Review

The Shelters of Stone

by Jean M. Auel

Read an Excerpt



The wait is over. And what a wait. There hasn't been an impatient
clamor like the one for THE SHELTERS OF STONE since Stephen King
--- at the end of THE WASTE LANDS, Volume Three in the Dark Tower
series --- left his protagonists and readers hanging while a
sentient choo-choo hell-bent on destruction careened across a
foreign yet familiar landscape as Roland the Gunslinger and his
motley crew tried desperately to answer a riddle that would save
their lives. The train ride lasted six years before King followed
it up with WIZARD AND GLASS. But this one! It's been 12
years
since Jean Auel ended THE PLAINS OF PASSAGE with
something more terrifying, more suspenseful, than anything King
could ever dream up: Ayla's momentous meeting with the family of
her true love Jondalar!

But here we are, in 2002, and lo, all of the rumors about Jean Auel
(she's dead, she has writer's block, she has a case of the
fuggedaboutits) are laid to rest with the publication of THE
SHELTERS OF STONE, the very-long awaited fifth volume of the
Earth's Children series. And was the wait worth it? Oh, yeah, very
much so.

I'll get the major complaint out of the way before we get to the
good stuff. A synopsis of what has gone before would have been
nice. There. That done, let's talk about what Auel does do. THE
SHELTERS OF STONE begins a few pages behind where THE PLAINS OF
PASSAGE ends, with Jondalar's return to the people of the Ninth
Cave of the Zelandonii (if you're lost already, never fear, there
is a handy-dandy glossary in the back of this mammoth volume that
will bring you up to snuff in no time).

Ayla finds Jondalar's people to be spellbinding. Their homes, for
one, are formed in cliffs of vertical limestone, and their clothes
and customs are a fascinating, but alien, concept to her.
Similarly, the Zelandonii are somewhat nonplused when Jondalar
shows up with a blonde-haired "flathead" (as Ayla's clan is
referred to) and with domesticated wolves and horses in tow. How
can this be, that wild animals dwell peacefully among human beings?
Jondalar's family, for the most part, welcomes Ayla. There are
those, however, who are not at all welcoming of Ayla, who are
afraid of her unfamiliar customs and resent her relationship with
Jondalar. So Ayla relies on her wits, rudimentary dignity, and
charm to deal with the hostile elements of the Zelandonii as she
and Jondalar prepare for their formal mating. Once they are mated,
however, Ayla discovers that her trials have only begun. She finds
herself in a complicated society where she must find a place with
Jondalar --- and prepare for the birth of their child.

The Earth's Children series might be described as historical chick
books, but they, and THE SHELTERS OF STONE, are ultimately so much
more than that. Auel's research of that which is known about our
ancestors remains exhaustive, and it is an absolute delight to
watch her weave the fruits of this research into a cohesive story
about what might indeed have been. Where a lesser writer might have
lost character development under the weight of facts and events,
Auel's protagonists are sharp and true and, most importantly,
believable. The people and events depicted in THE SHELTERS OF STONE
resonate long after each passage is read.

Auel reportedly is working on the sixth volume of the Earth's
Children series, even as THE SHELTERS OF STONE is being snapped up
and devoured by her legion of established fans and the new
generation of readers who only now are discovering her. It is safe
to conclude that Auel's exponentially growing list of readers will
wait for the next volume, albeit impatiently, for as long as is
necessary.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

The Shelters of Stone
by Jean M. Auel

  • Publication Date: April 30, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 753 pages
  • Publisher: Crown
  • ISBN-10: 0609610597
  • ISBN-13: 9780609610596