The 'Clan of the Cave Bear' is one of my all-time favourite books. It is an engaging look at what life may have been like for early humans during the ice age. The characters are interesting, the threats they face all too real and the historical details that Auel includes enriched my experience of that period. My disappointment in the final 'Earth's Children' book is that it has only one of these elements: the historical detail. Contrary to 'Cave Bear', those details are boring since they do not enhance the story... since there is no real story. The bare-bones of one exists but it is plagued by repetition from the previous books, uninteresting journeys with no engaging events and flat characters who I am not encouraged to care about.
I can't say I didn't see this coming. The series has slowly gone downhill from the first book although I would still consider 'The Valley of Horses' and 'The Mammoth Hunters' as worthwhile reads. Even 'Plains of Passage' is interesting since the characters encounter a wide variety of circumstances and conflicts on their way to Jondalar's homeland. The main distractions from what is good about the series in these later installments is the repetition of past events/descriptions of activities, the tendency towards elements of corny romance fiction (explicit sex scenes with a virtually perfect man) and Ayla's gradual transformation into 'perfect woman' rather than the flawed and interesting character she was in the initial book.
I reflect on these elements not to belittle Auel's work, but as a reminder of what not to do in my craft. As I continue to work through my first trilogy, a story far more complex than 'Call of the Black Panther', it's crucial that I consult the opinions of others for editorial review. This will help to prevent many of the hang-ups that makes 'Painted Caves' such a struggle to get through.
The main concerns I have for The Rules trilogy are more with the consistency and comprehensibility. When one is exploring complex concepts in their writing it is important to make the exploration engaging, otherwise no one will care about the journey. I try not to delude myself with the desire that everyone will like my books, but hope that, at the very least, readers will not be able to fault its construction.
Below is an excerpt from the first Rules' book; Abiding by Rules. Wishing you a happy New Year!
As yet unused to the Rules’ tug, I clung to my head and groaned as Merina tried to see what had happened from the small door window. Blinking rapidly allowed me to regain enough awareness of my surroundings so that I felt confident jumping from our coach to determine what had happened. Merina obeyed her guards’ command to stay in the coach, although leaned out on the step, anxious to observe yet not expose herself to danger.
A foot behind the carriage, the body of a man lay half-buried in the sand. Only his head and left shoulder were visible but that was enough to determine his cause of death. His skin was curling like dry paper, hair matted with mucus, eye sockets empty, teeth filed into fangs.
“I didn’t know the Old Ones had made a comeback in this area.” I said to the driver who was peering to either side, his large-brimmed hat rotating in his hands.
“The country’s going from bad to worse; first the rebellion in the North and now the reappearance of… them. Makes one want to settle down to a quiet life.” Only too familiar with the tales, we kept our distance from the corpse while examining it. Urging Merina to remain in the carriage, I was glad to see that her guards had not joined us over the corpse. History was nearly impossible to read in sand so the story of this man seemed doomed to remain unknown.
“The Rules know what is best of course, but the rise in dissension and monsters almost makes one think-” The coachman dared not continue his thought, a force inside me quivering at his skepticism. “I’ve heard of a division of Abiders and followers who can combat the Old Ones better than trained fighters. Their power comes from the force of certainty, or so it’s said. If the Abiders take action then we might have a chance.”
This man was middle-aged and weathered. His manner of speech suggested an educated background, despite his current occupation of lowly coach-driver. I sensed he wasn’t married and lived a solitary life. There seemed to be regret in him now which fed the doubt; perhaps this young man’s dreams of adventure transporting passengers across the sand had given way to longing for a stable base. My heart went out to him and my Abider’s second tug came more gently.
“When we get to Cirl you should stay a few days in the local tavern to rest. Perhaps you’ll find some contentment there, sir. At least you’ll be off the road for a few days, let things calm down.” This change in subject both unnerved and touched him, his rough hand squeezing my shoulder as I passed him on my way back into the carriage.