Maia -- a simple but instinctively brave and generous girl whose deeds will become legend... who will be celebrated as well for her ravishing beauty, which she alone understands is both a blessing and a curse.
Maia -- growing up as eldest daughter in a poor fisherman's family in a remote corner of the (mythical) Beklan Empire, leading a quiet, sheltered life (helping with the younger children, mending her stepfather's nets, swimming in the waters of Lake Serrelind) ... until, one day, the victim of a horrifying act of deceit, she finds herself en route to Bekla itself, to be sold as a concubine, completely cut off from her family and her past, friendless except for the young black woman, Occula, also on her way into slavery.
It is Occula -- a foreigner, a violent and cunning sorceress -- who saves Maia, instructs and protects her, prepares her to deal with her fate. Together, sold to a powerful Beklan nobleman, they are introduced to a world of luxury and depravity, of dazzling and seductive pleasures, and are enmeshed in a web of fierce political intrigue as they spend their days (and nights) in the company of Bekla's richest, most influential, most ruthless and ambitious citizens.
And when the Empire itself -- suddenly in political and military convulsion -- becomes imperilled, it is Maia alone who can prevent its destruction. At a moment of grave crisis she risks her life -- as well as her future with the young soldier she has fallen deeply in love with -- to save the Beklan army. She becomes a national heroine, famous throughout the Empire... And yet she herself remains caught up in danger and despair...
Maia's story takes us into the teeming city of Bekla and across exotic landscapes, through highly exciting scenes involving a host of compelling characters... encompassing plots and assassinations, battles and adventures, perils and escapes... creating an entire world. But it draws its special resonance from the radiant nature of Maia herself. Innocent, sensual, daring, modest, alive -- she sweeps us along in her wake, holding us fascinated, stirring our deepest sympathies. And when, finally, she prevails -- against all odds, by virtue of her own inherent decency and courage -- we are entirely satisfied. Maia is Richard Adams's most remarkable creation -- a heroine to love, in a book that enthralls.