Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Mammoth Hunters - 5 stars

Summary of The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel:
The authenticity of background detail, the lilting prose rhythms and the appealing conceptual audacity that won many fans for The Clan of the Cave Bear and The Valley of the Horses continue to work their spell in this third installment of Auel's projected six-volume Earth's Children saga set in Ice Age Europe. The heroine, 18-year-old Ayla, cursed and pronounced dead by the "flathead" clan that reared her, now takes her chances with the mammoth-hunting Mamutoi, attended by her faithful lover, Jondalar. Gradually overcoming the prejudice aroused by her flathead connection, Ayla wins acceptance into the new clan through her powers as a healer, her shamanistic potential, her skill with spear and slingshot and her way with animals (she rides a horse, domesticates a wolf cub, both "firsts," it would seem, and even rides a lion). She also wins the heart of a bone-carving artist of "sparkling wit" (not much in evidence), which forces her to make a painful choice between the curiously complaisant Jondalar, her first instructor in love's delights, and this more charismatic fellow. The story is lyric rather than dramatic, and Ayla and her lovers are projections of a romantic rather than a historical imagination, but readers caught up in the charm of Auel's story probably won't care.

I had a hard time rereading this book, because of memories of the emotional anguish I felt the first time. It really captures your heart, and your mind. I cried the first time, and the second time I wanted to hurry through the parts that I knew were coming up and would make me cry. After reading this book my emotions would be influenced for hours afterward. If the book made me sad, I would be sad afterwards and needed to be comforted. There are few books that can do this to me, and it really shows the power of the story Auel has built up. I highly recommend it.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Crown of Dalemark - 4 stars

Summary of The Crown of Dalemark by Diana Wynne Jones:
The story's engaging first part concerns Mitt, a sensitive, courageous young man who speaks his mind. An earl and countess assign him the unpleasant task of murdering Noreth, a teen who believes it's her destiny to seek the ring, cup, and sword that will allow her to unify the land and become queen. The author then leaps ahead 200 years and introduces Maewen, 13, who is sent back in time to impersonate Noreth. Maewen is quite clueless about her purpose, but adjusts to the strangeness of being in the past and on a quest remarkably quickly. Her followers accept her as Noreth without suspicion?proving Wynne Jones's observation that people see what they want to see.

This is the conclusion of the Dalemark Quartet, and it deftly brings together the previous three books. They did not seem to connect at all, but the forth one brings it together in ways I had not thought of as I was reading the previous ones. It was literally awesome, and I finished the book in one day. I highly recommend it, but only after reading the other three because otherwise you will be confused.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Valley of Horses - 4 stars

Summary The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel:
Auel's second installment in the Earth's Children series does start out fairly slow. Not only does the plot follow Ayla and her newly-found animal companions but it also focuses on Jondalar, the handsome blonde-haired, blue-eyed wonder, and his brother, Thonalon. Most of the first half of the book tends to make you want to skip pages to get to "the good part" however, again, there is a wealth of knowledge about the Ice Age throughout the pages. Auel even uses several pages to discuss flint knapping. For those of you who aren't interested in the historical perspective, you may find the book rather dull until Ayla and Jondalar finally meet.

This book continues the story of Ayla. I found it enjoyable, but there were often parts that got boring that I skimmed, such as descriptions of how to hunt. It's information heavy, but it's still an enjoyable story. Some of the people don't seem real, but those are minor characters so it's forgivable. The summary above is a pretty accurate description of how I feel about this book.