Saturday, August 11, 2012

Reviews for Mayia...

Bad girls may not necessarily have more fun--but they're definitely more fun to read about. I'd guess that they're also a lot of fun to write about, if this engaging, well-crafted tale from Andre SanThomas is anything to judge by. "Mayia" is the fourth installment in SanThomas' superb Realm of Janos series, and very probably the best of the lot so far, combining elements of classic High Fantasy saga and heart-stopping heist-caper, pagan erotic romance and BDSM debauch.

As noted in my reviews of the earlier titles in this series, I strongly recommend beginning at the beginning with "Ielle" and "Ovia" before moving on to "Eanna" and "Mayia;" the storyline is cumulative and each new tale increasingly referential to characters and events in the previous books. The goings on in "Mayia" are closely related to the events in "Eanna;" in fact, they form part of the same story, and won't make much sense if read separately and out of sequence. However, the payoff in this exciting, decidedly high-adventure-tinged installment is well worth a foray into the pleasures of the first three.

After her failed coup attempt in "Ielle," Mayia has hit rock bottom, "discarded" by the owner she betrayed, publically humiliated in a month-long ritual of deprivation, and finally sold at auction to a brutal "rental-master." Mayia is not exactly a prostitute with a heart of gold, though gold is constantly on her mind. Unbowed in spite of her ordeals, pathologically prideful, single-mindedly ambitious, everything she does is calculated to her own advantage, premeditated in terms of escape to a higher station in life, one more suited to her unbridled delusions of grandeur and fevered dreams of revenge. Among the ranks of bad girls, Mayia is extraordinary, and it takes an extraordinarily bad boy to recognize her unique gifts and bring her into her own.

[It would not be possible to reveal too much more about the story without dropping a spoiler. Suffice to say it's not a good idea to annoy the Council of Oblates; those old fellows can be decidedly vindictive and amazingly creative when it comes to devising new forms of sexual torture.]

One of the real joys of this series over time has been to observe the author's growing maturity and command of her craft. The writing is lovely, facile and increasingly more direct. Having established the rules by which her imagined realm is governed, SanThomas has begun to play with the possibilities within those boundaries, and the results are wonderfully entertaining. Where, in some of her earlier books, I occasionally got the sense that she was too rigidly constrained by her own pre-established conventions, often missing opportunities for drama and conflict; in "Mayia," she begins to flex her muscles as an original creative force, recognizing what great artists have always known, that infinite possibilities are found within a well-conceived set of limitations.

With "Mayia" Andre SanThomas has given her readers an unforgettable, entertaining, fast-paced character-driven story, and that is a literary feat in and of itself. Highly recommended.

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