Maia is set in the Beklan Empire, the same fantasy world as Adams's 1974 novel Shardik. Although published ten years after Shardik, Maia is a loose prequel whose events take place about a dozen years earlier. A few characters appear in both books.
Maia is a beautiful teenage peasant girl who is sold into slavery. Amidst colorful, boldly drawn characters, she is drawn (sometimes unwillingly or even unknowingly) into many adventures and machinations: ritual dances, flooding rivers, espionage, politics, and war. Some scenes, particularly during Maia's enslavement, include moderately explicit sexual and sado-masochistic elements. Nevertheless, she survives the decadence and danger with an impulsive, innocent sense of courage and action. Maia ends with the sort of quotidian, pastoral, familial scene (in Maia's memory and expectation of returning home) which commonly rewards the positive characters in Adams's works.
The morality of slavery is discussed among the characters throughout the book, and a civil war is fought in part to restrict the actions of slavers and limit the number of slaves in the Beklan Empire. Similar to the invention and use of the Lapine language among the rabbits of Watership Down, Adams employs some "Beklan" vocabulary to create a localized sense of honorifics and natural objects, as well as to avoid sexual vulgarity in English. (from Wikipedia)