This haunting and otherworldly book is such an enchanting tale. I read it in just a few hours, but I’m still thinking about it months later.
Only women and girls are allowed in the Red Abbey, a haven from abuse and oppression. Thirteen-year-old novice Maresi arrived at the Abbey four years ago, during the hunger winter, and now lives a happy life under the protection of the Mother. Maresi spends her days reading in the Knowledge House, caring for the younger novices, and contentedly waiting for the moment when she will be called to serve one of the Houses of the Abbey.
This idyllic existence is threatened by the arrival of Jai, a girl whose dark past has followed her into the Abbey’s sacred spaces. In order to protect her new sister and her own way of life, Maresi must emerge from the safety of her books and her childish world and become one who acts.
I loved the setting – a sanctuary for women and girls with a magic and mythology that feels epic. I loved the well drawn characters and their transformations in the course of the action. The action is engaging and builds to a satisfying and suspenseful climax. While there are dark elements in this tale, Maresi is ultimately an uplifting read with themes about friendship and finding inner strength in the face of fear. Fans of Naomi Novak’s Uprooted will definitely want to check this out, but I think anyone who loves a good fairytale or folktale will be swept away by this read. This is a translation, but you wouldn’t know it – the prose is fluid and magical all on its own. I can definitely see many of my high school girls enjoying this, particularly those who like the His Fair Assassins series and Marie Lu’s Rose Society books. It’s going on my classroom library wishlist. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.