teach them the error of their ways with smug self-righteousness that makes you want to smack them. The plot has no arc to speak of, there is no character development in the two protagonists, who lack any depth, complexity, or empathy, whilst secondary characters are little better than stock stereotypes who serve to either sing the praises of the main characters or be humiliatingly belittled by them if they should prove antagonistic, and woe betide any character who has the potential to be a rival to our perfect Ayla, they are immediately written out, either killed, conveniently absent, or condemned to a miserable fate. The plot is not at all engaging or gripping as a result, since you know that the author will never allow anything truly bad to happen to Ayla.

Still, now that Ayla has at last reached her final destination, I'm hoping this breezeblock of an interlude will give way to some real meaty stuff in the next book, and we can get down to her fulfilling whatever fate the author has in mind for her.
Profile Image for sj.
404 reviews81 followers
January 24, 2012
This book should've been called How to Pleasure Your Way Across Europe, Righting Injustices Along the Way.

I've been meaning to do this write-up since I finished the book (over two weeks ago), but kept putting it off.  The Plains of Passage comes in at just under 800 pages, but they're 800 pages in which nothing much happens.  It's meant to chronicle the trip Ayla and Jondalar make from Ukraine to France (on foot, across a glacier) that takes over a year.  You end up feeling like you're there with them the entire time because it's so. much. nothing. happening.  If you take out the minutiae of the scenery and plants (and the Pleasures bits), I'd be willing to bet this book would be less than 200 pages.  That's a whole lotta nothing, guys.

The book  starts with a mammoth pr0n scene.  By this, I don't mean a lengthy scene with much lasciviousness, I mean actual mammoths having actual sex.  In great detail.  For many pages.  I'm talking all the gory details about scents and what the male mammoth's...manhood...looks like - it's really too much.  I almost put the book down right then, but I had to keep reading because I know you guys are expecting me to.  See how much I heart you?

More nothing happens for a while, then they come across a herd of funny looking animals and Ayla asks her One True Love what they are.  He tells her that they're onagers and she laughs at the funny name and the funny sounds they make, and even wonders why she's never seen them before.  This part made me super annoyed.  Why?  Because with as much research as Ms Auel does for her books, she can't remember that she's mentioned the stupid onagers at least five times already, including the time that Ayla hunted them because she wouldn't kill horses anymore?  They were what she was hunting when she found Baby!

They passed massive herds of bison, and giant deer with huge palmate antlers, horses, onagers, and asses... - CotCB


Once the pitfall was prepared, Ayla whistled for Whinney and circled wide to get behind a herd of onagers. She couldn't bring herself to hunt horses again, and even the onager made her uncomfortable. - VoH


Then she poured water into a cooking basket from the large onager-stomach waterbag that was hanging on a post, and she put some cooking stones in the fire to heat. - VoH

So, yeah.  I was only, like, 6 chapters in and I already wanted to punch someone.

Rest of review (with pictures! and awesome hovertexts!) can be found here.
Profile Image for Annette.
27 reviews1 follower
June 16, 2014
Let's start saying that I loved the first three books of this serie. They were just so lovely, and they communicated something...they gave me that "pre-historic" vibe... I don't know, they were quite charming. But I'm having serious issues with this fourth one: I'm currently half way through it and I'm not sure whether to continue it or no, as I'm not sure if I'll read the last two books (I already own 'Shelters of stone' but 'Land of Painted Caves' is still unpublished in Italy...). Why?
Well, let's explain...
First of all, it seems that Jean Auel couldn't come up with ideas for this book. There are pages and pages in which nothing significant happens, and all we can read is looong and boring descriptions of prehistoric landscapes...and sex scenes. If you already read one of the 1st three books you know how much Auel loves to put tooons of details in her descriptions -and you'd be aware of her sex scenes, which to me were a little bit too much! Let's be clear, it's not porn, but I don't like to know details of the sexual life of the characters!-... but this time...it's simply too much.
As I said, you could go for pages withouth anything significant happened, and then when something did, It was just...boring. Book number two was about a journey as well, but it was funny, light hearted and lots of things happened and I was quite impatient to see where Jondalar and Thonolan's journey would lead them, what tribes they'd meet, what were their habits...I'd easily skipped over Ayla's parts to keep reading about the two brothers! (ok,I had a thing for Thonolan and Jondalar was so lovely and fun back in book #2...yep, he was a pain, but not a total one as in book #3 in which he was really a pain. An handsome pain, a cute pain, but soo pain!) In book number four I didn't feel the same. Retourning to the Sharamudoi? BO-RING. They were so lovely in book #2 but now... Ahem.
As you could understand, really, few things happen in this book...and these episodes are separated by pages and pages of nothing,landscapes, Jondalar and Ayla's private life.
It really seems that Auel has NO IDEA of what to write in this book. And I got the feeling that the last 2 books are pretty much the same...
She really seems she lost inspiration after book #3... maybe she should have stopped there and let Ayla&Jondalar remain with the Lion Camp... or, she should have waited 'till better plot ideas'd come to her.
Then, even characters lost something of their charme to me. I don't know, their interaction looks...somehow flat, there's no major...anything between them -even if they should be doing lots of discussions and stuff after the crisis they went through in book #3! They seem they never..talk about this...bah!-...and...dunno, maybe Ayla is starting to become a little bit too perfect. Auel was really, really uninspired. Ayla has always been a lovely character, a light hearted, strong, fierce young woman... she just got flat! Even Jondalar! C'mon, I love his being such a dumb... his flaws made him cute... I remember the first time I was introduced to him I thought "God, he's such an idiot!" and after some page "I LOVE this idiot! Yup! <3"... where is my BELOVED IDIOT in this book?? ç-ç
How to ruin a lovely serie...
I gotta say that there is actually something good in that book. The S’Armunai part was kinda good and interesting…but it goes on for a ridiculously low amount of pages…so we can’t consider it as a redeeming for the whole book.
Profile Image for Jen from Quebec :0).
404 reviews86 followers
November 6, 2020
Jeez...this should have been called PLAINS OF PLEASURES, as there are a LOT of scenes of Ayla and Jondalar 'Sharing the Gift of the Mother', the 'Gift of Pleasures', aka a lot of steamy sex scenes. To me, these were not needed-or at least, not needed in the sheer AMOUNT presented in the book! The previous book in the series ('The Mammoth Hunters') had Jondalar and Ayla spending the majority of the book with their relationship in a bit of doubt, as Ayla almost marries a different man, so I guess the author decided to REALLY make up for this fact in her writing of Jondalar's massively skilled, turgid manhood in 'Plains of PLEASURES'. ;0)

All kidding aside, I thought that this book was pretty darn good, and a good addition to the series. There was a lot more action than in the 2 books previous, and for the history buffs like myself, Auel teaches readers a lot about glaciers, ancient animals, hunting techniques, etc. All the ancient history stuff that I enjoy learning about. Also, there is a section of the book where Ayla and Jondalar have a meaningful interaction with a couple from the CLAN! NO- NOT Ayla's Clan (do we EVER see them again? Do readers EVER see Durc and Ayla's former family?? Not yet at least...) But in this book, Jondalar fully changes his tune from calling the Neanderthals 'flatheads' and 'animals' to understanding from this interaction that they are indeed, actual humans. It was nice to finally, finally see people of the Clan once more.

However, the book ends with perhaps the biggest intentional, open ended, non-ending of an ending ever. After 900 pages of travel, Jondalar finally brings Ayla back to HIS homeland, HIS people, and then BAM- end of book. After 3 BOOKS reading about his people, and him promising that they will accept Ayla, even with her strange 'Clan ways' we are left with no idea as to what they are like and what will happen because of course not. Sequels are needed! To hell with the 900 pages of travel to reach their goal that is then not at all explored or even described because buy the next book. However, I do not own any other books in the series! This, the 4th of 7 books, is the last one that I have and so...I will just assume that everything works out and that Ayla and Jondalar spend their future having amazing PLEASURES every page until they explode. --Jen from Quebec :0)
Profile Image for M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews.
4,225 reviews344 followers
November 28, 2018
Having read the first three books in this series (the first being the best, hands-down) I was excited to read this book and see how Jondalar and Ayla would continue their journey.

Auel is very imaginative and descriptive, but she definitely overdoes it in some parts. You could easily cut out a couple of hundred pages from here (the original volume is over 800 pages) and not miss anything because she goes in such lavish, long descriptions of the landscape and flora and fauna. Now, I'm happy that she did so much research and put such effort into this book, but I found some scenes to be plodding and repetitive. Ms. Auel has already established the richness of the land in previous books, so at this point, it just feels like repetition.

Also, Ayla comes across as bit of a Mary Sue character because she has invented and discovered so many things. At this point, it's getting old. Yeah, Ayla's smart, and her experience with the Clan has given her valuable insight, but like with the land-description, Ayla's 'genius' gets to be repetitive as well. Another thing I found extremely repetitive and boring was the sex scenes. No, I am not a prude, and a few sex scenes are fine, but it just got to be overkill. Reading about Pleasures stopped being a pleasure for me after about the third or so intimate scene.

I'd have to say my biggest gripe is (surprisingly) not what I mentioned above, but Jondalar going on and on about how much he loves Ayla, how he would not want to live without her, etc etc. Come on. We get the idea already. It's nice to know that Jondalar is in touch with his feelings and is honest with them, but really. He just repeats himself.

My favorite scenes in this book was their interactions with other people. It helped to break up the monotony of reading about their Journey. I liked reading about Ayla healing Roshario, or helping the Clan couple after they were being attacked by a band of renegade Others.

If you've read the first three books in this series, then it won't hurt to pick up this volume, just don't expect it to be as 'fresh' as Clan of the Cave Bear or Valley of Horses. Fortunately, it does have its interesting scenes, so this book gets a decent 3/5 stars from me.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,177 reviews539 followers
January 3, 2015
I still have most of the books in this series. Just could not give it away. Read it a decade or more ago.

Jean M. Auel, née Jean Marie Untinen is an American writer. She is 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. Her books have sold 34 million copies world-wide in many translations.

Profile Image for Susan.
4,421 reviews98 followers
January 13, 2023
A reread of this book. I always enjoy this series, and this book is probably my favorite. Ayla and Jondalar have made the decision to leave the Mamutoi and make the trip back to Jondalar's home. Along the way they meet up with several other groups of people, some good and some not.

Ayla is nervous about leaving the Mamutoi, who have adopted her and given her a family of her own. But she loves Jondalar and will go with him despite her qualms. Because she was raised by "flatheads" after her own family died in an earthquake, she frequently faces prejudice from those who don't understand. However, she is always able to win over her detractors by way of her healing skills or personality.

Jondalar started out his Journey with his brother, but ended up with Ayla after a cave lion killed his brother and injured him. While happy to be with Ayla, he is homesick for his own people and convinces Ayla to come with him. After spending several months with the Mamutoi, it is time to move on. Having made the Journey this far, Jondalar knows the way back home and is anxious to get there.

I liked the descriptions of the land and animals that they saw along the way, but my favorite parts were when they encountered other people. The first of these are the Sharamudoi, with whom Jondalar and his brother had stayed before. They arrive to find that the wife of the leader has been hurt and Ayla immediately steps into healer mode to help her. She is successful, of course, which puts her in good graces with the rest of the people. I also enjoyed the reactions to Ayla's wolf and horses. They stay for awhile with the group, who want them to stay, but Jondalar insists that they keep moving.

The next group they encounter are the S'Armunai, with a welcome that is not so pleasant. The leader of the group is a woman who stole the leadership and is mentally unbalanced. Jondalar is captured and is confined with the other men. He does what he can to help the other men while he tries to figure out how to escape and find Ayla. Meanwhile, she has been looking for him, and watches the camp for several days while trying to find the best way to rescue him. How she does so is very dramatic and intense. Of course, she also insists on staying long enough to treat those who have been injured and neglected, before they leave to continue their Journey.

Next up are the Losadunai, who live at the edge of the glacier Jondalar and Ayla must cross to get to his home. Again, they are warmly welcomed and treated well. I enjoyed seeing Ayla getting to know everyone. There is also some drama involving a young girl who was assaulted by some young men. Ayla's empathy helps the girl move past it and embrace her future. As Ayla and Jondalar continue their journey they run into those same young men who have attacked a Clan (flathead) man and woman. After reading them the riot act and sending them on their way, Ayla treats the injured man as they share their fire and a meal. I liked how seeing Ayla with a man of the Clan helped Jondalar understand her a little better.

There is danger as they cross the glacier at the end of the winter. The arrival of spring temperatures can cause dangerous melting, putting them at greater risk of injury or death. After several close calls, they make it off the glacier, to the home cave of some of Jondalar's family. A bit of a romantic tangle is present with a young woman there that adds a bit of angst. Ayla also encounters a man of "mixed spirits" half clan and half Other, who reminds her of her son Durc, left behind in the first book of the series. I really enjoyed their connection and seeing Ayla ease his anger about the way his mother was treated. After a brief period with them, they at last reach Jondalar's home, with a cliffhanger ending as we wait to see how they are welcomed.

I always enjoy seeing Ayla win over new people, and this book was no exception. I also loved seeing reactions to the animals, especially Wolf. I especially loved his part in the rescue of Jondalar from the S'Armunai. It is also really sweet to see Wolf with the various children.

This was not my first reread of this book and it won't be the last.
Profile Image for Cassandra Dexter Colby.
308 reviews152 followers
July 12, 2018
Pierde estrellas porque es un auténtico peñazo... El tocho más gordo de los seis de la serie. Está claro que la autora trata de mostrar lo largo que es el camino que emprenden los protagonistas, pero es que es un no parar de descripciones de paisajes, geomorfología, botánica, zoología (hasta nos cuenta el apareamiento de unos mamuts)... A veces parecía que estaba leyendo el "Outlander" de la Prehistoria cuando empezaba con las hierbas para curar, qué pesadez. Y no digamos las escenas de sexo. Si te saltas los momentos descriptivos y los de trocotró, te ahorras muchas páginas, y así he hecho yo, porque no aportaban nada. Por otra parte, hay que pasar del lenguaje, porque tela (que se emplee la palabra "cruzada" en el sentido que imagináis, pues chirría, pero es lo que hay).
Tienen que pasar más de trescientas páginas para que la pareja se encuentre con alguien. Luego otras doscientas y pico para lo mismo, y así. Además, es muy repetitiva con ciertas cosas, por ejemplo:
-Lo guapos que son Ayla y Jondalar, altísimos, rubísimos, fibrosos, todos y todas los quieren para los placeres, aka, el fornicio.
-La inseguridad de Jondalar sobre si podrá tener un hijo de su espíritu con Ayla y ella lo mismo.
-Lo pesado que se pone con el viaje, que no deja a la otra asentarse en ningún lado por su empeño en volver a su casa, que está en el quinto pijo (Francia).
-El pichotismo que planea sobre Ayla con su perfección, su cabezonería, su facilidad para aprender idiomas, su belleza y blablablá.

Y cosas que me dejo. Muy pesado, mucho, pero esto hay que asumirlo, no pueden recorrer estas distancias en 200 páginas, aunque la sensación de que pase mucho tiempo no está conseguida, se va más en el empeño de describir por donde pasan y a mí eso no me ha llegado, no conseguía formar una imagen de la geografía. Pronto empezaré la siguiente entrega.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Deb✨.
319 reviews5 followers
June 13, 2020
Ayla and Jondalar continue their journey to his home in this 4th book of the series. It is a very loonngg trip for them. Jean Auel does a very well researched job of writing this book and describing how the land would have looked as well as how the way the glacier would have been back in the stone age. The only unfortunate thing about this book is that there is a fair amount of repetition, which becomes almost annoying. My favorite parts were during their interactions with the different people they ran across during their journey, and their ability to win their acceptance from them. It is always great to see the groups accept them and their animals, and by the time they leave, have everyone have such a hard time saying goodbye. It seems like Ayla always has such a kind and approachable way with any flathead and/or clan members, making anyone feel at home with them. I love that about her personality. At the end, it was refreshing to see them finally, finally reach their destination. Time to move on to Book 5...
Profile Image for Amy Norris.
118 reviews22 followers
September 12, 2018
The first quarter of this book was incredibly boring. There’s no doubt that Auel is an incredibly talented researcher but sometimes it feels like she does so much research that she feels like she has to include every little detail. There is constant info dumping. We are told about every tree and plant and their uses, weather patterns, and animal migrations. It’s great to be learning all these things but it weighs so heavily on the story. Thankfully after the first part of the book, the story got really good. We meet some interesting characters and have some exciting conflict. This was a lot better than the previous book and finishes off so you want to continue on.
Profile Image for M(^-__-^)M_ken_M(^-__-^)M.
347 reviews78 followers
December 29, 2020
Read so long I think Ayla was alive at the same time as me, it was like being sucked into a vortex all the current science of ancient pre-history was all jammed up into this book and the whole series actually, was it fun yep, was it educational hmm... more edutainment couldn't question the science didn't really care about that, it sounded plausible, seems to me even now, years later still can remember heaps of scenes, and because I finished it way back then pretty quickly, might try again...maybe...maybe not....love my memories the way they are thanks.
Profile Image for Figgy.
678 reviews219 followers
June 13, 2020
Okay, so that was better than book 3, in that the angst was almost completely done away with. But the audio book ran for THIRTY-ONE HOURS. Most audios run somewhere between 8 and 12 hours. And I usually listen to them at 1.75-2.5 times the normal speed. This series I can only listen to at 1.5 times the speed.

I kinda feel like, if I had been reading the physical books rather than listening to them, I would probably have stopped a while ago. But on the other hand I also want to see how it all plays out... 2/3 of the way through, I guess I'm gonna continue?
Profile Image for Natt Cham.
176 reviews48 followers
February 3, 2022
การเดินทางของจอนดาลาร์ และเอล่ะ กับวินนี่ เรเซอร์ และวูฟล์ จากที่ราบ สู่ธารน้ำแข็ง ก่อนกลับถึงถ้ำแห่งถิ่นกำเนิด พวกเขาต้องผจญภัยในดินแดนต่างๆ มากมาย ผ่านธรรมชาติทั่งสวยงามและโหดร้าย แต่ก็เป็นไปด้วยความตื่นเต้นและเร้าใจ

Profile Image for Teleseparatist.
1,029 reviews125 followers
June 18, 2020
My wife does not understand my enjoyment of these books. I know they're objectively bad in some ways - this volume in particular is both not greatly paced and underedited, with multiple instances of annoying repetitions. Jondalar's asshole behaviour continues - he's frequently immature and his attitude towards Ayla is annoying but his relative disregard for the horses and Wolf is at times horrible. Then there's the "evil misandrist woman" storyline, and the fact that even as Jondalar and Ayla cross the vast plains of relatively sparsely Cro-Magnon-inhabited Europe, they somehow manage to run into someone they know/know of, by accident, not once but twice in the story.

But I really like how unapologetically this is really a book about two things - the biodiversity of flora and fauna of the period (and the way in which humans interacted with them) and Ayla's emotional journey. Ayla may be written with superhuman qualities, but there is something compelling in the fantasy of her competence and bravery. I re-read this to de-stress from remote work pressures and the like, and it was just right for that.

(I really loved how every human settlement that met Wolf immediately wanted to keep Wolf forever and wondered about domesticating more wolves because of how good he was with children.)
(I did not love Jondalar. Ayla deserves better.)
(A lot of rape storylines in this volume again, reader beware. And a story about violence against a possibly queer child; there are probably different ways to read it, but there's a dead gender non-conforming character.)
Profile Image for GingerNut.
38 reviews
June 30, 2011
THIS was the book that made me stop reading the Earth's Children series. Honestly, this long,painful experience seems to go in it's own basic pattern...

Step 1: "Let's share pleasures, Jondalar!"
"Hellz yeah! Take a gander at those mammoths over there!"

Step 2: "Let's travel a bit and spend about five pages describing this blade of grass!"

Rinse and repeat, but make sure to throw in some random events for a mild amount of flavour.

Also, it's in this book where I finally realized how much of a Mary Sue Ayla is. I had already suspected something by the third book, when the love triangle buisness was something even a soap opera would be ashamed to air. I'm reminded of a quote from song in the musical Wicked, when Galinda says to Fiyero, "You're Perfect".

To which Fiyero replies, "You're perfect."

"So we're perfect together!"

Honestly, It's like watching the caveman editions of Barbie and Ken. Ayla can do anything. Hell, she domesticated horses! A wolf! A friggen cave lion! She invented the concept of sewing with a needle!

Jondalar, on the other hand, is your typical angsty Gary Stu. Granted, I always found him much more likeable than Ayla, only because he did kind of grow on me after a while.

Overall, I could barely get half-way before stopping for my own sanity's sake. Nowadays, this hulk of a book serves as a lovely doorstop to my basement.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for mrs. fig.
50 reviews1 follower
May 23, 2007
Oh my God . . . the most boring book I've ever read! and i must give credit to jean auel because i read about how much work and research and time she puts into these novels and i know how accurate her descriptions are of everything . . . but she easily devotes 4 pages (atleast) to describing the terrain, the flora and fauna, the animals . . . and picture this . . . the story is about two people crossing ice age europe from one end to the other . . . and the book is 865 pages . . . the longest one in the entire series so far!!!!! by the way, this book took me about 2 months to read, the longest i've ever spent reading a single book. but i finished it. and a few years later i re-read the series, but i skipped this book.
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