Maresi, Chronicles of the Red Monastery, was the book I read by the Christmas tree this year; next year you could be doing the same. The splendid Pushkin Press has just bought the English rights.
The author, the Swedish Finn Maria Turschaninoff, has been compared to Tolkien for the literary world in which two more of her novels (Arra and Anaché) are also set. Yet her motivation is a bit different. She was inspired to write Maresi out of protest – she couldn’t believe that women were still not allowed on the monastery island of Athos. What, she wondered, would happen if it was the other way round?
The convent in the story is dedicated to the goddess in her three manifestations; Maid, Mother and Crone. The sisters and novices stall an enemy invasion by combing out their hair, releasing a whirlwind. But the blood of all three aspects of the goddess is needed to stop the invaders…
I read Maresi in Marja Kyrö’s Finnish translation. She seems to have a taste for feminist trilogies – she also translated Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series from the Swedish, and Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart series from the German, which will give you an idea about this book. It is a YA novel, and Maresi herself is thirteen, but it’s strong stuff. If you can stomach some violence for the sake of a good story that makes you think about the global balance of power, and like your heroines bookish, you’ll like this. And, like me, you’ll be waiting with bated breath for the prequel and sequel books to come out.