Richard Adams

Penguin 1985
A book review by Danny Yee © 1993
Richard Adams' Shardik was one of the first adult novels I ever read as a child (I read it before his better known Watership Down) and I can still remember the powerful impression the opening chapters made on me. I have reread Shardik several times now, however, and what most impresses me most about it is the depth of the historical and sociological detail — it reads like an extremely well researched historical novel, although it is about a completely imaginary country and peoples.

Maia is a sequel to Shardik (actually a "prequel", since the events happen several years before those of Shardik), but I found it a major disappointment. The background has the same depth of detail as Shardik, but where the latter is an almost religious novel, centred around a bear and one man's search for meaning, Maia seems to have much more in common with modern "genre" fantasy novels. It is the story of a beautiful peasant girl who becomes a sex-slave, gets involved in politics, saves the state and becomes famous, and then retires to a quiet country town with the man she loves (and with whom she fell in love at first sight). Maia is not nearly as sentimental and soppy as one might think from that outline, and it is certainly immensely better than the standard fantasy pulp, but the lack of the underlying religious theme makes Maia a much weaker novel than Shardik.

June 1993

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%T Maia
%A Adams, Richard
%I Penguin
%D 1985
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0140064761
%P 1129pp