In a novel that will evoke comparisons with Jean Auel's Earth Children series, the author of a trilogy about the making of modern Britain (most recently, The Edge of Night ) now tries her hand at Ice Age Europe. Though it contains none of the elaborate and flowery prose that often mars Auel's work, the novel also lacks the detailed research that makes that novelist's work so convincing. Wolf's introduction of a three-word cave-person vocabulary--"sa" (yes); "na" (no); and "dhu" (where)--is a distracting affectation. The remainder of the language is explained in a curious afterword in which Wolf maintains that the book is a "fable" based on speculation. A tragedy that deprives a tribe of all of its female members forces the clan's young men to kidnap and assimilate the distaff members of another tribe. The ensuing saga, though often predictable, intertwines the fate of the marauders with that of the violated tribe. The former is patriarchal, the latter a matriarchy. In a tritely upbeat fashion, the story ends with the melding of the best of both cultures. Despite its drawbacks, for many readers this will be a satisfying and broadly accessible prehistoric drama. First serial to Good Housekeeping; Literary Guild selection.