this is a hard one to review for me. i'll try to do the book separately from the series.this has gotten a ton of terrible reviews, and while i don't technically disagree with most of what the negative reviewers write, i do think that, unfortunately, this book isn't too appreciably worse than the others that came before. (unfortunately because most of the complaints that people make about this book are true for at least 2 others.) yes, there is way too much poor writing and dialogue, it is rife with repetition (not just of everything that ever happened in the other previous 5 books but also things that previously happened in this book that auel thinks we may have forgotten because it's been 400 pages), there is little plot (although i would argue actually more plot than in books 4 and 5), and an anticlimactic ending. oh, and the characters behave out of character here and there throughout the novel and all through the last third, which is particularly annoying, i think, when you've already given 4000 or so pages (and weeks of time) to reading about them. but, really, we've seen that in the other books - especially the poor writing and dialogue, and definitely the repetition. some of the out-of-characterness we see is auel's way to repeat - so ayla explains something to jondalar that he already knew so that the reader could know. or zelandoni asks ayla something she asked in the last book (and that shaped the last book) to clue the reader in. extremely annoying, but at least there's a reason for it. (but really, who is picking up book 6 of a 6 book series without reading any of the others? and even if they do, should she be pandering to them or just focus on writing a good book? because this really is distracting.) but more importantly there are plenty of examples of characters just really doing things they wouldn't through the entire last third of the book.what does that mean for this book? actually, i think that plot-wise it was a kind of appropriate next step for the series, unlike most reviewers that i've read. does that mean that i think it ended well or that i'm satisfied? no. i think that for a series where auel generally gives an insane amount of detail to the most mundane things, it's a shame that she skipped ahead in time during what would have easily been the most interesting time of ayla's life since the mammoth hunters (book 3). i was looking forward to reading about the society's training to become zelandoni and wasn't rewarded with much information. maybe auel left it out because she didn't have information about it, but it's a huge hole in the book, which she fills, instead, with not so interesting information about cave paintings. (the information she gives is purely what is seen on the walls, not what it means or why it's there, i'm sure because they don't know, but it got old before it got interesting.) but, again, this mirrors books 4 and 5 in that she was far more interested in imparting information than storytelling. so i think it flows in that sense. therefore, overall, not a satisfying ending of the series, but not nearly as terrible as i was lead to believe it would be.ok. more to the point, about the series. the clan of the cave bear was awesome. loved it. as much as you can love a book that really is not well written and has entirely hyperbolic characters. it's purely the story and the information (wolverine fur doesn't trap moisture so is good for wearing near the face in winter, animal stomachs make the best containers for liquid because they are more waterproof than other organs...), not to mention the incredibly strong female lead character that basically tells the origin story of the human race. archetypal characters and all that. and literally quite possibly the most compelling story i've ever read. i won't summarize it because everyone should read it. and while not well written, it is decent and probably the best written of the series, except for maybe the shelters of stone.the valley of the horses gave me the same feeling during the chapters that were about ayla. the ones that were about jondalar i was annoyed about at the time and still feel could be entirely eliminated. all the information we need about him and thonolan was given to ayla along the way and we could have just as easily learned about them as she did. it might have even helped the tension of the story. and could have cut out a good 250 pages. but i loved seeing ayla survive alone in the valley, love the addition of the animals, and mostly enjoyed her meeting and figuring out someone of the "others." way too much explicit and detailed sex that i'm told was at the insistence of the publishers and not what auel wanted to do on her own. still too much with the perfection of ayla and all that she "discovers" or "invents" on her own, but by now we know that these characters are either perfectly perfect or perfectly awful so we are annoyed but we forgive. (up to this point, some of the things that ayla has invented/discovered/done that no one in history had done before her include: making the first calendar, associating the moon with her menstrual cycle, becoming the best hunter the world has ever seen with a sling and devising a way to use it that no one had imagined possible, realized that sex between men and women is what starts life, domesticating animals, being the first person in history to ride a horse, inventing a travois and harness, discovering a new way to make fire, inventing the use of stitches for injury...and that's all i can think of off the top of my head.) there is quite a bit of recounting of what happens in the clan of the cave bear, but still, i really liked most of this book.the mammoth hunters was great for the information again, and for the themes of finding community, fitting in, racism, that sort of thing. the over-the-top misunderstanding between ayla and jondalar was *way* too much and too long but i really enjoyed the mamutoi and the community that ayla found with them. and ayla only invented one thing that i can remember (needles) in this book, although she became so adept at languages that she need only hear them spoken for a few minutes and she would magically know them, basically. again, lots of repetition to cover what we already knew. for me, and i hate to say this, but i think that this is where the series should end. as ayla and jondalar leave for the zelandonii, a year's journey away, we should be left to decide on our own if they make it, if the zelandonii accept ayla, etc. or the ending should be changed to have ayla stay with the mamutoi and become mamut and either jondalar is adopted by them or leaves to go home and finish his journey. or there is more to the series but it includes more plot information that as readers we really, really wanted.all of the next 3 books are not about continuing this story but are about imparting the research that auel has done, which is extensive and pretty incredible. but does not help the story, for the most part.the plains of passage is truly the book of this series with no plot (although it's the last book - painted caves - that gets this reputation). it's a long way to walk from what today is eastern europe to france, but they didn't really even meet people along the way until the book was over half over, and then it was a long, drawn out story about the evil attaroa and her community, which was 100 pages too long. so this was a book purely for auel to tell us her extensive knowledge about ice age europe, and for that it was really interesting. we learned a lot about the animals that lived during this time, and the geography of the land that is so different from what it is now. much of this was dusted over in previous books but was given in much more detail here. this book was great for learning about that stuff, but only advanced the plot a sentence or so (ayla and jondalar left the mamatoi to go to his people, the zelandonii, and after a long and dangerous journey of nearly a year, they arrived. that's the entire book condensed from a plot perspective.)the shelters of stone was also not a plot-driven book. we learn that the zelandonii people mostly accept ayla and she gains jondalar's status (after marthona makes sure that ayla is given her own high status), they are allowed to join as mates, and ayla agrees to train as zelandoni. so not as little plot as in the plains of passage, but really this book was about explaining how a large community lives, by dividing their land and their resources and responsibilities. how too many people drain the land and so spread out to different caves, many of which probably used to be inhabited by the neanderthals (the clan). and, again, for all of that it was interesting, informative, and worth reading. ayla was less perfect in this one (this could be said about the way she treated ranec in the mammoth hunters, too), which on one hand was refreshing, but her flaws seemed a little out of character at this point. to me, this one seemed slightly better written than the others.the land of painted caves really did have so much wrong with it, but i believe that, generally, they were the same things wrong with plains and shelters. as a last book in a series, i think people wanted more plot, more wrapping up of the many topics brought up over the thousands of pages, and that is fair. but i think it was clear that we weren't going to hear more about the clan, learn about durc or broud's cave, or get information about all the people that ayla and jondalar met along their trek to the zelandonii. (it was a really nice surprise - although a bit unrealistic - to see danug again, and hear a little gossip about the mamatoi that i was missing.) what i would have liked to see more of was the details of training to be zelandoni, but like i said above, probably auel didn't get much information about that in her research because it had to be secret. the 'big reveal' that ayla does is disappointing because in every book, including cave bear we're told about how she figures out how babies are made. so it's not a big moment for the reader when everyone else learns this. not to mention that it's not knowledge that seems particularly impressive to 21st century readers who never thought it was 'a mixing of spirits' in the first place. i was interested in the effects this knowledge could have on the society, as that was a little less intuitive to me, but it seems a little of a stretch to have our amazing, perfect, wonderful ayla more or less be responsible for the dying out of the clan and the replacement of matriarchy with patriarchy. maybe not a stretch but a downer. and that on top of what most people feel is a disappointment for lack of plot and many missteps in the writing and characterizations.i think that sums it up...except to say...i still really, really enjoyed these books. i can definitely say that i've never been so aware of the enormous faults of a book and still been able to like it as well as i liked this series. i dreamt about ayla most nights in the last 6 weeks or so that i've been reading and i will truly miss her now that i'm through with these books. while there are virtually countless problems with the books, there is something still so very good about them. and i do believe that cave bear is the most compelling book i've ever read, which says a lot, especially because i also see it as fraught with issues.