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.
Rating: 3 Stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Maresi was a novel that I went into without knowing much about. I don't do this nearly enough as the few times that I have done it this year I have found myself pleasantly surprised and enjoying the books rather more than I thought I would.
The circumstances of the women in this book are both tragic and empowering. They are treated as second class citizens in the world at large, but have managed to found a haven for themselves called the Red Abbey. The island itself might, if this were a film portrayal, have a bit of a creepy vibe to it as there is not a single male person on this island. Everyone is female, having fled from the world due to one situation or another. The vibe itself lent a somewhat eerie feel to the narrative that I felt was just on this side of good and didn't tip over into the overdone realm.
Maresi was a bit stiff, at first, as the main character, which I think had more to do with her as a person who has not yet found her place among these women. She does know her way around, how things work, etc., but not what her defining role is or will be. Once she meets Jai, a newcomer, however, I felt like she loosened up a bit because we got to see a kind side to her as she guided this girl around and introduced her to things.
The story has some fantastical elements, which I appreciated, particularly the earth goddess divinity. The pacing was good, if a bit on the slow side. Maresi had this odd quality of being a rather short book so it didn't actually take long to read, but the writing made things feel as if they were happening slower than they really were. As this is only the first book in the series, I'm curious to see if the pace will pick up in the next book(s) or if they will all be similarly short page wise but slow pace wise.
My recommendation: This book could definitely earn a spot on your TBR if you're interested in female dominated societies and don't mind the vaguely awkward pacing. I wouldn't say it's a must-read at the moment, but with more books to come, perhaps that will change.
All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.