She has left the horror of death behind too, it seems.
It isn’t easy coming home. The journey is hard, and long.
And when she gets there, the village seems just the same, but she’s changed.
Full of the knowledge that her sisters taught her – full of herself, some might say – she plans to set up a school, to teach the girls in the village to read and write and reckon, and maybe something more. But she meets with resistance. Why shouldn’t the boys go too? More to the point, why should anyone go at all? Every pair of hands, even small ones, is needed in the fields. The overlord is demanding more and more – soon he is threatening their very existence as a people. Staying in the forest, out of sight and out of mind, is no longer security enough when the forest itself is shrinking. The overlord is cutting it down.
If you’ve read the first two Maresi books, The Red Abbey Chronicles, and Naondel (now up for a Dublin Literary Award in Annie Prime’s English translation!) you might find the setting a little domestic and undramatic at first.
Isn’t coming home the end of the story?
Maria Turtschaninoff shows that it certainly is not. While she was writing Breven från Maresi (Letters from Maresi, the original Swedish title), her own mother was dying. The tension and trust between mother and daughter, between generations of women both living and dead, runs through the book. The story is about discovering your own power, too. Nothing new in that for YA novel, you’d think; but Maresi is different. While the harshness and violence of women’s, people’s, lives hasn’t gone away in this book, Maresi is a adult now and knows how to work with others to stop it. Not just by waving her staff or sword, but by speaking the truth to power. By seeing what needs to be done, and doing it, together.
I will be sad to let Maresi go – if there’s a glimmer of hope for a fourth book, I’ll hold out for it. At the Helsinki Book Fair last autumn, I heard students from Kallio Upper Secondary School of Performing Arts reading extracts from Maresin Voima (Maresi’s Power, the fantastic Finnish translation by Maria Kyrö which I read) and interviewing Turtschaninoff. She said then that her translators from Swedish into Finnish and English, languages she knows, have changed how she looks at her own work; they see it through different eyes. The English translator is still looking at this book though – you’ll have to wait till June for Maresi Red Mantle to come out. Which gives you time to read the first two, if you haven’t already.