I have very mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I'm tempted to read the next book in the series to find out what happens next (although I probably won't). But on the other hand, I'm deeply disturbed by some of the subject matters of the book. An author who writes about pre-history has a definite choice about how to create her characters and what they do because there are no written records to tell us how they behaved.
The subject matter of the story is interesting enough. A young girl whose clan was killed in an earthquake is rescued by a The Clan of the Cave Bear whose physical traits are very different from her own. The Clan of the Cave Bear has great difficulty in accepting the girl, Ayla, because she is very different from them. She has blonde hair and blue eyes, isn't as short and stout as they are, uses more language than them, laughs and cries, and doesn't have the collective memories that they have. While eventually accepted by most, she's constantly loathed by Broud who is slated to become the next leader of the clan. He constantly showers her with hate and violence, despises her upcoming status as medicine woman, hates the luck that follows her, and wishes death upon her.
The author has obviously done much research in order to show the medicinal qualities of the plants of the region and the weapons used by the people of the time. However, sometimes the book reads more like an encyclopedia when the author chooses to emphasize some of these things. I like the attention to detail, but it seems extremely awkward in places.
It also disturbs me that this author chose to emphasize infanticide and the physical and sexual violence of cave men toward their women. The clan seems to take infanticide and abuse as normal. What really made me angry was that the author seemed to try to write the violent scenes in an erotic way that I've only ever seen in this series and the [b:Outlander|10964|Outlander (Outlander, #1)|Diana Gabaldon|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41PXCSX5AKL._SL75_.jpg|2489796] series. It disturbs me that, in both series, rape is commonplace, accepted, and eroticized. What's even more disturbing is that nobody seems to mention them in their reviews of the book. Someone said to me that these violent acts are placed in the book to show the people moving away from violence. However, I didn't see any evidence of anyone reacting negatively toward the violence except for Ayla. I had difficulty determining if the author was writing from a feminist perspective that assumed all men to be sex-crazed and violent or if the author was glorifying these things.
I'm not sure how to rate this book because I hated some components of it, but I want to find out what happens in the next book as Ayla searches for people of her own kind. So I'll rate it thusly:
*Cliffhanger ending = 4 stars
*Unnecessary violence toward women = 1 star
*Research = 5 stars
*Awkward use of research = 1 stars
*Story idea = 4 stars
*Fantasy elements = 1 star
AVERAGE = 2.6 stars, rounded DOWN to 2 stars