Lavina is beautifully written, as we expect from Le Guin, but it had me puzzled while reading it. The Afterword solved a lot of my confusion because it became clear that the book was Vergil fanfic. What I mean by that is that Le Guin is a big fan of the poet and wanted to write more fiction set in his “universe” and using his characters. That’s essentially what fanfic is, but of course Vergil is way out of copyright and Le Guin is a much better writer than most fanfic practitioners. It does mean, however, that the book will probably mean much more to you if you too are a Vergil fan.
The other thing that puzzled me was that the book is very strong on traditional gender roles, and in places rather negative about gay men. Obviously there’s the setting to consider, but Le Guin is smart enough to know that you don’t have to match history if you don’t want to. Anyone else find the book strange from the gender point of view?