Title: The Valley of Horses
Author: Jean M. Auel
Genre: Historical Fiction
Edition/Pages: Bantam Books 1982/544 pages
Short & Sweet Synopsis: Cro-Magnon girl Ayla must fend for herself after being cast out by the Clan.
Before reading: Check out my review of book 1 of the Earth’s Children series, The Clan of the Cave Bear.
Also, as I said with the last review, due to the building nature of the series there are potential spoilers in here. I’ve tried my best to be as vague and generic as possible while still leaving myself some wiggle room to review the next book, but I’m not sure how well I succeeded. Anyway, reader beware.
In The Valley of Horses, we rejoin Ayla, who has been cast out of the Clan by Broud. Now a teenager, she sets out to find the Others, people like her who are closer to modern human than neanderthal. However, a cold Ice Age winter is coming, and Ayla realizes that if she is to survive the long, bitter season, she must find a place to settle down until summer comes again. This is why, when she stumbles across a sheltered valley, she sets up camp and works on preparing for the winter ahead.
The Valley of Horses (also known as the steppes of Ukraine)
The main narrative of this book is still that of Ayla, and her attempts to survive in the uncharitable world of pre-historic Europe. As she tries to build a life for herself in the “valley of horses,” she must learn to hunt, form a solid shelter, and do many other things that she was forbidden to do as a woman in the Clan. However, while we are still learning of Ayla’s adventures out on her own, we are also introduced to two new characters, a pair of brothers whose physical characteristics are akin to Ayla’s.
The two brothers have set out on a traditional journey far away from their home. As they travel across Europe, they come into contact with other cro-magnons (“Others”) and neanderthals, and have a number of entertaining adventures and escapades across the continent. This continues until, one day, they happen upon Ayla’s valley. After being badly wounded by one of Ayla’s “pets,” a cave lion, and subsequently meeting Ayla …well, you can find out what comes of that meeting when you read the book (which you should definitely do!).
The Second Book Curse
So, I’ve heard a lot of things both positive and negative about this book. Many people whose reviews I’ve read thought that it was not nearly as enjoyable a read as the first book in the series. Others have said that it is one of the greatest books they’ve ever read. It’s all subjective, I guess. But in my very subjective opinion, I think that this book continues the quality of writing in the first book. They are certainly very different: all but one character is different, the setting is different, the culture is different…but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just…well, not to repeat myself, but, different. However, the same warning applies as to the first novel: there are some graphic sexual scenes depicted. However, they fit well stylistically with the culture portrayed in the book, so I really didn’t mind them. Although they could be considered somewhat extraneous, they do add something to the world depicted in the novel. In any case, what it comes down to is this: after the second book, I still stand by my recommendation of the series. Go grab the first book (or if you’ve read it already, this book) and get reading!