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Maresi (The Red Abbey Chronicles) Hardcover – January 3, 2017
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"Utterly satisfying and completely different from standard YA fantasy, this Finnish import seems primed to win over American readers."
father and the Sisters. But what’s more impressive about this fantasy is the subtlety with which the serenity of the island and its way of life is established—through the calls of birds, the sounds of the lapping sea, the smoothness of driftwood."
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While Turtschaninoff can get a bit Tolkien-ish in providing more detailed descriptions than one needs I didn't feel like it bogged the story down. The world building is subtle and tense, presenting just enough information of the world beyond the Red Abbey to frighten. As a woman, as a mother, as a feminist, I found myself terrified and angry only to realize just how unfictional many of the elements of the story were.
This book is absolutely everything. I can't even express how phenomenal it is. I wish I could send a copy back in time to my teen self so that I can have read this when I needed it most. Calling this a must-read feels like an understatement and I desperately await the next two translations of the Red Abbey Chronicles.
Note: ARC received via NetGalley.
The world that Turtschaninoff created in MARESI is wicked and evil, but that's what really drew me in; I wanted to know who was in charge, why there was so much hate between people and if anyone was willing to stop it. MARESI didn't really offer me that initially, and as I was reading on I was wondering what was even going on. I had really high expectations for this book, and I think that there was a lot that could have been done with this story, but it did drag on to be a bit boring at times.
The narrator, a young girl called Maresi has only now adjusted to life on the island, and is now welcoming a new girl, Jai, who has come as a runaway from an abusive household. Girls who live in the abbey have usually been mistreated, or have been sent by family members in hope that they will be educated and be given a chance to live. Jai has escaped her father, who brutally murdered Jai's sister, with the help of her mother and is taken charge of by Maresi and the sisters at the abbey.
The relationship between Maresi and Jai was beautiful and extremely enjoyable to read about. They represent a great friendship, which is so hard to come by in newer books. Maresi and Jai have each other to grow, and though they do not always have a very vocal relationship, they know they can rely on each other. They were the main reason I didn't put down MARESI. Sisterhood seemed to be one of the main themes of this novel; Maresi and Jai's friendship shaped the plot of the book.
It's interesting to see Turtschaninoff's approach to feminism. I enjoyed looking at the Red Abbey as a Utopian society; every woman is taught to think intellectually and be laborious, but there is one mistake --- they are never taught about war.
MARESI was a delightful book, not only for its originality but for its gripping plot and interesting characters. I am genuinely interested in getting to know more about the twisted world Turtschaninoff has created in the first installment of The Red Abbey Chronicles. The second book in the series has already been released in its native Swedish, so it will undoubtedly come out in English in the near future. As soon as it happens, I will definitely be reading it!
Reviewed by Rachel D., Teen Board Member
We bandy about this descriptor of a “strong female character” and frequently that means a girl with a gun, or maybe a bow and arrow. Someone strong, who can kick butt and take names. But I’ve had trouble wrapping my mind around this narrow idea of what a strong girl means. Susan Van Metre, Editor-in-chief of Amulet Books addresses this in her forward to Maresi: “These invincible girls are so fun to read about and watch, yet with their reliance on physical prowess and their video-game-like skills, it seems sometimes as if they’ve been set down in a boy’s game. One they are winning, sure but a game made by men nonetheless. So I was thrilled to encounter this book … It’s a world rich with different possibilities of womanhood, one in which strength has distinctly feminine qualities.“
I chose to quote her here because she expressed perfectly what has been bothering me about the “strong female character”, but that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Why does this butt-kicking female have to be so masculine in order to be considered strong? Maresi does much to show a world of women who are strong in their own right, and by their own definition. It is a little, feminist gem of a book. The women and girls of the Red Abbey are pillars of strength, not as seen through the male lens, but instead strong in their support of one another, strong in mind, in spirit, in resilience, cleverness and character. I loved them wholeheartedly.
The book starts strong, the Red Abbey is a little haven for girls and women who have no place in the world. Some have endured hardships in their life, poverty, misogyny, lack of education, but here at the Abbey they receive an education. They live in safety, with fulfilling work, and life in a matriarchal society. I really enjoyed the first act of this book, where you are introduced to the daily life and the way their world is structured. Of course, they can’t stay insulated from the world forever. The second act sees their way of life and future imperiled. How they protect themselves sets up what promises to be a great fantasy series.
I really hope you will all read this book. I so want to read the rest of the series! I am hoping that the publishers has plans to publish them in English. I will continue hopeful.
Song for this book: Kind by Eisley
Disclaimer: I received this book free from Netgalley.
Most recent customer reviews
A remote island abbey where only women are welcome.Read more
I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting much from this book.Read more