I had read Clan of the Cave Bear & thought it was interesting, so I decided to read Valley of Horses, the next in a series of "Earth's Children" books by Jean Auel. Being a red blooded American male of the species, I'd never heard of them before - we picked them both up in a box of books at a yard sale down on South Avenue in Valdese. I'm not sure how many more books there are in the series.
First I need to gripe about the titles. I naturally want to say Clan of the Cave Bears, which is wrong, and I also have a strong urge to say Valley of THE Horses, which is also wrong. I bet anything the author did this on purpose, just to screw people up and see who was paying attention. I can think of no other reason.
I liked Clan of the Cave Bear - it must have been interesting growing up Neanderthal. The author created a whole culture for them, I'm sure a mixture of accepted scientific belief with imagination used to fill in the holes.
The story continues with Valley of Horses, with Ayla forced to leave the clan by the extremely jealous, angry, and impulsive Broud, using every bit of skill she has just to survive. But the book introduces another major character, Jondalar, who is on a "Journey" with his brother to travel to the end of the Mother river - looks like the modern day Danube. (or Donau).
Slowly but surely it becomes clear that Jondalar is something of an Ice Age John Holmes, but much more handsome, and Valley of the Horses becomes, in addition to everything else it is, something akin to literary pornography geared towards women.
The characters are great, extremely vivid, detailed, very well described, very realistic and it is very easy to identify with them. Jean Auel is at least as good as someone such as Orson Scott Card ("Ender's Game" etc) when it comes to character development, maybe better. Most characters in most books can't come close to touching Ayla and Jondalar - it's beautifully written that way. My fear is I'm going to compare the characters in every book I read after this to the characters in this book, and I'm sure almost all will come up short, they'll seem somehow incomplete.
And it's not just humans - Whinney the horse and Baby the cave lion are also an important part of the story.
But the descriptions of sexual encounters involving Jondalar are overpowering, and I'm not sure that it always advances the story. Or maybe it does - it is certainly part of his (and Ayla's) being. But it's like the author gets lost in it, and it goes on and on forever with page after page of throbbing manhood and pulsating wetness and such. But you know how us males are, it could be that my main complaint was that there werent any pictures. Anyway, when I finished this book my overall impression was "Man, there's a lot of sex in this book". There's more than enough sex in this book to get a Republican up in arms, or to cause some parent somewhere to demand it be removed from the school libraries. Assuming it was ever there to begin with.
But the book is so much more. Its a great story with beautifully written characters, in a beautifully described location just trying to live their lives 30,000 years or so ago. You're not going to find many books as good as this.