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MARESI #1 THE RED ABBEY CHRONICLES by Maria Turtschaninoff

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.

Title : Maresi
Author Maria Turtschaninoff
Series : The Red Abbey Chronicles #1
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 251
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Pushkin Press
Release Date : 5 January 2017

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★

Micky’s 4 star review

MARESI took me rather by surprise. I did that classic, ‘I’m just going to look what it’s about and read a few pages’ and found myself at page 40. MARESI is set on an island that holds only an abbey and many women (Sisters of the Goddess) and female children who may become novices in time or are given safety until they want to leave as adults.

The protagonist, Maresi herself, tells her story from a naive viewpoint, a young, innocent girl of indeterminate age but I felt her to be about 12-14. Although there is an initial innocence to her narrative, the storytelling evolves as events make her more wise to the society outside of the safe abbey walls. Key to Maresi’s awakening was the arrival of Jai, who she took under her wing. Jai slowly disclosed her experiences at the hands of the men in her life. The sense of friendship and family was earned in the abbey but it was powerful and had a loveliness to it.

Central to abbey life was the faith, mysticism and spiritual rituals that governed the lives of the women and children. I found the world building easy to follow and I really liked the context for the belief system and power that emanated from it. The goddess had three sides to her and one was pretty dark and intimidating. There was a real feminist thread weaved through this story that I can only think will be emphasised more in later books as Maresi is older.

I am all enthusiasm for books two and three. Book two seems to be the story of the first sisters who founded the abbey, escaping the palace of Ohaddin. Book three picks up with Maresi again as she leaves the abbey for the outside world. Book one has truly captured my imagination and I am here for more.

Thank you Pushkin Press for these books to review and the early copy of Maresi Red Mantle.