there was a big gap in when the first 4 books were published and when the 5th and then the 6th came out. i was hoping that with the break, that auel would be able to tend to some of the things that made the first 4 books less than perfect. to her credit, to some extent she did. the writing was a little better, although there was still the overuse of exclamation points and overall decent writing, but no better. unfortunately, she spent so much time (and so many pages) in the first 4 books making ayla this perfect person, that when she managed to show more humanness and small flaws in this book, it didn't fit, because the things she said ayla had trouble with, she never would (like remembering the names of all the people she met). but that's ok, because it made her less one dimensional. this book was interesting in the research elements, less so for the story. i think that from the story's perspective, probably the series should have ended with the 4th book, but it was interesting to learn about burial, matrimonial, and spiritual rites. it's amazing that there is that much information out there about these people that were living 30,000 years ago. and that information is definitely passed on to the reader in a casual but compelling way.