I have thoroughly enjoyed each installment of Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children series, and The Land of the Painted Caves was no exception. My chief complaint has been having to wait so long for each new installment as the novels follow Ayla and Jondalar on their journeys of growth and self-discovery. The detail with which Auel describes the environment, tools and ways of living bring the settings to life. The downside of the detail is that Painted Caves is a big book (physically), but that is justified because it is also a big book from the point of view of the sweeping, intoxicating story woven by Auel.
Painted Caves picks up where Shelters of Stone left off, with Ayla and Jondalar as new parents to Jonayla, and Ayla struggling to balance time commitments between her new daughter and her duties as an acolyte to the First among those who serve the Mother. Each step along Ayla's journey has highlighted one or more advances in human society and human understanding of the world around us, and Painted Caves is no exception. From the domestication of animals to the discovery of pottery, each step in the process has seemed like a novelization of discovering a new fundamental technology in one of the Civilization games. The upheaval caused by the revelation in Painted Caves has the potential to shatter the largely matriarchal society which has thus far existed among the Others.
My recommendation: Pre-order this book. Put a hold on it now if it is already in your local library's catalog. For the folks who have been waiting with bated breath for the next installment in the Earth's Children series, this book is everything that the previous installments have led Auel's dedicated fans to expect. March 29th can't get here fast enough.