Right. The Mammoth Hunters picks up right where The Valley of Horses left off. Jondalar and Ayla were out riding their horses and are hailed by a big dude with a smile on his face. Ayla’s first impression of him is how huge he is, because he’s even bigger than Jondalar (who is 6’6″ and looks like a young Ron Perlman, remember?) So, the giant invites them back home with him (cos everyone is super friendly in the stone age, dur) and they meet the Mamutoi of the Lion Camp.
I could go into all of the names and hearths and stuff, but it was pretty boring and I kind of zoned out while I was reading it (I did find this awesome 360 view of what one of the Mamutoi Lodges looked like, though). Important people: Nezzie, the mate of the headman of the Lion Camp. Ranec, a half-African man whose father is Mamutoi, but his mother died on the trip back from Africa when he was small. Mamut, the ancient mystic shaman. Frebec, asshole. Rydag, boy of mixed spirits that Nezzie adopted (he’s got a bad heart and has been frail since birth).
There are a bunch of long-winded introductions (which sets the tone for even longer-winded introductions in later books), but they’re not as long as they could be because Ayla introduces herself as “Ayla of No People.” She has an interest in the boy that Nezzie adopted because he kind of reminds her of Durc – the son she was forced to leave behind. Rydag is unable to speak because he inherited his neanderthal mother’s underdeveloped vocal cords, so Ayla teaches him the Clan sign language and the rest of the camp starts using it as a way to communicate with him, but also just to mess around.
Ranec decides pretty much the minute they show up that Ayla is The Love of his Life, and is determined to convince her to share his hearth with him. This pisses Jondalar off, but he’s too busy being a passive aggressive jerk to actually tell Ayla how he feels about it.
Of course, because Ayla is so Mary Sue awesome everyone loves her (except Frebec, more on him in a bit) and they decide that instead of her being Ayla of No People, they’re going to adopt her and make her Ayla of the Lion Camp of the Mamutoi. Ayla decides this is an awesome idea since her totem is the Cave Lion. When she finds some amber on the ground with a bug inside, it cements her decision because that was obviously a sign from her totem. At about this point, there’s this big long passage about how she is wearing pants for the first time, so she has to figure out how to pee without taking them completely off. Not only did she not invent the pants (shocker, I know!) but she isn’t even smart enough to figure out how to pull them down a little and squat.
Mamut realizes that she’s a very powerful medicine woman, and instead of letting the Lion Hearth adopt her (as was originally intended) he speaks up during the ceremony, saying that she will now be part of the Mammoth Hearth. Jondalar sits there all pissy because he doesn’t really want Ayla to become one of these people, he wants to take her home to mommy…only he’s never actually told her this, so how is she supposed to know? Frebec stands up and objects because Ayla was “raised by Flatheads” and had a half-breed baby, so she’s an abomination he doesn’t want associated with him in any way. He changes his tune when Ayla shows off her mad fire-making skillz, and Ayla is adopted into the Mamutoi.
There is much celebrating that night, much bouza to drink (not joking, their alcoholic drink is called bouza) and Ranec invites Ayla to “share his furs.” Since she was raised that women don’t say no to men who are making advances, she goes with him and Jondalar has a massive freak out. He starts giving her the cold shoulder and stops sharing a bed with her. Ayla has no idea what she’s done wrong, she just thinks her Jondalar doesn’t love her any more. This goes on and on. Seriously, they spend the whole winter there and everyone senses the tension between them, but not one person suggests that they actually, you know, talk to each other. Ranec seizes his chance and convinces Ayla to be his mate because he loves her so much and blahblahblah. Ayla agrees, but really only wants Jondalar.
blahblahblah, nothing much happens except Ayla convinces an old lady to teach her the secret of making white leather, and she works on a soopersekrit tunic that will be a surprise for an unnamed someone. Oh, and she invents the sewing needle, no big.
One day, Ayla is out collecting ermine from her snares and sees that a black wolf has been eating her kills. She becomes very upset and chases after the wolf. She kills it with her sling, then notices that it was a nursing mother. Overcome with a fit of remorse, she follows the trail and finds its den. Inside is a lone puppy wolf. She deduces that because the mother was black it was ostracized by the other wolves for being different, and various other things that are just to give this baby wolf a back story. The bottom line is, she killed its mother so she’s now responsible.
She takes the wolf puppy back to the lodge and everyone is super shocked at first. The horses are one thing because they’re useful, but this is a meat eater! Nevermind that he’s a super tiny puffball, some people don’t want him to stay. Too bad. This is Ayla Sue, she always gets her way.
Mamut is trying to teach Ayla the ways of the spirit world, but they have a bad drug trip and Jondalar calls her back before she’s trapped there forever. She doesn’t know that his was the voice that called her home, and sees Ranec when she wakes up…they spend the night sharing Pleasures. Ew.
Jondalar decides he can’t take it anymore and that he’s going to head out THIS INSTANT to get home. Nezzie convinces him to stay, because they want him to hunt mammoth with them at the Summer Meeting and show off those nifty spear-throwers he invented.
They arrive at the Summer Meeting, and everyone is totally wary of Ayla and her animals. Not only are the horses and wolf with her, but Baby (remember, her lion?) shows up and starts trying to cuddle up to some other blonde chick. Ayla goes to greet him, then rides him across a meadow. It’s pretty ridiculous. After that, though, people are sure she’s sent by Mut, and everyone wants her to be their mate.
A whole bunch of them head north to hunt mammoth and on the way back to camp a volcano erupts! Sadly, this was not as exciting as it sounds, it just covers everyone in ash. Wolf (yes, that’s his name) was left at camp with Rydag, and he comes running to find Ayla even though they’re days away from the meeting at this point. Of course Wolf finds her and she hurries back, but it’s too late. Rydag dies shortly after she arrives and she gives him a proper Clan burial.
Jondalar sleeps with a bunch of women at the meeting, but none of them compare to his beautiful Ayla. He’s even asked if he’s willing to participate in the First Rites ceremonies, but (for possibly the first time ever) he declines, claiming the girl they want him to “open” is too close to him and it would be like doing his little sister. The day Ayla is supposed to be mated to Ranec is the day Jondalar actually leaves. When she realizes he’s gone, someone finally tells her to go after him and she does. They profess their undying love for each other, and tell each other how stupid they’ve been for the last year. DUR, EVERYONE SAW THIS BUT YOU!
So, yeah. After this, they ride off into the sunset together. We’ll find out more about that journey next week.