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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.

"MARESI was a delightful book, not only for its originality but for its gripping plot and interesting characters. I am genuinely interested in [knowing] more about the twisted world Turtschaninoff has created...."

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!

Reviewed by Rachel D., Teen Board Member on January 9, 2017

(The Red Abbey Chronicles #1)
by Maria Turtschaninoff

  • Publication Date: January 9, 2018
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult 14+
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Amulet Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 1419726986
  • ISBN-13: 9781419726989