Good morning my lovelies! (It may not be morning, if so I hope your next morning is good. Back in July you may remember my review of Naondel, which is actually the second book in The Red Abbey Chronicles. However, since Naondel is essentially a prequel to Maresi I think this is the first time that my habit of reading sequels out of order has been a good thing!
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.
I’ll start by saying that this is not a long book. Compared to Naondel it’s more like a short story! I was actually surprised at the difference in length between the two books. Naondel took me around two days to read whereas I read Maresi in under two hours. I think this is the right length for this story however and any more length would have felt a bit pointless, short and sweet is just about perfect.
I really enjoyed reading about The Red Abbey. I am always looking for multiple female characters and you can’t get much better than an island populated entirely by women! That aside, the descriptions of life on the island were so well done that I feel like I could turn up at The Red Abbey tomorrow and slide seamlessly into daily life.
Maresi, the narrator of this particular story, is a very likeable character. She’s got a lot of good attributes, her courage, her thirst for knowledge, her maternal-like instincts all make her fun to read and to relate to. But she’s not perfect and that makes her realistic to read. I personally related to her love of books and to her fear of change but you might relate to something entirely different.
The plot of this book is quite small, to fit into a short story, and is very centred around our two characters Jai and Maresi. That is not to say that it isn’t powerful. The opposite in fact, it’s a story of resilience and about self knowledge and rising above circumstances. It was one of those stories that left me feeling like I wanted to achieve something, which in my book is a good thing.
I will mention the magic in this world. It’s not quite explained how all of this works, unlike some other books there isn’t a clearly laid out plan for why magic functions in the way it does. But it’s not something that bothered me in this case since magic isn’t used enough that you need a clear explanation. If, in later books, it becomes more significant to the main characters I may have an issue but for now I’m ok with it.
The one thing that stopped this book getting five stars was similar to why I wasn’t as enamoured with Naondel as I might otherwise have been. That’s the fact that I don’t think violence from men is the only adversity that women face. Granted it is a part of the world we live in and it is important to tell empowering stories that take it as an issue, but it just seemed to me like sexual assault/violence from men is used as the generic ‘she had a dark past’ element in this world and it doesn’t necessary add anything to the plot. For those wondering there’s only one element where I got a little uncomfortable with the writing (feel free to comment if you would like me to give you specific page numbers to avoid) but as a whole I’d like a bit more development from just ‘men are bad because assault’.
But, on the whole, I enjoyed the couple of hours it took me to read this. I think I actually preferred the shorter format, at times Naondel was a bit of a slog whereas Maresi kept me hooked throughout.
My rating: 4/5 stars
What say you? Have you read Maresi/Naondel, any thoughts you’d like to share? Let’s chat in the comments!
Can’t wait to hear from you