This haunting and otherworldly book is such an enchanting tale. I read it in just a few hours, but I know I'll be thinking about it for much longer. I loved the setting - a sanctuary for women and girls with a magic and mythology that feels epic. I loved the well drawn characters and their transformations in the course of the action. The action is engaging and builds to a satisfying and suspenseful climax. While there are dark elements in this tale, Maresi is ultimately an uplifting read with themes about friendship and finding inner strength in the face of fear. Fans of Naomi Novak's Uprooted will definitely want to check this out, but I think anyone who loves a good fairytale or folktale will be swept away by this read. This is a translation, but you wouldn't know it - the prose is fluid and magical all on its own. I can definitely see many of my high school girls enjoying this, particularly those who like the His Fair Assassin's series and Marie Lu's Rose Society books. It's going on my classroom library wishlist. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+. I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.
Nowadays, it's hard to come by a series that doesn't repeat the same old "chosen one" path and recycles the traditional elements of a fantasy YA series that every popular author seems to utilize. MARESI is the story of young women living in the Red Abbey, an island that's only mentioned in wishful stories and gossip. On this island, women are the only ones allowed to set foot on the ground, and even sailors are not allowed to go beyond the docks. However, the world surrounding it treats women as property, second-class citizens who sometimes lack the most basic rights.
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!
I read an excerpt from MARESI many months before it came out and from that tiny taste alone if became one of my most coveted 2017 releases. Sometimes I shoot myself in the foot that way and wind up being disappointed when a book doesn't live up to my expectations. MARESI went well beyond my expectations!
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.