Cover Image: Maresi


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Member Reviews

Red Abbey, an island where women are withdrawn from the world to act out their lives in accordance to the moon dictates and the Mother Godess. Red Abbey is a shelter from all that would abuse, from starvation and more. Three  aspects have ascendency in their own time, that of Maiden, Mother, Crone.
When great danger threatens the Abbey these aspects of the moon come into play, and lives change including that of novice Maresi who came as a young child and Jai who fled a family where women were worth nothing. 
Now these two must act.
A fantasy for Young Adults exploring feminine questions wrapped in mystery and fortitude that I found captivating.

A NetGalley ARC
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Atmospheric and claustrophobic, without being super depressing. I can definitely see where the The Handmaid's Tale comparisons come from. It's an odd little book, but I think it could work for readers who liked Grave Mercy or The Scorpion Rules
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So glad I got approved for this. Loved the cover and loved the story!
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This book was a magical, simplistic tale. It felt like a much older story--like a legend that's been passed down, which is funny because that's exactly what the main character says--she's writing down the story so the women in the Abbey's future will know about the events that happened during her time there.

Though a little slow-moving at times, the character development was pretty good. I really enjoyed learning about the Abbey and all of the different roles each Sister and novice played.

The conflict was a little unbelievable--it just didn't seem super viable that one little event to someone so seemingly unimportant would warrant such a huge effort to find/get revenge on. 

I think my favorite part was the world building. The world created was interesting and the Abbey life was vibrant and rich with tradition that seemed like something that actually existed--the lore and rituals were a little reminiscent of the Isle of Avalon from Arthurian legends.

Overall, though not an overly exciting story, I think the world really shone and made this a story I will look back on fondly.
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You know anything about beguines? In the 13th through 16th centuries, these were lay women who lived in monastic communities--basically nuns without the vows.  They would commit to living by the rules of the community, but were not bound to it for any period of time and were free to leave when they wanted.  At a time when the options for a woman's life were quite narrow, this seems like an incredible opportunity--the benefits of community living without the lifelong restrictions of the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Maresi, by Maria Turtschaninoff, has had me thinking about beguines.  The Red Abbey is a community of women and girls, on an island where no man may set foot.  From all over the world, they come--sent by their families for the best education, or fleeing oppressive societies where women may not be educated, or just because it is a safer place for them than wherever home was.  They come as novices and they stay as sisters, or they return home, or go off into the world to use the things they've learned to make the world better.  They are protected by the Mother, the three-faced goddess.

Maresi is one of the oldest novices in the abbey, and she loves it there.  She loves the rituals and the food and her friends and the library. She loves studying with Sister O and looking after the youngest novices. When Jai arrives--frightened and on the run--Maresi shows her the ropes and they become friends.

There is danger and drama in the book, and that's all great and thrilling, but the thing that makes this book so incredibly wonderful is this lovely community, this ideal of people who work hard for common goals and give each other freedom to be themselves.  The sisters have different tasks and different lifestyles, and the novices work where they are needed and where their skills fit best.  Maresi has her opinions of everyone, but when the cards are down, every member of this community stands together.

I've been thinking a lot about community lately--about the groups we belong to that consist of many loose ties, small tugs of obligation and connection to people you would probably not have chosen individually, but who together make your team.  Community is hard, because not every relationship is comfortable, and because it is almost inevitably going to include people you'd rather omit if you could.  But you can't; you're stuck with them, and they're stuck with you, and if you're not better off because of each person included, you are better off because it's hard to get left behind.

The Red Abbey is an idea of community in a dangerous world; it's a place where people protect each other and know the value of themselves and their sisters.  I could read my way through the cycle of days over and over again, even without the storms and pirates and demanding goddesses.

This book makes my heart swell with gladness to read.  Maresi and Heo and Jai and Enneike and the Rose and Sister O and Mother--I would very much like to meet and live and belong with these wonderful women.

(I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley, but that was ages ago and I didn't read it till now.  So thank you, Netgalley, and I'm sorry that I waited so long!)
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All I can say is that this novel is stunnig and sophisticated.
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Pages Read: 200/256

Because: I tried with this one --- it's so short that I raced past the 100-page line in an hour. I thought to give it an extension to do SOMETHING original or just LESS GENERIC and... nope. This is very "insert generic fantasy thing/name/idea"; and it was very been-there-read-that. Even with less than 60 pages to go, I did not care enough to keep reading.
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Fabulous! Compelling female characters and setting. Emphasizes the importance of both learning and loyalty. I loved it.
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This book is GORGEOUS. The aesthetics are incredible, and I LOVE aesthetically pleasing books, so this is excellent. 
It's set on an island that plays host to an abbey- the Red Abbey- and narrated by one of the novices, a girl named Maresi. She is there because her family couldn't afford to feed her during a famine, and ever since then, she's taken care of the younger and the more junior novices. It chronicles her life and the life of the others there after the arrival of a girl named Jai, who fled from an abusive father to find sanctuary there- but when Jai's past comes back to bite her, the entire abbey is affected. 
Maresi and Jai have the cutest little friendship- Jai is very timid at first, but Maresi takes her under her wing and helps her get used to abbey life. The Sisters are the greatest; they are all present but not overshadowing, secondary but complex. The religion is very well developed, and though we don't get a clear idea of what's going on in the outside world, the history of the island is deep and wonderful and so, so interesting. I desperately hope that book 2 will be translated, otherwise, I might learn Finnish solely to read it!
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Maresi was a novel that invoked old classic high fantasy novels in the best of ways. It reminded me a whole lot of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Tomb's of Atuan (my favorite Earthsea novel). The prose was simple, but vivid. The characters, likewise. But the novel was a lovely picture of an abbey where women thrived and were protected from their harsh outside world. Just enough elements of the outside worldbuilding were given to paint the land, while making it expressly clear that the point was the story happening within the abbey. A lovely novel, and I'm quite looking forward to the sequel being translated as well.
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READ this book! (5 stars)

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.
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Absolutely beautiful, immersive, and wonderfully wrought. I really enjoyed this story and I'm recommending it frequently on my YA fantasy lists.
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This book is feminist fiction, and, for me, held hints of The Handmaid's Tale (though wasn't quite as terrifying). It follows Maresi, a novice at the Red Abbey, and her new friend Jai, who has recently come to the island to escape her home. The Red Abbey is a refuge for women. No men are allowed on the island, and it is protected by the First Mother (Goddess). Many of the novices and sisters came there to seek asylum from abuse and mistreatment, and some come simply because their families cannot feed them. The book is written from Maresi's point of view, as she recounts what happened when and after Jai arrived on the island.

At first, I felt like this book moved very slowly. It spent a lot of time setting up the action and havoc mentioned early on in the book, but not seen until about maybe three-quarters of the way through it. However, I enjoyed the getting there because it gave me a truer sense of what the Abbey really is, and how idyllic and utopian such a refuge could be. There were interesting characters from Maresi to Jai to a younger novice and the many sisters who inhabit the island and take charge of the novices. Their lives are simple, but well-lived, and it is a very important place in these women's lives. When tragedy strikes, it hits hard. It wouldn't have hurt as much, however, if the readers hadn't been acquainted with the Abbey first.

As a character, Maresi is a strong one. She is wholly invested in learning all about the world around her, and her favorite pastime is to sneak into the library at the Abbey and read all about its history. Slowly, she comes to the realization that she cannot let books be her life, and it's interesting to see what she does with that knowledge. Also, her friendships with the other novices play a very important part in this book. These girls support each other and form a family. I found it refreshing to have strong female friendships as the focus of the plot, with absolutely NO romantic subplot of any kind.

As I kept reading, I felt myself getting more and more sucked in to this world and these characters. Once I reached the half-way mark, I couldn't put the book down until I was finished. I gasped, I cried, and I really enjoyed the telling of the story. As it gets into the more action-oriented parts of the story, beware that it doesn't shy away from violence or rape (trigger warnings!). To me, though, that added a level of authenticity that not all YA novels have.

The only small criticism I have is that some of the transitions between sections were very abrupt. It could've been a lack of break formatting in my version (eArc from Netgalley), or it could've been the translation, but there were times where I flipped back on my Kindle to make sure I hadn't missed something because I was a wee bit confused. That aside, I highly recommend this if you're looking for a quick feminist YA read.

Note: I received this book from Netgalley & Amulet Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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This was so different from anything else I've read, and so well done. 

A remote island abbey where only women are welcome. A rustic, self-sufficient world full of snails used for dying cloth, warm bread drizzled with honey, and beliefs that center around a female trio of maiden, mother, and crone. 

A story like this, it's a delicate balance. Things could very easily go wrong: it could potentially feel preachy, it could drone on and go overboard with the ritual and abbey life, it could feel flat and forced. But Turtschaninoff breathes life into it, and she does so slowly and gently, letting the story grow warm around the edges, letting heat creep in until the abbey island and its inhabitants are full of life, warm and vibrant; you don't notice that Turschaninoff has taken your hand and pulled you into the abbey's world and you are there, fully immersed. 

And then strange things start happening, but they don't feel strange - they feel like they belong, like they are meant to happen. It's not so much magical realism as dream logic. Things happen and they simply make sense. There is no questioning it. 

It is a subtle, delicate book and one of the more unique stories I've encountered in a while. I've already put in a purchase request for my library - I definitely want this one in our collection.
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I got almost instantly drawn into this story with the way the beginning takes place. The first few pages start off with Maresi explaining that she has to write her account of what takes place. I found this style of narration to be charming, and the perfect way to start off. I liked Maresi right away, her personality showed fairly easily and I really appreciated getting to know her as the plot progressed.

While we don’t get to know the other characters as well as we do Maresi, they still form important roles in the story as a whole. Unlike some fantasy novels with foreign sounding names which come across as sort of cliche, the many different names in this story made sense to me. All of the women and girls who reside at Red Abbey come from various parts of the world. I loved the melting pot atmosphere this created, a little culture all their own. I especially loved how incredibly detailed the history and lore of was. It felt rich and deep and completely believable. I could tell there were many stories that we didn’t get to know and I’m hoping we find more out in the future.

It’s hard for me to come up with anything bad about this book, I really enjoyed it. It’s a perfect mix of dark and gritty as well as magic, fantasy, and strength. I would caution readers who are sensitive to violence, there are a few scenes that get somewhat graphic. For me, it never felt over the top. Each scene or instance that strayed into darker topics felt necessary. Each time, it supported the story and kept things moving. This is especially true as I got to know more and more about Jai.

Overall I highly recommend this book as an easy read for anyone who enjoys fantasy and a bit of magic. I’m looking forward to seeing what else may come from this series in the future.
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There were things I really liked here and things I really didn't. I loved the world here. The setting was rich and well-explored. There's a lot of world-building and I liked the society that's set-up in this story. I enjoyed the MC, but wasn't in love with the way the narrative was presented. I know this is a translation, so maybe that had an impact, but I found the tense shifts very distracting and the pacing too slow, especially the first half of the story. Overall, I really liked it and will definitely pick up the next book in the series. (I assume there is a next book. I hope there's a next book.)
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I thought Maresi was a great main character, she was kind and gentle and patient, but she was the wrong narrator for this story.

When I learned about Jai's past, about her terrible and abusive father, and how she desperately wanted revenge, that was when I knew she should have been the narrator. It would have provided a better story, more deeply seeded in the world of this fantasy than it was with Maresi as the narrator.

Had we followed Jai from the beginning, we would have seen first hand how terrible this world is to women instead of learning about it through memories and flashbacks. We would have seen how amazing of a haven the Red Abbey was to girls who went through hell to get there and it would have made the island that much more precious. Jai's revenge and survival seemed like the main story, but it was told from an outsider's point of view, and we never really got to connect with either character.

I wanted to love Maresi more than I did, but all in all, it was still a good story and the translation from the original Finnish made it feel more authentic.
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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+.
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