Book Title: Maresi
Series: The Red Abbey Chronicles #1
Author: Maria Turtschaninoff
Goodreads Link: Click here
Star Rating: – All the stars in the sky!
Disclaimer: I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.
The last book I read and reviewed brought me sorrow, but this new book brought me so much joy! I am so glad I chose this little YA book from a Finnish author. It is quite wonderful. Here is the synopsis.
Only women and girls are allowed in the Red Abbey, a haven from abuse and oppression. Maresi, a thirteen-year-old novice there, arrived in the hunger winter and now lives a happy life in the Abbey, protected by the Mother and reveling in the vast library in the House of Knowledge, her favorite place. Into this idyllic existence comes Jai, a girl with a dark past. She has escaped her home after witnessing the killing of her beloved sister. Soon the dangers of the outside world follow Jai into the sacred space of the Abbey, and Maresi can no longer hide in books and words but must become one who acts.
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
Note: (WordPress is annoying me to no end. For some reason it is refusing to accept my edits for this post. Sorry for the bad formatting.)