Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff | Feminism in YA Fantasy Writing

Title: Maresi (Book 1 in The Red Abbey Chronicles trilogy)
Author: Maria Turtschaninoff
Pages: 256 pages
Release Date: January 3rd, 2017
Source: ARC from Amulet Books
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Feminism
Rating: 5/5 stars
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.

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"Feminism in YA fantasy writing," the publishers pitched. 

*puts down current read to start this book*

Finnish author, Maria Turtschaninoff brings her A-game with this feminist-empowering fantasy story. As a book reviewer, I find it extremely difficult to be able to distinguish certain gems from an entire sea of books. That rings true especially when reading in Young Adult genre because most books are just purely entertaining and never burn a lasting-impression in my head. Most people turn away from YA books because they think they won't learn something out of it or because it's simply 'too childish'. With Maresi, however, I believe this is a book every single person no matter what age group they fall under should read.

Only women and girls are allowed in the Red Abbey. We follow Maresi, a thirteen-year-old novice, as she documents her story and time at the Abbey through one long flashback-like moment. The Red Abbey is a peaceful haven for young girls and women who seek refuge away from society or abuse. That is, until Jai arrives. Jai brings with her the burden of her past and her father who will not stop until he gets ahold of his precious daughter who has brought him a great deal of shame. And when men invade the Red Abbey, the true strength and resilience of these girls and women are put to the test...

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If you've been reading YA for the past several years, you'd be familiar with the oh-so-popular female heroine complex. Everyone loves a good kickass female protagonist. Just take the most popular ones: Celaena Sardothien, Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior and even Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles series. My true task in writing this review is to convince you that this book is extremely different from any of the YA books you've ever read before. 

In some ways, it is the same as every female-heroine YA book you've ever read because there simply is a female heroine. The females save the day. The females make it out in the end. What else do you want me to say? But in an entirely different aspect, you'll find that this book is unlike any other YA.

These Red Abbey girls who seek a safe haven are usually brought to the island at a very young age. They grow up entirely away from the bonds and care of men. And so, they must cook, clean, learn and survive without men. 

In most female-heroine books, we see only one female making a difference, fighting off the bad guy or even saving the world. In Maresi, we see an entire community of females (both young and old) come together to fight off a greater evil. If that doesn't scream girl power, I don't know what does!

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"I want to grow up to see what the world has to offer me and what I have to offer to the world. I am not finished with it yet."

- quoted from an advanced and unfinished copy of Maresi, by Maria Turtschaninoff 
I'll admit it took me quite a while to get into the book, but I think that's because of how much the narrator lagged on and on about the Abbey's history in the beginning. Once I hit the middle and Jai's entrance into the story, I was hooked!

Another thing I want to point out is Turtschaninoff's ability to write such a fantastic story in only 256 pages. Likeeeeee what?? The book itself is so tiny but she hit all the points of the story and managed to write a superb book. The history of the Red Abbey was extremely well-developed. We learned why the Abbey was created, how it was created and the magic behind it. I think the flashback format that she followed played a great deal in revealing character development of our narrator Maresi. It was kind of ingenious!

An absolutely stunning addition to any booklover's YA bookshelves. An inspiring piece about the presence of strong feminism in YA fantasy writing. Empowering. Ground-breaking. Heartbreaking. A story about sisterhood, feminism, and inner-strength. Maresi will capture reader's hearts, both male and female alike. I think every gender can learn something from this book. From the world-building, magic, to the emergence of a strong female voice, this book was definitely a 5/5 star read for me.

I'm pretty much over one single female character being the embodiment of feminism and strength in YA literature. If you are too, I highly suggest picking up Maresi when it comes out on January 2017.

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  1. This one sounds amazing! I can't wait to read this. The history of the Abbey really intrigue me, and the way all women come together sounds really empowering!

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

    1. I can't wait to hear what you think! I hope this book reaches the hands of many girls and young women!

  2. I'm not that much into fantasy, but I have a couple of friends I can recommend this to wholeheartely (because of the feminist angle as well)!

    1. Same here! When I first read the synopsis, I immediately reached out to all my friends who are just awesome feminist advocates. This book was really empowering!

  3. This sounds pretty amazing! Even though Celaena and Katniss will always hold a special place in my heart, I do believe that it is time for a more united female kickbutt movement. I am so glad that YA books that feature feminism are gaining traction, like The Female of the Species. Like you said, they certainly contradict the stereotypes of YA and show what it can actually do.

    1. I really want to read The Female of the Species. That reminds me haha! My friend was supposed to send me a copy, but I think she forgot. Yeah you're right. Celaena and Katniss will always be faves, but I want to meet some new groups of young women and girls. Thanks for reading Tessa :D


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