In The land of Painted Caves, Jean M. Auel brings the ice-age epic Earth's Children series to an extraordinary conclusion. Ayla, one of the most remarkable and beloved heroines in contemporary fiction, continues to explore the world and the people around her with curiosity, insight, and above all, courage.
As the story opens, Ayla, Jondalar, and their infant daughter, Jonayla are welcomed by the Zelandonii, but problems arise. They are faced with new challenges, not just the ordinary trials of sheer survival, but the complications posed by many groups of people who need to live and work together. The wisdom that Ayla gained from her struggles as an orphaned child, alone in a hostile environment, strengthens her as she moves closer to leadership of the Zelandonia.
Ayla and Jondalar's first priority is the care for their golden-haired child, Jonayla, and the well-being of their amazing animals, Wolf, Whinney, Racer, and Gray. The two participate in hunts to provide food, in travels to Summer Meetings for decision making, and in social activities. Whatever the obstacles, Ayla's inventive spirit produces new ways to lessen the difficulties of daily life: searching for wild edibles to make delicious meals, experimenting with techniques to ease the long journeys the Zelandoni must take, honing her skills as a healer and a leader. And then, there are the Sacred Caves, the caves that Ayla's mentor--the Donier, the First of the Zelandonia--takes her to see. These caves are filled with remarkable art--paintings of mammoths, lions, aurochs, rhinoceros, reindeer, bison, bear. The powerful, mystical aura within these caves sometimes overwhelms Ayla.
Ayla's final preparations for her initiation as a Zelandoni bring The Land of Painted Caves to a riveting climax. So much time apart from Jondalar has caused him to drift away from her. The rituals themselves bring her close to death. But through those rituals, Ayla gains A Gift of Knowledge so important that it will change the world.
Spellbinding drama, meticulous research, fascinating detail, and superb narrative skill combine to make The Land of Painted Cavesa captivating, utterly believable creation of a civilization that resonates long after the reader has turned the last page, and serves as an astonishing end to this beloved saga.
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