Maresi Red Mantle by Maria Turtschaninoff, published by Pushkin Children's Books on 6th June 2019
For Maresi, like so many other girls, the Red Abbey was a haven of safety in a world ruled by brutal men. But now she is a young woman and it is time for her to leave. She must take all that she has learned from her sisters and return to her childhood home to share the knowledge she has gained.
But when Maresi returns to her village, she realises all is not well - the people are struggling under the rule of the oppressive Earl, and people are too busy trying to survive to see the value of her teachings. Maresi finds she must use all the terrible force of the Crone's magic to protect her people, but can she find the strength to do so when her heart is weakening with love for the first time?
'Maresi Red Mantle' is the third and final book in the Red Abbey Chronicles. It follows Maresi as she leaves the sanctuary and safety of the Red Abbey and returns to her childhood home of Rovas. She is reunited with her mother, father and siblings but after so many years apart, she has to learn how to be a part of the village and its community. Maresi returns with a mission to carry out and the story follows her as she tries to bring knowledge to Rovas, while facing new challenges and adversity along the way.
The book layout is a series of letters that Maresi writes to the loved ones she has left behind at the Abbey - Jai, Ennike Rose, Sister O and the Venerable Mother. I liked the epistolary format because it felt like being privy to Maresi's inner thoughts and feelings in a very confiding way. It's not always a style that I enjoy but I thought that in this case, it worked really well.
The text is translated from the original Finnish by A.A Prime and the language flowed off the page, with no awkwardness at all.
I found the story really moving and emotional, particularly in the second half. Maresi learns a lot about herself during the course of her life and her revelations are sometimes hard to face and painful but they help her grow into the woman that she wants to become. There is a strong feminist theme throughout the series, focusing on the idea that women can be as strong as men. Turtschaninoff shows through Maresi's choices and decisions that you don't have to concede to a man but can learn to live together in a mutually supportive way; as equals rather than being subservient.
Maresi is a wonderful character and I thoroughly enjoyed following her story as she grows into a unique and caring individual. She embodies the importance of reading and knowledge and that this should be shared with others to help people to grow and feel empowered. The book is a fitting end to the series and to Maresi's journey and it's one that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.