This was bad. I know that the last few in the series were pretty bad too, but I really thought that Auel would have pulled something really good out the hat for the final book in the series, especially after having had decades to write it.
Instead, the story drags. On. And. On. Seriously, too many long journeys. Too many caves. Too long becoming a Zelandonii. Too much repetition. I mean, we get it. There is a family in the cave that does not look after their children. Zellandonii (Zolena) is fat and has trouble moving around. Jondalar is a jealous bloke with a bad temper. Ayla can't sing. The special Clan root she chews for the important ceremony is very dangerous. Ayla believes that babies come from men and women having sex and this is a revolutionary thought that will change history.
I had heard most of this in previous books, and those things that I hadn't, I heard in this book way too many times.
My bigger problem was that I felt as though the Ayla in this book was almost a different Ayla to the one in the previous books. I'm sorry, but there is no way on earth that Ayla would ever agree to kill someone, no matter what the circumstances. And Ayla as a mother in this book just didn't feel right. It felt right with Durc, but not with Jondayla. Maybe it was just the stupid name, but there was no connection between them. It felt like Jondayla was a plot device rather than a real person. I want my characters to feel like real people.
Honestly, towards the end I was skimming the book, not reading it.
I'm glad that I read the book, and somehow I think that I could still recommend the series to people, because the first book connects with you so much (and the second and third books in my view) that it is worth reading the rest of the series just to experience how wonderful the story of Ayla and Jondalar can be.
I just wish that Auel had written a shorter and more concise series (and final book) that did her otherwise wonderful characters justice.
(I know this becoming a habit now, but again, this book won't get a star rating. If you read this series, you will eventually read this book, so there's little point trying to capture my feelings in a rating system.)