Book Review: The Song of Mavin Manyshaped

I’ve been wanting to read a Sheri S. Tepper book for some time. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a great one for me to start with. It’s the first in a series of books I won’t be reading, but it’s part of the True Game series, consisting of a few trilogies and short stories. Although, I might give King’s Blood Four a go.

So, The Song of Mavin Manyshaped, like most high fantasy books I try to read, had far too many strange words and creatures and names to keep them all straight.

I got about halfway through before deciding that it was too confusing and too much work. I’ll stick with urban fantasy.

That said, what I did read and understand was superbly written. I love Tepper’s writing style, and I simply adore her social commentary on abused and exploited women, as well as the justified punishment Mavin dishes out to the disgusting rapists. Love. It.

This was my favorite passage, a perfect metaphor for rape:

When she had done, he whispered, “You know, the boys … they say … the ones like Leggy and Janjiver … they say the girls like it. That’s what they say. They say that the girls may say no, but they really like it.”

Mavin thought a time. “Mertyn child, you like sweet cakes, don’t you?”

He nodded, cocking his head at this change of subject.

“Let us suppose I put a basket of sweet cakes here, a big one, and I held your mouth open and I crumbled a cake into your mouth and pushed it down your throat with a piece of wood, the way the crones push corn down the goose’s neck to fatten it, so that your throat bled and you choked and gasped, but I went on pushing the crumbled cakes down your throat until they were gone. You could not chew them, or taste them. When I was done and your throat was full of blood and you half dead from it all, I would take the stick away and laugh at you and tell you I would be back on the morrow to do it all again. Then, suppose you came crying to someone and that someone said, ‘But Mertyn, you like sweet cakes, you really like sweet cakes…’

Since Tepper is known for her “ecofeminism” & my husband adores her work, I’ll likely try another at one point. One of the dystopian ones.

Basically, the problem with this book is not the book or the author, not by any means. It’s just a genre I don’t particularly enjoy except on very rare occasions.

I give it three out of five bookworms because I couldn’t finish it, but I recognize the quality of the writing and my own issues with this genre. I have no doubt fans of high fantasy will devour this book.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. The True Game series is phenomenal, but yeah, starting with The Song of Maven would make your head spin. You need to begin with King’s Blood Four. Even working up to Song, it’s not the most lucid chapter of her work. Peter’s series: King’s Blood, Necromancer Nine, and Wizard’s Eleven are much more coherent than the other two trilogies, which assume you are familiar with this complex world.

    Tepper is a fantastic but peculiar writer. Her style is what I think of as “loose” in that it’s not always completely obvious what is happening. She also creates extremely detailed worlds and societies, among the most complex and interesting of any author I’ve read (and that’s over 10,000 sci-fi/fantasy novels!), but she makes little effort to baby the reader into them, choosing a very embedded deep point of view. Sometimes, particularly in more recent decades, she gets ultra-feminist preachy. Still, really worth the investment. Try King’s Blood and see what you think.

    1. christinerose says:

      Thanks, Andy. Will do!

      My husband is a huge fan. She’s one of his top favorite authors.

  2. Atlant Schmidt says:

    “The Gate to Women’s Country” is always a good entré to Tepper.

    Most of her stand-alone novels are also fine*, but that’s the one she may be most famous for and it’s a great exemplar of her work.

    * “The Fresco”, “After Long Silence”, and “Six Moon Dance” are all quite approachable.

    1. Thanks for the recommendations.

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