Thanks to NetGalley and Amulet Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: January 3rd, 2017
Synopsis: Only women and girls are allowed in the Red Abbey, a haven from abuse and oppression. Maresi, a thirteen-year-old novice there, arrived in the hunger winter and now lives a happy life in the Abbey, protected by the Mother and reveling in the vast library in the House of Knowledge, her favorite place. Into this idyllic existence comes Jai, a girl with a dark past. She has escaped her home after witnessing the killing of her beloved sister. Soon the dangers of the outside world follow Jai into the sacred space of the Abbey, and Maresi can no longer hide in books and words but must become one who acts.
Maresi is a short novel translated from the Finnish original, and the first in a planned trilogy. It’s not bad, but at the end I was left a little unsatisfied. The best part of the story is the relationship between the once homesick Maresi and Jai, who she takes under her wing. Maresi is the narrator of the story and because she’s one of the few girls who actually come from a loving family, it gives her a more positive outlook on life, and it allows her to help the traumatized Jai more. Maresi’s voice rings through so clearly and honestly that I felt an instant connection to her. I also liked the idea of there being a safe haven for abused girls, where they’re taught how to survive in a world that’s so cruel to them. The problem is, because the book is so short, the more fantastical elements that are woven in, for the most part, got short thrift. However, although this is a translated story, it’s beautifully written and I don’t think anything was lost in the process. I wouldn’t recommend this to young teens because even though there aren’t any graphically descriptive scenes of sex, the themes of rape and violence against women are prevalent. Overall, I think Maresi has a great concept, but didn’t quite go far enough with it. Although I was a bit disappointed in it, I still feel comfortable in suggesting you try it for yourself if you enjoy fantasy and in particular authors such as Ursula le Guin.