by Richard Adams
Reviewed by Coral
Maia is apparently another book that I read not realizing it that it was part of a series and that there was one (or sometimes more than one) book before it in the series. I actually don’t think I missed that much, maybe some greater depth of the political makeup of the central Beklan Empire but given what I felt about the book as a whole, I’m not sure reading book one would have helped that much. Except helping me decide not to read this one.
I am not even going to wait the couple of paragraphs that I would normally use to summarize the book before saying that I think this is one of the worst books I have read. Before this book, I would probably name three books (Aztec by Gary Jennings, A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay and The King by David Feintuch) that, out of all of the books I have read, can still make me angry years after I first read them. This book will probably become the fourth book on that list.
Maia – who starts out kind of dumb and doesn’t progress very much throughout the 1200 pages of the book – is fifteen when her mother sells her into slavery. Taken into the heart of the Beklan Empire, Maia is sold to a highly influential man. Soon she finds herself with the power to change the course of the whole empire.
I will start with a rather minor complaint: I was disappointed that there wasn’t really an element of magic to the story that the back of the book would lead you to believe. What “magic” there is in the book is more sleight of hand and trickery than fantasy magic.
The book made me angry for a lot of different reasons, so I will be going more in depth for my other rants, so it may have more spoilers than I would normally give out about books I review.
One of the main problems the book had is that most of the characters behave in ways that just don’t make any sense. Why would Maia help a girl she barely knows, pull off an act of deception that instead of helping them escape slavery, is designed to bring them to the place they will be sold faster? Why is a slave dealer so confused about what to do with Maia when she is brought to him? Because she is over the quota he was expecting? Oh, I have one more slave than I was expecting to get, so I will need someone to explain to me what I should do with her because her being extra suddenly makes her so different that what I do with all the other slaves I get won’t work with her. Why does Maia, when she falls in love with a soldier from a rebelling province, think the best thing to do is to betray her lover’s army to their enemies, the Beklans? The author even points out how dumb Maia’s actions are (and her expectations that her lover will understand and will still want to be with her) at this point.
I hate that every man and most of the women that Maia meets fall in love/lust with her. Five men ask her to marry her over the course of the book! Five! Because she is just so beautiful and special! And of the five men who want to marry her, one if the leader of the rebel army she betrayed (because, who cares that she betrayed your people to their enemy and was the main reason you were captured, imprisoned and threated with execution for treason! Obviously the people will welcome her with open arms as well!) and another is his half-brother (pretty much the same complaint, only substituting “your brother” for “you”).
I hated the out of place terminology in the book: the use of “devil’s playground” when there is no concept of a devil in this world; comparing someone to Alexander the Great, who did not exist in the book’s world; and using “God” in a polytheistic society where the author had previously been specifying which of three or four gods the characters had been praying too. I think the worst was probably saying at some point that this would be a good occasion for tea if such a thing existed in Bekla.
I was disturbed, a lot, by this book. Maia’s whole attitude towards being a slave – being proud that she was considered beautiful enough to be owned by one of Bekla’s highest ranking men, being proud that she could sexually satisfy her owner – was disgusting. Also disgusting was the fact she was fifteen/sixteen for most of the book. And lastly, the background inferences to pedophilia were also very disgusting.
Maybe it was because I stopped caring at this point – I only finished reading to see how bad it could get – or because there was a book one I didn’t know about, but the political plots seemed poorly handled. There really wasn’t anyone you could root for in the long term. Decent sounding characters were never explored, killed off, or reduced to another one of Maia’s many idiot admirers.
I honestly can’t believe this is the same author who wrote Watership Down. Though it has been a long time since I have read that book, so if it isn’t as awesome as I remember, I don’t want to know!