I read this book quickly and found it much easier to get through than The Plains of Passage. That book (the 4th) was difficult for me because of the pages-long detours into descriptions of the landscape, plants, and animals that seemed to happen once every chapter or so (and this is coming from someone who enjoys looking at maps and atlases and learning about plants). I found the most interesting parts of the book to be those parts where Ayla and Jondalar met people on their journey and interacted with them, learning about their cultural differences.
This book was easier for me to read. The descriptions of landscape were just enough to orient the reader without becoming distracting interruptions from the story. I enjoyed learning about the day-to-day life of the Zelandonii, their religious beliefs and their technology. I didn’t enjoy the emphasis on social rank, and much of the plot and character development seemed to revolve around explaining who fit in where in their society, and why. I also found that Ayla was not quite as I remembered her— her interests seemed to have shifted somewhat in ways that confused me. That she would be willing to leave behind her identity of Medicine Woman, which she had previously declared was Who She Was, to settle down and have children, was a little mystifying and only a shallow explanation was given as to why. I also found it somewhat grating to hear her refer to herself as an “old woman” several times when she is only 19 years old. I understand this is a prehistoric perspective but it is made clear in the book that there are people in their society who live to be 50 or older, and Ayla has no concept of modesty or lying so this insistance that she is an old woman running out of time to have children is confusing to me.