Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Song of Mavin Manyshaped by Sheri S. Tepper

Song Of Mavin Manyshaped
(Review written 1996 )
After many years away from the work of Sheri S. Tepper, I found some very nice paperback copies of "The story of the most famous shapeshifter of them all!" at the used bookstore a few weeks ago. I'd read Tepper's "True Game" trilogy back in the mid-eighties, and enjoyed it, but never got around to reading the Jinian or Mavin trilogies.
As you might have surmised, the tales of Mavin Manyshaped take place in the land of the True Game, where people are either born with Talent, and can become Rulers, Wizards, Necromancers, Dervishes, Healers, Armigers, Seers, Shifters or a number of other things, or they are born without Talent, and will only be Pawns. The trilogy, The Song of Mavin Manyshaped, The Flight of Mavin Manyshaped, and The Search of Mavin Manyshaped, take place before the events in the true game trilogy, and we get to learn a little more of the history of the characters we'd come to know in the world of the true game.
In The Song of MM, we enter the life of Mavin, a shifter of Danderbat keep. As a young teen, she is just beginning to display the shifter's talent of changing her body into nearly any form she desires, either fish or fowl, beast or plant. Due to a shortage of breeding females in the keep, any girls who manifest the Shifter gift are forced to mate with the Danderbat males until they have born three or four children. Only then are they allowed to leave the keep to pursue their own interests.
Mavin's older sister has been the only breeding age female left in the keep for several years. Barren, she has been forced to endure the attentions of all the keep's shifter males, who are eagerly awaiting the day when Mavin is officially named shifter and can join her sister in her "duties". Mavin has been kept ignorant of what being a shifter female really entails, and only through a chance bit of eavesdropping is she made aware of her fate.
Mavin has been given one of the most powerful shifter talents of all time, and when she learns what her sister has been going through all these years, she uses it to impose a fitting revenge on the brutal males, set her sister free, and escape from Danderbat keep with her younger brother, Mertyn. They travel to the city of Pfarb Durim, where Mertyn contracts the plague, and Mavin must brave the depths of Hell's Maw below the city to save him.
In the course of curing her brother's plague, she earns the friendship of the Seer Windlow, the Wizard Himaggery, and an entire tribe of Shadowpeople. She makes enemies of the Prince Valdon, the Demon Huld, and the Harpy Pantiquod. At the end, she and Himaggery realize that they may be in love, but she has not yet learned to be her own person, so they agree to meet again in Pfarb Durim in twenty years' time to see what may be.
All in all, an enjoyable read. Not especially deep or meaningful, but worth reading if you like light fantasy

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