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Vintage Treasures: Cloven Hooves by Megan Lindholm

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Cloven Hooves Megan Lindholm-back-small Cloven Hooves Megan Lindholm-small

Cover by Richard Bober

Before she became an international fantasy superstar with The Farseer trilogy and the Liveship Traders novels, Robin Hobb published nearly a dozen highly-regarded books under the name Megan Lindholm, including Wizard of the Pigeons (1985), the SF novel Alien Earth (1992), and The Ki and Vandien Quartet. In tone and subject they are very different from the Robin Hobb-branded heroic fantasy that made her a bestselling author, but even by that standard Cloven Hooves stands out. It’s the story of a modern woman who leaves her husband to have an affair with a satyr, with a lot of graphic sex.

It’s a very different adult fantasy, and while it made the preliminary Nebula ballot, it vanished almost without a trace. It remained out of print in the US for nearly three decades, until it was reprinted by Harper Voyager as part of their Voyager Classics line this past April. It’s worth seeking out for Hobb fans, or any serious fan of contemporary fey fantasy. Here’s a snippet from Georges T. Dodds SF Site review.

Read a hundred pages into Cloven Hooves and you’d be convinced you were reading a very conventional, if well-written, mainstream novel: an everyday story of a woman, Evelyn, and her odyssey from an unfettered and imaginative childhood in rural Alaska to a crumbling marriage among her husband’s family in Washington State. The remainder of the book, however, chronicles her passionate relationship, mating, and bearing a child to a woodland satyr. Certainly, as with her urban fantasy Wizard of the Pigeons, mainstream readers said, “what’s with the fantasy element?” While fantasy readers said, “what’s with the 100 pages of character development and the mythology that’s as old as the hills?” Ultimately the poor sales of her novels under the name Megan Lindholm, by her own admission, led her to recast herself as Robin Hobb…

Certainly, sexuality and Greek mythology were preeminent in earlier fantasy works… but Lindholm’s story contrasts strongly from them by being set in the here and now. However, originality isn’t everything, and if I’m telling you to go out and grab this book while you can, I’m going to have to give you some good reasons…

If you’re the sort of reader who sees fantasy lurking just outside everyday life, “knows” the forest, enjoys well developed, engaging characters, and is vehemently opposed to cloning of fantasy novels, Cloven Hooves is for you. Even if you are none of these, you owe it to yourself to expand your horizons to encompass the beauty and eloquence of Cloven Hooves.

Our previous coverage of Megan Lindholm/Robin Hobb includes:

Harpy’s Flight by Megan Lindholm (aka Robin Hobb) by Fletcher Vredenburgh (2013)
Robin Hobb on What’s Wrong with Epic Fantasy (2014)
Fool’s Assassin: How Robin Hobb Writes Lyrical Fantasy Without Being Boring by M Harold Page (2016)
Robin Hobb Wraps Up the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy with Assassin’s Fate (2017)

Cloven Hooves was published by Bantam Spectra in December 1991. It is 360 pages, priced at $4.99 in paperback. There is no digital edition. The cover is by Richard Bober.

See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.

5 Comments »

  1. I read that Robin Hobb is the pseudonym, Megan Lindholm is the authors actual name some years back. When i discovered this choice tidbit of information i notified a friend who is a big Hobb fan and in due course I was able to obtain the Windsingers books. My friend enjoyed them but was also disappointed. If memory serves it was not so much the quality of the writing, but she had been expecting something more along the vein of The Liveship Traders.

    It would be interesting of someone were to cover that series and provide a review?

    Comment by Tony Den - January 23, 2020 2:49 am

  2. Hi Tony,

    Good suggestion. I’d love a review of the Windsinger books… or The Liveship Traders. If I find a reviewer, I’ll let you know!

    Comment by John ONeill - January 23, 2020 11:13 am

  3. Both “Megan Lindholm” and “Robin Hobb” are pseudonyms, although “Lindholm” is her actual last name. In the introduction to her short story collection “The Inheritance,” she explained that she had “never been fond” of her given name. She famously kept her double identity secret for several years, finally confessing in a Locus interview.

    As for stylistic differences between Lindholm and Hobb, she’s stated, “But to this day, they remain separate writers in my mind. They may use the same battered keyboard, the one with the letters worn off the buttons….But they are not the same author, but rather two writers with different styles, issues, and choices of tale….Even today, when I get a story idea, I immediately know if it belongs to Lindholm or Hobb, and the story is written accordingly. Robin tends to hog the word processor with her big books, but Megan has continued to write and publish shorter works.”

    Comment by Jeremy Erman - January 25, 2020 7:57 am

  4. Thanks Jeremy, I was not aware of the first name story. Very interesting how she can separate the styles, extraordinary talent.

    Comment by Tony Den - January 26, 2020 3:27 am

  5. Jeremy,

    Agreed — thanks for sharing that! I find it fascinating.

    I did a quick search and found that Charlie Jane Anders published the complete Preface to The Inheritance at io9 (or at least, Hobb’s Preface):

    https://io9.gizmodo.com/find-out-how-robin-hobb-became-two-different-people-5792234

    The article also includes excerpts from a pair of stories.

    Is there an online link to the Locus article?

    Comment by John ONeill - January 26, 2020 11:13 am


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