L.M. Ironside's Reviews > Maia

Maia by Richard Adams
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Boy...I am surprised at how many people here gave this book a low rating and claimed it was "social commentary on women" or that the author obviously has a low opinion of women or portrays women negatively. Really? Did we read the same book? This book is full of strong and admirable female characters...and even some not-so-admirable female characters who still cannot be said to be dumb, small-brained, only interested in sex, or any other misrepresentation slung about here in these reviews.

Maia is a fantasy novel by virtue of the fact that it's set in an imaginary place, but that's where the fantasy elements end. Otherwise, it's more likely to appeal to fans of historical fiction, with its focus on political intrigue, plots within plots, and the fates of rulers -- and their concubines. (Maybe that's why I found it so palatable. Rather than seeing it as some kind of condescension toward women, it strikes me as fitting right in with the rest of the historical fiction I love to read.)

The book is long, and Adams occasionally becomes long-winded, going into meandering digressions about various characters' histories. But the characters are so interesting and Adams' writing is so typically picturesque that it never bothered me enough to remove this book from my shelf. (In fact, I had three hardcover copies of this out-of-print gem, and I treasured them, but neglected to rescue them from my ex-husband's house when I moved out. :( )

The big strength of this book is its various characters, all of whom are well-painted and memorable. Contrary to what other reviewers thought, I found Maia to be not dumb or simple but compelling in her innocence and sweetness. She is sometimes naive, but she is earnest and kind, and when faced with a terrible situation (such as, for example, being sold into sexual slavery) rather than withering up and dying she adapts to her new world with the most positive attitude she can muster. As the novel progresses she grows a little older and a little wiser, and finally comes into her own as a heroic, brave young woman, willing to put her life on the line to save innocent lives. She's a main character worth rooting for, even if she's not perfect.

Occula is another female character who exudes confidence and power from the first moment she appears on the page. She is intelligent, cunning, possessed of great inner strength and patience that would make a monk envious. Occula is one of the most memorable characters in all of fiction, in my opinion, and for reviewers to write her obvious importance out entirely by saying that this book portrays a poor view of women is just ridiculous. This book wouldn't be what it is without Occula. She is integral to the plot and to the development of so many other characters and their subplots. I have a hard time imagining a sexist author would write such a character into his book. Or at least, a sexist author would "punish" such a character in some way for the mere fact of her greatness -- but on the contrary, Occula arrives in Bekla under her own terms, serves where she means to serve, and, in the end, gets exactly what she wants in exactly the way she wants it, and ends up fabulously wealthy and happy as a clam. This doesn't seem like the creation of a sexist writer.

Maia is a long, sensory, in-depth journey through Adams' fictional world, and the reader is guided by a host of fascinating characters. Don't pass this one up, especially if you love Adams' other works or if you are a fan of character-dense historical fiction.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Rakisha Great review! I, too don't understand the perception that female characters are portrayed negatively or weak.

L.M. Ironside I think some people will find it objectionable when any female character is portrayed as both sexual and meek. Seems kind of silly to me. Frankly, I am tired of all the cookie-cutter kickass girl characters.

Debra I agree with you Lavender. I loved the strong women in this book! Loved how Maia just rose to the top with a smile and a well timed...ah, well, spoiler.

L.M. Ironside I am in the middle of reading Shardik right now, and I am not liking it terribly well. I can't help comparing it to Maia, which was such a fantastic book...and by comparison Shardik just doesn't feel as real.

message 5: by Sam (new) - added it

Sam Thx for the detailed review, I'm adding this to the to read list now.

message 6: by Karla (Mossy Love Grotto) (last edited Jul 04, 2014 06:27PM) (new)

Karla (Mossy Love Grotto) when faced with a terrible situation (such as, for example, being sold into sexual slavery) rather than withering up and dying she adapts to her new world with the most positive attitude she can muster.

Sounds a lot like the real bodice ripper heroines I love so much. They take a licking or twenty but don't let it get them down. :)

L.M. Ironside You'll probably like this one! Though beware: it's a freaking doorstopper. And Richard Adams gets rambly, so there are entire chapters you can skip without missing any of the story. ;) It's one of the things hardcore fans love about Adams, and I am a hardcore enough fan that I have a tattoo inspired by one of his books, but yeah, BEWARE.

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