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Literature / Maresi

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Maresi is the first book of The Red Abbey Chronicles, a planned trilogy of novellas by Maria Turtschanioff about the titular Red Abbey. The Red Abbey, set on the island of Menos where no man may live, is a haven against the abuse and oppression of women and a center of learning and knowledge. However, this refuge is disrupted when a girl, Jai, arrives on the island fleeing her abusive family, and Maresi takes her on as a shadow. Her father won't give her up so easily, but neither will the Abbey or Maresi, even if it means dipping into powers that terrify her to her core...

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The second book, Naondel, serves as a prequel and tells the story of how the First Sisters founded the Abbey. The series is notable for having been written first in Swedish before being translated

Tropes Include:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Maresi guesses this about Vinjan, because he didn't look at the women like the other men, and he mentions that he's had to keep that part of himself hidden from the other men who would see him as less manly for it. It's not clear whether he's just unwilling to partake in Rape, Pillage, and Burn, is gay, or both, but either way Maresi trusts that he's unlike the other men.
  • Blood Magic: Surprisingly enough, only used in a heroic manner. It's a mix of the Rose's, the Mother's, and Maresi's blood that summons the Crone to save the women, and Garai uses her own blood as part of the rituals to bind her closer to the earth.
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  • Buried Alive: The fate of Unai, Jai's sister, for merely speaking to a man.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Crone is death and shadow and fear, but as horrifying as she is she's not evil and as much a part of the natural cycle as the beautiful Maiden or kindly Mother. Maresi has a hard time coming to terms with this.
  • Death of Personality: Iona's ultimate fate, becoming Daera. To emphasize this, her features change to show she's an entirely new woman.
  • Didn't Think This Through: As the Mother points out to him, Jai's father, in his desperation to get revenge on her, hired a crew of brigands that are only barely kept under control by the promise of wealth and who greatly outnumber his own men. When they get to the island and don't find anything worth taking, they start to turn on him.
  • Downer Beginning: Five for the price of one in Naondel, since all the women end of as sex slaves of the same harem. Kabira entrusts her lover with a sacred spring and he promptly kills her family, takes over her home, and makes her his bride, Garai and Sulani have their entire homes wiped out and are taken as a Sex Slave, Onseola impulsively commits a great taboo and is exiled from her home and family to die on the sea before she's "rescued" by the vizier who rapes her, and Iona is used as a Human Sacrifice. The only ones that don't count are Claras, who came to the harem of her own free will, and Estegi, a servant.
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  • Feminist Fantasy: With more emphasis on the feminist than the fantasy, as it explicitly deals with women surviving the horrors of patriarchy such as rape, misogyny, exploitation, abuse, dehumanization, and others.
  • The Grim Reaper: The Crone, a terrifying, all consuming entity of death. Maresi saw her door once when her little sister died, and has been terrified of her ever since, which makes it that much more difficult to accept that the Crone has chosen her.
  • The Hecate Sisters: The Abbey worships the Maiden, Mother, and Crone as aspects of the First Mother, the creator of life.
  • Internalized Categorism: Kabira's only surviving daughter insists that she is a son, not because she identifies as male, but because all women are weak and since she's not weak she can't be a woman. It takes a while for her to realize the folly of this, and makes her a foil to Estegi, who is genuinely trans.
  • Homosexual Reproduction: Estegi and Sulani have a child. In a rare case of this trope, there's no super science or magic involved....Estegi is simply trans and intersex.
  • Lady Land: The Red Abbey. In the prequel we learn this is enforced, as the magic of the place will fade if men begin to live on it. That said, it's not entirely unreasonable...male children may live there for a while, and the sisters once rescued a sick man and brought him to the Abbey.
  • Legend Fades to Myth: In Maresi, the sisters tell a tall tale about how when men came to attack the island, 7 great moon-women came down from the mountains to throw boulders and drive them away. In Naondel, we learn the truth is only slightly less outlandish: the First Sisters themselves were empowered by the island to throw boulders and crush their enemies.
  • Madonna–Whore Complex: Taken to extremes in Jai's culture. Either a woman is the perfect, most obedient, most submissive madonna possible, or she is a whore and needs to die before she dishonors her family. Unai was buried alive merely for speaking to a man outside the family, and Jai's father is so infuriated by Jai escaping him, and her mother helping her, that he will stop at nothing to bring Jai back so he can kill her in front of her mother.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Deliberately killed off. In the prequel it's established that the vizier destroyed magical places by introducing foreign magic to them so that he could have the only magic in the world. The First Sisters stole the knowledge of how to do so and have let it fade into legend.
  • Mind Rape: The vizier uses Anji's power to mentally as well as physically rape the women who are unfortunate enough to gain his attention.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Kabira and Garai are both elderly by the end of Naondel, but that doesn't prevent them from partaking in the climax.
  • One-Woman Army: Sulani, due to the power of the River, devastates entire armies before she's depowered.
  • Refusal of the Call: Maresi is terrified of the Crone, and when the Crone calls her in the Moon Dance she goes into fits. She spends most of the book figuratively as well as literally running from any sign of her.
  • The Sacred Darkness: Things like death, fear, blood, and pain are understood as part of the natural cycle and sacrifice is a dangerous but key part of the Sister's magic. Naondel even ends with a willing Human Sacrifice, with the Sisters offering the dying Iona at her own request, and the skull from a previous sacrifice is the key to restraining and finally defeating the vizier.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: A recurring theme of both books is women learning how to cope with traumatic situations by remaking themselves. Unai, Jai's sister, completely bought into her father's abuse and became the best daughter possible, not even resisting when he buried her alive. Several of the harem women are broken this way due to the impossibility of their situation, hence why Claras, who came willingly, is the first one who even considers escape.
  • Straw Feminist: Pointedly averted. While the villains are misogynistic men and patriarchy itself, the sisters do not see men as inherently evil and patriarchy is shown to be detrimental to both genders. The only one who thinks like this is Maresi, but it's to show her immaturity and the sisters chide her for thinking of men as the enemy rather than the ignorance and greed that creates misogyny. Taken further in the prequel, since we see more good men and villainous women.
  • Super Empowering: When Anji is destroyed, the surrounding women gain its power, although they manifest it in different ways. For example, Sulani regains her unnatural strength and combat prowess, and Claras' intuition expands into full on Psychic Powers.
  • Take Me Instead: When the men intend to gang rape the other novices, the Rose offers herself up, using her Maiden powers to appear irresistible so they won't take anyone else.
  • Weather Manipulation: The sisters use special combs and Sympathetic Magic of their hair becoming unbound to whip up a massive lightning storm the first time Jai's father comes to claim her.
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