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.
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