There are possibly spoilers in this review, but not so much to ruin the book for anyone, at least I don't think so.
First, Ayla was an incredible character. She was born of the Others, but found and raised by the Clan. I can almost understand her plight a bit, as a black girl who grew up in predominately white neighborhoods and schools, I know what it was like to be the odd man out. To have people stare at you because you look different, to be treated as though you didn't belong. But there was always a person(s) who looked at you for who you were. Ayla found that in Iza, Creb, Uba, and many others. Iza loved her more than her biological daughter and Creb loved her as if she was his daughter as well. Uba loved her like a sister.
She proved that though she looked and even had different feelings and emotions, she could love and learn and work just like everyone else in the Clan. In a lot of ways she was better than the Clan. She didn't have their inherited memories, but she could learn and comprehend things that they couldn't. Creb knew it and it frightened him. I think he knew all along that the coming of the Others would mean the end of the Clan.
I didn't expect the amount abuse that she endured. Having watched the movie, can I just say it was a sad, sad representation of this book! She endured hate and ostracism and just flat out physical and emotional abuse--particularly from Broud, who was also not like the typical clan. He hated Ayla because she was not of the Clan; she looked and behaved differently. She was stronger and braver, and smarter than him and he envied her that. But that is not the way of the clan. He had violent tendencies and exhibited jealousy and yearned for revenge. Broud was very egotistical and cared more about his estimation of himself than he did the well-being of the Clan. These were definitely not traits of the Clan, so for as much as he despised Ayla for her differences, he was equally as different.
The Clan had very short life spans, they became men and hunters, women and mothers very, very young. Boys were hunters at 12 and some women were mothers at 10. They became physically old and died young as well. If a member of the Clan made it to their 30's it was ancient! For some people the ages at which certain events took place could be considered shocking, but to me it makes sense. They were cavemen. They lived hard, short lives; their brains and bodies were not developed the way people are today. They were short and bowlegged and barely stood upright. They were very stout with thick bones and protruding brows. Their brains were made for instinct and the memories they inherited at birth; they couldn't really learn new things, or think in new and critical ways. Ayla was thin and tall with straight legs and a 'flat' brow. She didn't develop into the Clan's expectation of womanhood until much later, and I expect she (and the Others) have a longer lifespan. She didn't have the same memories and instincts, but she could think for herself, and question things. Creb knew she was bright, but didn't think she was as smart as him. I think she was smarter. She just didn't have his life experiences to draw from.
I loved that Ayla was strong despite what Broud did to her over the years. For every rotten, hateful, and abusive thing he did to her, she came out of it a little stronger and braver than before. This, of course, only made Broud hate her even more. It was no surprise what he did to her when he finally became leader. I cannot believe that Brun was so blinded by his love for his son that he could not see that there was no changing Broud. More than that, I HATE that the bastard got to curse her in the end. I really wish she would have left with Durc before he became leader. I know Durc had a mate waiting for him when they came of age, but but with Ayla gone, he's at Broud's mercy. Iza, Creb and Ayla are gone, the cave is destroyed...what will happen to Durc, to the Clan? Will they have to move again? Will Ayla find the others? Will she return for Durc? Will Broud cause his Clan to fall apart because of his selfish tendencies? That's a definite yes if you ask me. But the only way to learn these things is to read the next in the series. I am so glad I finally took the time to read this book.