Review by Joel Kreissman
Christopher Vastag’s Children of Maya takes us to a fantasy land inhabited by changelings who can shift between a human and an animal form. The kingdom is ruled by a tyrannical wolf changeling who considers changelings of prey species to be nothing but slaves, or food. The narrative switches between Maria, a downtrodden rabbit enslaved in a gold mine who starts getting visions from the banned mother goddess Maya, and Reginald, the wolf king’s son who thinks his father has gone too far. They meet up after Maria’s slave revolt fails and are instantly smitten with one another. Will they be able to overthrow the mad king and restore justice to the land?
Well, we’ll have to wait until the next book.
The first few chapters seem almost episodic. You start to think that the plot might be resolved quickly, but then you get complications that keep the plot going for another few chapters. Things really get moving around the halfway point and it’s essentially self-sustaining from there.
I appreciated how the author refrained from making any one species wholly good or wholly evil. You’ve got protagonists and antagonists among both predators and prey.
It’s not very clear though how anthropomorphic the animal forms are. A lot of the predator nobles seem fond of walking around on their hind legs in animal form, but there’s also many cases of what seems like four-legged chases.
I thought it a bit creative to use Latin names for the changeling breeds. The conjugation was inconsistent (Lepores and Canum are plural but the book uses them as singular, while “Vulpecula” means “little fox”), but I’ve been learning Latin and I know how complicated it is.
I also could not tell if non-changeling mammals existed, although there were a few references to birds.
It was interesting how it looked like the predator god’s priests had no powers at first, only to hint at the possibility that the stories about them have a grain of truth after all.
Overall, I’d say it’s a pretty good fantasy novel, though the story is nowhere near complete. I await the sequel.