Author: Maria Turtschaninoff, Annie Prime (translator)
Published: 1st Jaunary 2014, 14th January 2016 (translation)
Summary: Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen. 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. One day Jai 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 of the Red Abbey must combat the forces that wish to destroy them. And Maresi, haunted by her own nightmares, must confront her very deepest, darkest fears.
I stumbled upon this book in Waterstones ages ago and it intrigued me. When I returned home to search the title on Goodreads, I had forgotten what it was called (something I tend to do quite often). Luckily, I found it once again in the library and picked up it. I’m glad I did.
This book, the first in the Red Abbey Chronicles, is different from most of what I read. Although this is a YA novel, the characters featured are younger than in other books of the genre and the story features no romance.
We are introduced to a world different from our own but not so dissimilar that you can’t lose yourself in it. I fell into this world headfirst and quickly came to love and appreciate the cultural traditions the community has established. In a world where women are discriminated against, the Red Abbey is an island haven for women, an escape from the cruelties of the rest of world. My only complaint with the world building in this book is that I wanted more. How did the world become like this? Why are women discriminated against? This book is short and there’s so much more I wanted to know. I wanted to learn about the history of this world and I wanted to know more about life outside of the isolated island featured in this story. Hopefully, these things will be explored further as the series continues.
The tension in this book is slow building, like the calm before a storm. A quiet and smooth beginning gradually leads to the climax of this novel. I found it predictable as to what that climax was. Yet, predicting the outcome of this novel didn’t make it any less powerful and heartbreaking. It’s not hard to imagine something similar to the events in this book happening in our own world.
The majority of the characters in this book are female and it’s unusual reading a story featuring a close-knit group of women. I liked that the members of the community are mostly self-reliant and are able to hold their own against threats. This novel is told from the viewpoint of our protagonist, Maresi, who’s been on the island for many years. She’s a kind, knowledgeable and curious character however I felt disconnected from her. As opposed to Jai, the newest addition to the island, who is more interesting. She has demons from her past chasing her and struggles to overcome them. I found Jai’s dark and anxiety ridden personality more relatable than Maresi’s inquisitive nature.
Maresi is also a young character, an aspect I don’t relate to as an older reader, and this is reflected in the writing style of this book. Although it’s beautifully written, I found it simplistic compared to other YA novels I have read. This book was first published in Finnish but I read the English edition. So, I can’t comment on the original version however I doubt the fundamentals of this book was lost in translation.
I enjoyed this book and I’m glad I decided to pick it up. I was hoping for a more feminist read, as lots of reviews I’ve read mentioned this was a feminist story, but I liked it nonetheless.
Sometimes it’s good to take a break from what you normally read and try something different.