Earth’s Children #1: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

Read: 17 April, 2010

By far the best in the Earth’s Children series (I’ve now completed book 4), Clan of the Cave Bear is also the most content-dense. While the next three books will cover a fairly short piece of the saga each, mixed in with a whole lot of filler, Cave Bear tells a much larger chunk of the story.

A little girl named Ayla is orphaned when an earthquake takes her mother, but is adopted by Iza and Creb (medicine woman and Mog-ur, or shaman, of the Clan). The Clan is different from Ayla’s people, a different branch of the human tree, and Ayla must learn to fit in with people who learn by unlocking ancestral memories, and who have clearly defined gender roles. But Ayla has been chosen by the Cave Lion, a powerful totem who can help her survive with her new family.

The story is an interesting one. It goes beyond mere culture clash and into the realm of interspecies exchange. The Clan are different, physically, in the way they learn and in the way they communicate, and Ayla is reminded of that difference at every turn. But unlike many a space traveller, she was orphaned as a very young child and has no memories of her own culture, no previous imprinting to give her confidence when she comes into conflict with Clan ways. Instead, she is a blank slate that must bend itself into culture it was not designed for.

It’s a beautiful story with plenty of conflict and a good dose of love and hope. Ayla, though something of a Mary Sue, is still sufficiently endearing for me to root for her.

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Other books in the Earth’s Children series:

  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
  6. The Land of Painted Caves

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