The Valley of Horses by Jean Auel (Earth’s Children #2)

Thank God it is Over – 2 stars  

coverI cannot recall the last time I was so happy to finish a book.  I felt as if I had gone up against a ferocious beast and emerged as the winner.  Having recently read and loved The Clan of the Cave Bear, I expected another magical story set it the distant past, long before recorded history.  I liked The Clan of the Cave Bear so much, it was my 7th favorite read of 2013.  Unfortunately, the Valley of Horses turned into a prehistoric romance novel.  I felt duped and angry with how the series had progressed.  What looked to be shaping into an exciting and memorable series has turned into a series that I will not finish.

Plot summary

Our intrepid female hero from the first book, has struck out on her own after the events at the end of Clan of the Cave Bear.  Ayla is forced to use all of the knowledge she has gained over the course of her short life to eek out an existence on her own.  In a parallel story, we are introduced to Jondular, a male from the “others”, as he and his younger brother set out on a journey of self discovery.

The Good


Despite this book, Ayla is one of most memorable characters from any book I have read.  She is plucky, smart and resourceful in an environment that does not understand these traits.  Up until the storylines converge, Ayla’s story was interesting. I enjoyed reading about her and I felt invested in her wellbeing after the first novel. This is the only reason the book avoided a one star rating and the only reason that I read the book until the end.  Had the story simply focused on her and her fight for survival, the book may have been a 4 star read.

The Bad


Seriously, I could not stand the character.  In Jondular, we have a 21 year old man without a mate and without a purpose in life.  He cannot commit to a woman, loves to make tools but his true calling in life is giving women their “Pleasure” (yes, it is supposed to be capitalized) with his organ/manhood/woman-maker.  Seriously, at one point a wise Shaman type woman tells him that some people have the gift of making boats, or hunting or carving but he has the gift of pleasuring woman and he should not despise this.  I was ready to stab myself in the eyes at this point.  This guy was so torn up by the fact that he could make a woman happy in bed but no woman could make him happy in his heart…………..I didn`t care.

Modern Tone

The tone of the story was far more modern.  The speech, attitudes and actions of the characters would not have been out of place had the story been of a few people trying to win the game of Survivor.    While the first book did a masterful job of making the reader feel as if they were in an ancient and unknown time, this book lost the mystical quality.

What Can’t This Girl Do

While Ayla’s inventiveness was endearing in the first book, it seemed in the second book as if Ayla wsa to be the inventor of every great discovery of prehistoric man.  In chapter after chapter she was disovering or improving on the tools and materials of the her world.  As far as I could tell, the wheel had not yet been invented but I assume that Ayla will invent it in a later book.

Romance, Romance, Romance. 

It is simply not my cup of tea.  Books focusing on the love and relationship between two characters does not interest me.  Like many historical fiction novels, this falls into the trap of simply trying to convince us that love is the tie that binds the eras together.  As the first book was not written with romance and relationship as a major plotline, it was disappointing that this book changed direction.

Lazy Storytelling

Finally, the storytelling was lazy.  In the first book, we were able to watch Ayla learn and grow.  When she was adopted by the Neanderthals, she had to learn their way of life, their custom and their unique language. In this book, Ayla is faced with similar circumstance but the author cheats us by cutting corners.  For example,   <spoiler> Ayla was learning spoken language from Jondular.  Her speech was rough and her understanding was incomplete but she was trying and learning quickly.  She could vaguely recall speaking as a 5 year old but it was not more than a fleeting memory.  After having a dream about her initial cave lion attack and a dream about her parents, she suddenly recalls how to speak and she has not issues with language and understating language. </Spoiler>

It was dizzying how quickly this series became unpalpable.  It was a huge disappointment after the first book.  That said, if you like the Outlander series and you enjoyed the romance and sexual content of the first in the series, you may in fact like this series.  Unfortunately, two is enough for me.

Content Advisories

It is difficult to find commentary on the sex/violence/language content of book if you are interested.  I make an effort to give you the information so you can make an informed decision before reading. *Disclaimer* I do not take note or count the occurrences of adult language as I read. I am simply giving approximations.

Scale 1 – Lowest     5 – Highest

Sex 5

I have to apologize but I lost count of the sex scenes.  There were 5-7 scene that were graphic in nature.  Mr. “Don Juan” Jondular was also Mr. Pleasure so he certainly took his time.  The scene were far more graphic than I appreciate and they were were plentiful. Hence the 5 rating.  Outside of these scenes, there was significant discussion of sex.  Avoid if you are not comfortable with this type of material.

Language 1

While some may consider sexual terms as adult language, I have included that in the rating above.  As for swearing and other adult language, it was non-existed although Ayla may discover and invent the f-word in a later book

Violence 2.5

There were several graphic scene of animal deaths that occurred as part of hunting excursions.  Animals were constantly being killed for food and material.  The book may not be PETA friendly.  On top of this there were a couple of scene of animal attacks but none were especially graphic.  There is also some non graphic discussion of rape.  One such discussions was not considered rape by the character but in a modern setting, the perpetrator would most certainly be behind bars.

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Tim Written by:

Tim is a lawyer, sports fan, parent, husband and book lover. He runs his own legal practice and is the founder of The Literary Lawyer book blog and a contributing writer for Tim loves to share his love of reading by providing reviews to entertain as well as provide information to help you make an informed reading decision.