The first book by Maria Turtschaninoff, Maresi, attracted my attention in Netgalley but I was not in the mood. When the prequel of this book was published by Pushkin Press, I was very eager to read it! I understand that Maresi is the story of a women’s abbey set in an island of a fantasy world, and that Naondel explains how the abbey came to be founded. Nonetheless, I didn’t feel that I was missing out by reading this book without the first one; they can be read totally independently.
The book is targeted for middle-grade or YA readers, and I wasn’t really sure it was appropriate. The book is mainly about prejudice, violence and unfairness against women, so there are some shocking ordeals explained in this book and I wouldn’t probably expose a young teen to so much. It’s not graphically described, but still it may be harsh, especially psychologically.
Naondel is set mainly in the kingdom of Karenoko, an exotic mix of Asian and Arabic culture. Women are subservient creatures kept in harems. When they are born princesses, their fate is to be beautiful, marry according to their father’s political alliances or business interest and bear sons. When they aren’t princesses, they’re slaves and their body doesn’t belong to them either. In this harsh world we hear the voices of Kabira, Garai, Estegi, Orseola and other women trapped in this golden cage.
Although the book presents strong female characters and how the most unfair and cruel treatments don’t break their spirit and courage, until they finally find their way out of oppression, it lacks nuance (the bad guy is a purely evil psychopath and everything is made for us to hate him through and through). It uses rape over and over (not in details), until I found it the demonstration useless and boring. Of course this book is feminist, but there is enough abuse against women in the real world and in the history not to add some more in an imaginary world.
I enjoyed the various kingdoms of this fantasy world and the various subcultures that Maria Turtschaninoff has built. The different women have each their own voice, which I found interesting, but it was not enough to convert me.
Check out Elle’s interesting take on this book, compared to another dystopian novel!
Thanks to the publisher Pushkin Press and Netgalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.