Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books.
Release Date: January 1st 2014
Genre: Children’s/YA/Fantasy/Magical Realism
Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen, in the Hunger Winter. 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. She is safe.
Then one day Jai tangled fair hair, clothes stiff with dirt, scars on her back arrives on a ship. 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. And Maresi, haunted by her own nightmares, must confront her very deepest, darkest fears.
A story of friendship and survival, magic and wonder, beauty and terror, Maresi will grip you and hold you spellbound. – Goodreads
√. It didn’t take me very long to finish this book at all. Two days, maybe? But within those two days, it probably took a couple of hours. Despite it being 256 pages, there is actually less content than you think because the margins are pretty big and there is a lot of empty space around the text. It flew by!
√. That cover, right? The image doesn’t do it justice but all of the different covers for Maresi are absolutely gorgeous.
√. Initially I did enjoy this book. I enjoyed the whimsical, almost folklore/fairytale feel it had to it with Maresi at the Red Abbey. It felt quite nostalgic, actually, because it reminded me of the books of my childhood and – this is weird so don’t expect anything remotely like this in the book – made me feel quite Christmassy??
√. It was definitely very easy to read at the beginning. I read most of it shopping with my family so I would sit outside and read for ten minutes, get up and go to another shop, then sit back down and pick it up again. Usually, that would jar me and make me lose what was going on, but the plot of Maresi was very simple so I could easily pick up where I left off without having to reread.
√. Again initially, I liked the relationship between Maresi and Jai. When Jai arrives, Maresi has been there for years and so Jai attaches herself to her, and the kindle a friendship sat together in the Red Abbey library (I mean, friendship goals, right?). I liked the camaraderie between the two and how Maresi knew how being the new girl felt and helped her settle in.
Now for the negatives:
✘. One of the main reasons I picked this book up because, I quote, it was ‘gloriously feminist’. But I really didn’t see that? The way I interpreted it was more man-hating than anything else. Obviously, it’s great that the women of the island are self-sufficient and don’t need to rely on men to function (whoo!) but they lived in fear of the men and shared stories to small children about hating the men and killing the men, and that men should never come upon the island. That doesn’t scream feminism for me and frankly made me feel quite uncomfortable. I feel if it was the other way around, there would be a much stronger reaction to this book. Plus, the only decent man in the book is gay. So the exit clause of evil if you’re a man is to be gay?
✘. Also, I’m at a little bit of a loss as to where to classify this book. Is it middle-grade and children’s as it was marketed to me in the bookshop? Or YA? The reason it makes me think it could be a children’s novel is that the writing is very simple, which could either be the intention of the author or the translator (as this book was translated from Finnish).
However, some of the events of this book are definitely not something you’d find in a children’s book, mostly in the ending. I won’t spoil anything but there are allusions (and more) to rape and sexual assault, as well as a girl using sex to protect herself. I’d say this is more YA/New Adult territory but the writing just doesn’t correlate to that for me.
✘. As for Maresi herself, I did start off liking her but as the book went on, she became more of a shove-it-down-your-throat heroine. Her message of sharing knowledge and putting others before yourself and being a role model and seeing the world was all very blaring. I just couldn’t connect to it.
It did entertain me for a few hours, though, and was a really easy book to put down and pick back up again. Perhaps if I’d have read it when I was twelve-thirteen, I would have enjoyed it more – though for people of that age, just be aware of some of the mature content inside.
I won’t be carrying on with the next two books in the trilogy.
Thanks for reading,