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Book Review: The Land of Painted Caves is the Godfather III. Just longer.

Posted by Lissa on April 6, 2011

The book: The Land of Painted Caves (Book Six of the Earth’s Children novels) by Jean Auel

Short review: Booooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


What a piece of shite.

I loved The Clan of the Cave Bear.  I first read it when I was thirteen and I’ve re-read it more times than I can remember.  I liked the next three books, too, although they weren’t as good, and although they had more than one foot planted firmly in bodice-ripper land.  The fifth book was good and interesting, in that Our Two Heroes (well, really, The Heroine and her Sexy Sidekick Manlove) met characters from Manlove’s past and prepared to live there happily ever after.  We even got to meet a few delicious villains chugging on the Heroine Hateraid.  I was SO looking forward to this final, satisfying conclusion in which Heroine and Manlove would raise their daughter, make a few more miraculous discoveries (pretty much the entire history of human innovation is thanks to ideas from the Heroine), and suitably punish the villains — 1) Mean Whore, Manlove’s former bang-mate; , 2) Brute, the self-hating part-Neanderthal; 3) Drunky, the neglectful alchoholic father; and 4) Evil Priest, who isn’t that interesting.

Here’s what I got instead:

45% of the book: re-hashing events and characters from the previous five books.  Because apparently when a new book comes out it magically inflicts amnesia on anyone who read the former books.  Who knew you could insert a Neurolyzer into an electronic book?  Or maybe it was working correctly in the hardcover version and it’s only eBook readers who didn’t get wiped and thus suffered through the insane amount of rehashing the past.

45% of the book: Descriptions of painted caves in Europe, stone age practices and techniques, and the time-appropriate flora and fauna.  Especially the painted caves.


8% of the book: “New” stuff about the characters.  Junk that’s supposed to be character development or plot continuation but is so poorly written that I found myself shrieking and jumping up and down in protest.  REALLY???

Allow me to give you an example:

Ayla found herself truly enjoying the company of Levela, Beladora, and Amelana when they weren’t visiting another Cave or Summer Meeting. They did things together with their children.

And then they collectively saw Spot run.  “They did things together with their children.”  That’s a sentence with all the poetry, majesty and interest of a cat turd on my carpet.  Although I’m pretty sure Rajah puts more effort into those than the author put into that craptastic sentence.

Or how about this one?

She untied the waist thong and squatted down, but when she stood up to pull her leggings back on, she was surprised to see four strange men staring at her. She was more offended than anything.

“She was more offended than anything.”  Somewhere in Cali a valley is missing its teenage girl.

1% of the book: Actual new information, occurrences or developments that involve our characters and are interesting.

And the final 1% of the book: Finishing off the Book 5 Villains.

(That’s overgenerous, by the way.  It was more like 0.03, but whatever, I’m rounding up.)


Want to know how they end up?





Evil Priest . . . ummm . . . gets kicked out of the priesthood for lying that he was called into the priesthood.  Then he steals a bunch of stuff and leaves to go pretend to other tribes that he really is a priest.  *yawn*

Brute, the semi-neanderthal, goes crazy and runs off into the night.  I’M NOT KIDDING.  THAT’S LITERALLY HOW THE AUTHOR TOOK CARE OF HIM.

Mean Whore . . . gets back together with Manlove.  Despite the fact that the entire series is built around the great love between Our Heroine and Manlove, despite the fact that Auel told us FOR FOUR WHOLE BOOKS how AMAZING and INTENSE and UNIQUE and UNMATCHABLE Manlove’s feelings for Our Heroine are, he gets all frisky when the Heroine is busy becoming a priest and decides to bang Mean Whore, who’s been trying to get back in his pants for a long time.  When Our Heroine finds out, he deserts Mean Whore because he never cared about her, and so Mean Whore moves back to her former cave.

THAT’S ALL.  SHE REALIZES THAT MANLOVE DIDN’T CARE ABOUT HER ANY MORE THAN SHE CARED ABOUT HIM SO SHE MOVES.  Sweet sappy sassafras, I came up with better punishment plots when Malibu Barbie tried to steal Ken from Island Barbie.

Drunky the neglectful alcoholic father . . . is invited to get busy by our hurt and devastated Heroine.  He promptly gets beat to hell by Manlove for screwing Our Heroine right in front of him.  Drunky will, as long as he lives, be the martyred victim and a reminder that Manlove screwed Mean Whore and went Mike Tyson on Drunky.

The End.

It makes me want to cry.

There was this beautiful world, and wonderful characters, and a really interesting past, and all these amazing potential plots, and the author decided instead to lovingly vivisect every bit of it over 757 pages of dreck.

What a frickin’ WASTE.

22 Responses to “Book Review: The Land of Painted Caves is the Godfather III. Just longer.”

  1. Clint1911 said

    Sounds like a Bad Ghost Writer. Re-hashing from the earlier works and maybe some copy-n-paste from cave drawing non-fiction are the give away.

    Seems someone misunderstood what in means to build from an outline.

  2. Brad K. said


    Mammoth Hunters, Plains of Passage – the neverending travelogues were right there in front of you. The ginormous (oh, my. Did my spell checker just accept ginormous? Say it isn’t so. Sigh!) Auel books have always been nature walks first and foremost, with a bit of actual story line inserted between the bodice ripping.

    My favorite was – no, is – Valley of Horses. Maybe it was the nearly believable parts about Baby and Whinny. And it was between the sex-is-just-behavior of Clan of the Cave Bears and the bodice ripping of the Mammoth Hunters.

    What the nonsensical prehistory movie Ringo Starr made with Racquel Welch? “One Million Years B.C.”, wasn’t it? Ringo goes along inventing wheels, upright walking, and then there is the fireside naming of ‘food’. And communal toilets. I still laugh about his buddy and the dinosaur-mosquito. But the movie was trying for a laugh.

    Thanks for the critical review of Auel’s new book. I could have hoped it was more, um, humane?

  3. I felt kinda the same way about Alan Dean Foster’s capper book to his Flinx & Pip adventures. Half the book I spent asking out loud “is he kidding?”, the other half “that’s it?”

  4. WOW. I saw it bookshelf at the book store just the other day and was wondering if it was worth buying the hard-back so that I could read it now rather than wait for the paperback. I was in a hurry and put the decision off until later. Now that I have read the review, I’m glad that I did. Maybe I’ll pick it up when it comes out in paperback just out of gross curiosity anyhow since I have so much time invested in the previous books.



  5. Lissa said

    Clint – Could be? Or maybe the author just got old; the first book came out a LONG time ago.

    Brad – Yeah, I got good at skimming those passages in 3 and 4, but at least they came with interesting people.

    Atom Smasher – Mine was more like frequent wailing of “Whyyyyyyy???” but oh yeah I feel your pain!

    Stuart – I’d lend it to you if I could, but it’s not enabled for lending on the Kindle. I’m glad to save you a couple bucks; maybe drop me a line when you read it?

    • Lissa,

      No worries, it would drive me up the wall to try to read a book off of one of those electric gizmos anyway. I would rather spend the few bucks when the paperback comes out and read it that way and save what is left of my sanity.

      Besides, if it is bad as you say, it might sail across the room a few times. Something that is not recommended for the kindle et al.



    Say it ain’t so! 😦 😦 😦 😦

    My dreams crushed. Oh, well. I guess she finally jumped the shark. I remember sneaking out of the movie theater (playing “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”) to read “The Mammoth Hunters” in the bathroom. I was 16.


  7. Sarah said

    “That’s a sentence with all the poetry, majesty and interest of a cat turd on my carpet. Although I’m pretty sure Rajah puts more effort into those than the author put into that craptastic sentence.”

    This awesomeness is why I read your blog.

    Rajah being a big ol’ cutie doesn’t hurt, either. 🙂

  8. bogie said

    I loved the first two books. and the next two weren’t bad (although the 4th one got a little “long”). I was thinking of buying the book the other day, but your review has changed my mind.

    Thanks for saving me the anguish!

  9. Thanks for the review. I don’t purchase many books (yeah library!) and until now had bought every one of her previous books in hardback no less. Thanks for saving me $$.

  10. echo said

    Wish I’d written that review – or, maybe not. Much as I have loved and respected Auel’s work in the past, I doubt I would have been as kind as you. I wonder where in the world her editor was in all of this or did her publisher just figure that Auel had such a big following that everyone would buy the book no matter what? And what of Auel, herself? Personally, I think she was having fun gallivanting all over looking at painted caves for “research” and all of a sudden woke up and said “Oh, shit! I gotta write a book!” and churned out the Land of Painted Caves!

    Frankly, I won’t even buy it when it comes out in paperback & it’s probably not worth the gas (or bus fare) for a trip to the library either!

  11. Caroline said

    I cannot agree more. The only part of the book that includes some actual story is written worse than a teenager writing for 8-year-olds, and on top of it, it recycles old plots. Both of the oh-so-beautiful-glamorous-high status-specially skilled-awe inspiring (which is all irritatingly emphasized over and over again) heroes are acting like complete morons until somebody comes and tells them (quote from memory): “Ayla loves only Jondalar. Jondalar only loves Ayla. You two have to promise never to choose anybody else.” And that’s about it.

    It wasn’t so obvious in previous novels (or maybe I was just younger) but I got a strong impression that the author spent her youth and free time reading cheapest romance novels & watching soap operas.

    The whole book is boring repetition, one-dimensional characters and recycling the past.

    I’m convinced to the bones that the author just wanted to get some money out of readers. Some people would call it healthy business practice, I call it cheating. Same for everybody else included into approving this book for publishing. Shame on you!

    All in all, DON’T BUY THE BOOK! It’s not even worth borrowing from public library.

  12. irwindspirit said

    I can’t agree more! What a overwhelmingly underwhelming end to a great series. It’s just sad that no one had the nuts to edit the crap out of this sorry tome before it hit the presses. What’s happened to publishing these days?? The series should have ended with Shelters of Stone– a severely edited and revised Shelters of Stone. LOTPC was flat, boring, tedious… until part 3 where we come to the “WTF!?” moment. What an utter rip off! The characters we had come to love were, in my opinion, VIOLATED in this book! The READERS were violated with this book! The writer, editors, proofreaders, publishers have all succeeded in completely trashing everything we had come to think, feel, and believe about Ayla, Jondalar and their lives. I am more than disappointed, I am PISSED. If I would be graced with the opportunity to have a book published I would hope and pray that I never, EVER, commit the crime that has been commited with this final installment of the Earth’s Children Series. To me this book serves as a prime example of “How NOT to write” …or proofread, edit, revise or publish!. Period.

    • Heidi said

      You are so right. I’m pissed too, I feels swindled. If the last three books had been condensed into one good books, we would have been fine. The last two books took my money and time and left angry.

  13. Kat said


    That is all.

  14. Lisa said

    This is a hell funny review!
    Much much more entertaining than the book!!
    The terribly written lion hunt right at the beginning set the standard…
    There was so much potential to put an actual story in this massive tomb…. but for 3/4 of the book, everytime there was a potential story, it fizzled out and they went off to look at ANOTHER minutely described sacred painted cave! (That they occasionally wee-ed in!)
    And I passionately dislike the bloody mother song. Really.
    So disappointed with the visit from the Mamutoi… could have been so much more entertaining and fun…. got too sidetracked with the tacky high school/romance novel incident with Marona. That was just stupid.
    Not to mention a total repeat of the Mammoth Hunters Drug episode. Been there…. done that.
    No Clan interaction, Jonayla had no character…. there were heaps of characters that could have done great stuff! I was waiting for the great stuff!!!
    I have so enjoyed the other books (I can even think book 5 was semi ok compared to this one!) and from the reviews I have read I am certainly not alone in my disappointment in the ending.

  15. Meredith said

    Thank you everyone for validating my feelings as I read this abysmal excuse for a book. I too have followed the series with great enjoyment over the years, although I did find the last two lacking somewhat. Yes Ayla is annoyingly perfect and convieniently responsible for all the great inventions of the prehistoric past, but I still found the stories fascinating. This book was just a big pile of poo – I think it was fairly obvious that nobody bothered to edit it, they just published it knowing that people would buy it on the strength of the previous books. If I have to read the mothers song one more time I’ll scream! Rehashing past events – sometimes more than once! – hello our memories aren’t that short! And everytime something interesting popped up in the plot she went nowhere with it (the band of rapists who nearly got away with Ayla before Jondaler stepped in – now that would have been something interesting, Ayla a victim!)
    The way she dealt with Marona, Brukeval etc was pathetic – she didn’t even try! I think she must have gone on a tour of all the caves in France and decided that would be interesting enough material for a book. Not interesting at all. Note how the cave paintings were convieniently from before Ayla’s time so that they couldn’t explain what any of them meant. What was the point, honestly?!
    In short – nothing happens in the first two parts of the book and the third part is a lame half-hearted attempt to tie up loose ends.
    Don’t waste your money – if you must read it, borrow a copy.

  16. Beth said

    That’s a sentence with all the poetry, majesty and interest of a cat turd on my carpet. Although I’m pretty sure Rajah puts more effort into those than the author put into that craptastic sentence.

    Reading that made the pain of suffering through LOPC worth it.

    I am getting more enjoyment from reading other reviews from COTCB fans than I did from the book. I think I have been to every review on the front page of google just to try and find company in my misery.

    And, just to add something that was not mentioned, because all the rest is summed up rather fantastically; the re-visiting of past events were often WRONG! I was often left thinking, “what? that is not how it happened?” Did Jean forget what her characters actually did? Did the editors ever even /read/ the rest of the series?!

  17. V said

    Thanks for the review and comments here– well worth the visit. I loved the first two books, enjoyed the third. Read the first fifty pages of LoPC on the author’s website. If I HADN’T read it THERE I would have thought some awful fanfic wanna be was on the literary loose.

    And the editor of this repetitive confusion should beg for forgiveness, because truly I will look to see who it was when I visit a bookstore… and avoid any project they “edit” in future.

    But what really disturbs me are the positive reviews by some major media reviewers. How much barma did they chug to “drink this book purty?” Ugh!

  18. Anonymous said

    Thanks for the review – I’m only half way through the book and couldn’t help but look up reviews to see if i was the only one boring myself to tears. Like just about everyone else, I’ve grown up reading this series. I’m so disappointed by this last book. I don’t even think I’ll finish (thanks for the spoilers – now I don’t have to waste any more evenings fighting off sleep). I had hoped this last story would tie in her past, possible she would find her son, or even run into her nemisis – Broud, just to prove what a powerful woman she had become!
    Oh well.

  19. Mungbeanmalta said

    I am currently dragging myself through this sorry excuse for a finale- am so glad to realise that i am not the only one who feels let down- no, worse than let down, it’s as if somebody ‘ghosted’ this book- i find it hard to believe that the same writer penned The Mammoth Hunters and LotPC. There is literally NO PLOT- i keep flicking ahead, skimming to see if anything actually happens, but all i seem to find is more flora and fauna and a few more drawings of men with sticks coming out of them *sigh* Clearly Ayla’s story was over a long time ago and someone forgot to tell the writer. Please God we don’t get ‘Adventures of Jonayla- how i invented the wheel’ next…

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