Wednesday 30 March 2011

Review: The Valley of Horses - Jean M. Auel

Don't forget that all comments on posts with the Earth's Children logo made before Midnight GMT on the 8th April 2011 will get you entered into my international giveaway to win a book of your choice from the Earth's Children Series!  See this post for more information.

The second novel in Jean M. Auel's magnificent epic of life on the glacial continent of the last Ice Age, when two kinds of human beings, Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon, shared the earth.

An unforgettable odyssey into awesome mysteries, a novel that returns to the exotic, primeval world of The Clan of the Cave Bear - and the beautiful Ayla, as she leaves the safety of the Clan who raised her and sets out alone on an epic journey of discovery.  A hostile land of glacial cold, terrifying beasts and intense loneliness awaits her, and her need for human companionship and love remains unfulfilled.

But in the Valley of Horses she finds refuge and contentment.  There, fate brings her a stranger, Jondalar, and Ayla is torn between fear and hope - and carried to an awakening desire that would shape the future of mankind.

Earth's Children Series:
The Clan of the Cave Bear
The Valley of Horses
The Mammoth Hunters
The Plains of Passage
The Shelters of Stone
The Land of Painted Caves

Visit Jean M. Auel's Website for more information.

In The Valley of Horses we follow Ayla as she sets out on a journey to try and find people of the "Others" (the Cro-Magnon race she was born to).  Although she doesn't want to leave the Clan (the Neanderthals who raised her) she wants to follow her adopted mother Iza's wishes and find a mate of her own.  After a long and difficult journey with no sign of the Others she discovers a valley and a cave and decides to stay there to prepare for the winter.  Alone in the valley Ayla must use all of the skills the Clan taught her in order to survive.  Her loneliness is eased by a foal that she takes in and cares for after killing it's mother but she longs for human companionship. 

While Ayla is making a home for herself Jondalar and his brother Thonolan set off on a journey aiming to reach the end of the great Mother river.  It is through the brothers and the people they meet along the way that we start to learn more about the customs and way of life of the Others.  Eventually a great tragedy will cause their paths to cross and Ayla finally gets to meet one of her own kind.

The Valley of Horses is one of my favorite books in the Earth's Children series although I still think the first book is my favorite.  Considering that Ayla is alone for over half of the book it would have been easy to find her part of the story boring but watching her fight for survival is fascinating.  We find out more about how our ancestors must have survived during the Ice Age and get to see the biggest advantage that Ayla has over the Clan that brought her up.  Unlike the Clan Ayla is very adaptable, she looks for new and easier ways to do things, in fact she has to learn new skills in order to survive on her own.  She has come a long way from the helpless child that Iza found at the beginning of the first book.  It is hard to believe that she is just 14 years old when she sets out on her own but she does still have a childlike naivety to her that can be quite refreshing.

Although it is a bit unbelievable that Ayla makes so many discoveries on her own this is used to illustrate likely ways that humans actually stumbled across these new inventions and it makes for very interesting reading.  Some of my favorite parts of the book are watching Ayla with Whinney (the foal she looks after) and later with Baby (another animal she takes in and cares for).  Her innate sense of caring and her medicinal skills help her to build a strong bond of friendship with the animals and it is only because of them that she survives the lonely three years she spends in her valley.

I also really enjoyed reading about Jondalar and Thonolan's journey and the trials they face along the way.  Through them we are introduced to several other groups of Cro-Magnon people that they meet along the way and get to see how the traditions vary between different tribes.  I loved watching the relationship develop between Ayla and Jondalar when they finally meet.  They have a lot of difficulties at first due to their very different backgrounds but the romantic in me loves watching them together.  I have to give a warning and say there are quite a lot of sexually explicit scenes in the book which is why I would only recommend it to older teens and adults.  If you're not keen on those scenes you can easily skim through them and still enjoy the rest of the story.

Source: Purchased

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.


  1. This was actually the first book in the series that I read. Definitely need to re-read it now. A great review that makes me want to do just that!

  2. I think it's the mark of a great author who can write a book where there is one character for the first half of the book and still keep it interesting.

  3. I'm glad to know the second book is brilliant too- looks like I'm in for a treat! Thanks for the giveaways :)

  4. Again a book I read soooo long ago (but I still have my dogeared copy).

    I have been a rider since I was about 8 so it was the horses in the story that attracted me and that stays in my memory of the book.

    The description of the taming of them is fantastic.

    Another entry for the International giveaway.


    Carol T

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

  5. I was glad that Ayla was no longer alone and had more than the animals for friends.


    alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com

  6. After all that Ayla had been through, I think this is the book that started the process of her becoming the character we all love. She is such a strong person and I'm happy that she finally has companionship :)

    JaidisShaw at yahoo dot com

  7. You're right it is slightly unbelievable how much Ayla (and Jondalar) invent and discover certain things in this series but I still really, really love this book. I loved the first half of the book the most with Ayla living alone and learning about her valley. I love Whinny and Baby.

  8. @ Elena - I'm glad my review has left you wanting to read the book again :o) I do love this one!

    @ Kulsuma - Ayla is on her own for most of the book but the chapters with Jondalar and Thonolan appear throughout so there is more going on. I have to say that even when Ayla is on her own I still enjoy reading about what is happening to her though :o)

    @ Stephanie - I hope you enjoy this one as much as you liked Clan of the Cave bear!

    @ buddyt - I loved the part where Ayla first finds Whinney, it's still one of my favorite sections of the series :o) I enjoy reading about all of her animal friends though lol

    @ Lisa R/alterlisa - I felt so sad for Ayla when she was on her own so it was great to see her when she finally met people of her own kind :o)

    @ Jaidis - I couldn't agree more, I think I loved Clan of the Cave Bear for the descriptions of the Neanderthals & their way of life but Valle of Horses is probably when I really grew to love Ayla :o)

    @ Clover - I can forgive Ayla & Jondalar discovering every invention because I find it so interesting to see how they could have been discovered thousands of years ago. I have to admit that my favorite parts of the book are with Whinney & Baby though :o)

  9. Thanks for all your comments, I hope you enjoyed taking part in Earth's Children Week :o)


    I still love reading your comments though so feel free to leave me a message :o)

  10. I was glad when the true animal joined the zoo. (Jondolar)



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