Reading has occupied a lot of my time lately, but I haven’t been able to post reviews as the titles aren’t out for a few months yet. Expect a lot of advance reviews in the new year. In any case, I was excited to read a title that will be published on January 3rd of the new year!
Maresi first caught my eye on NetGalley because of its striking cover. That imagery though. Take your time admiring it, I’ll wait.
Translated from Swedish, Maresi is the tale of a thirteen-year-old novice in the Red Abbey. A haven for women and girls, they’re taken in, educated, and stay on as Sisters or go out into the world with the skills they’ve learned. Men aren’t allowed on the isle, fisherman docking to trade and never setting foot on land.
As I’m all for female empowerment, the concept of this novel really appealed to me.
I’m always a little wary of translated works, as there’s really no way to know if the translation does the original justice. In this case, the writing was simple but lovely, evoking a fairy-tale feel that never wavered.
I loved the concept for this story, but it was definitely a simplistic one. The mythos of the world was very straightforward, and incorporated a few elements from modern-day pagan beliefs (or rather, old pagan beliefs). The Goddess as a triple incarnation of Maiden, Mother, Crone was the most obvious of these.
I found the characters believable and their interactions with each other seemed realistic. Women and girls of various ethnicities were represented here, though obviously they were purported to be from fictional places. Still, I thought that it was well done, especially the mention of Maresi having to learn a new language when she came to the Abbey. I really liked Dori and Bird, and I would have liked to see more of them and of the other secondary characters.
Even the most important of secondary characters were never really fleshed out. The reader only knows the most basic things about them and their personalities. Still, considering the story is being told in first person from Maresi’s point of view it was understandable that we didn’t know more. It also fits in well with the fairy tale feel of the book.
Despite that, Maresi and Jai’s friendship grew beautifully as the story went on. Similarly, we got to see more of the friendship between the girls and the Sisters as the book progresses. The actions of the First Mother, and of the Rose were particularly telling of the strong bonds created in the Abbey.
While reading, I thought that this would be a great book for middle grade readers. It was a tale of growing up, of sisterhood, and of learning what it means to be a part of something greater than yourself.
I was surprised to encounter sexual violence in this book, but I thought the non-explicit way it was written, and the way in which it was handled was well done. I think that all young people should learn about sexual violence and its repercussions, and this book would be a good vehicle to get the topic on the table in order to talk to them about it in a calm manner.
The magic elements in this book weren’t as pervasive as I expected at the beginning, but blew me away at the end. The author definitely has developed good ideas that I hope to see more of in her work. As it is, the symbolism and simple magic system worked incredibly well with the story. The Goddess worship tied in perfectly and was interesting as well, and it was cool to see it being validated rather than a myth believed only on the island.
Overall, I think this is a great choice for younger readers, or for older ones seeking a simple tale to sink into. It’s a slow paced and deliberate book reminiscent of a folktale. I look forward to reading the prequel, Naondel, and learning more about the founding of the Abbey.
For now, look out for Maresi at bookstores near you in the new year!
Can you recommend any books with a fairy tale feel? Let me know in the comments below!