Book Review: Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff

Book cover for Maresi by Maria TMaresi is the first book in The Red Abbey Chronicles. This book had me gripped, invested and definitely left me wanting more. On more than one occasion I’d jolt away from the  world Maria Turtschaninoff has created to realise I was going to miss my stop.

Synopsis of Maresi

Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen. Before then, she had only heard rumours of its existence in secret folk tales. In a world where girls aren’t allowed to learn or do as they please, an island inhabited solely by women sounded like a fantasy. But now Maresi is here, and she knows it is real. The Jai arrives, she has fled to the island to escape terrible danger and unimaginable cruelty. And the men who hurt her will stop at nothing to find her. Now the women and girls of the Red Abbey must use all their powers and ancient knowledge to combat the forces that wish to destroy them.

A few weeks ago now I hosted a #FeminismInYA chat with Maria Turtschaninoff, she was fantastic and gave a lovely insight into why she wrote Maresi. Fantasy and feminism entwined into a beautiful tail of self-sacrifice, female solidarity and championing knowledge as power.

The story is told in retrospect by the protagonist Maresi, who claims “I’m no storyteller” but that is most definitely a lie. Maresi is beautifully written. There is a steady build up to the inevitable doom, the literal calm before the storm. The Abbey is a place of sanctuary for women, where they collect shells, read, have lessons, take care of animals and eat bread. Men are not allowed on the Island, even when they trade with sailors. When a new novice comes to Island, escaping from her violent Father, things begin to change. We see as the novice is timid, fearful, silent but slowly grows and attaches herself to Maresi. However her Father soon arrives on the Island with mercenaries. The build up to the men entering the Island is incredibly shocking, like they have broken sacred laws, which they have.

There are scenes in this book that can be uncomfortable to read including sexual and physical abuse. Ultimately this book is about women who will do anything to protect one another and about a sisterhood that values knowledge and it’s power.

Have you read Maresi yet?