An epistolary novel. A beautiful story with a strong female protagonist. The stand-alone conclusion to a trilogy. Maresi: Red Mantle by Maria Turtschaninoff is all of these.
It’s also the co-winner of the 2020 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize—and deservedly so, as it’s a fabulous read.
Set in an agrarian, mostly pre-literate, fantasy world, Red Mantle (American edition title, cover above right; UK cover, on the left) begins with the protagonist Maresi returning home after nearly a decade at the Red Abbey—where her parents had sent her after a “hunger winter” so severe that they lost one child to starvation and feared losing more. At the Abbey, Maresi had learned to worship the three aspects of the Goddess: Maiden, Mother, and Crone (the face of death). Maresi can sense the Crone and, although she begins the book unaware of her powers, she turns out to have considerable magic that her connection to the Goddess enhances.
Maresi adores the Abbey, her friends, and teachers. She considers it her home. But she realizes she must return to her land, Rovas, to bring knowledge and education to her people, who have grown increasingly poor and powerless without it. This is where the tale begins, and, over time, that’s exactly what she does… plus a good deal more.
As part of Maresi’s tale, Turtschaninoff depicts the feelings of a strong, intelligent young woman finding herself and the emotional journey of someone who doesn’t fit in when she returns home. Turtschaninoff also shows the power of education and basic literacy in protecting people from the most basic kinds of arbitrary rule. And she addresses: misrule by greedy authorities vs. respect for native traditions; equality between the sexes vs. men who don’t respect women; the evil created by despoiling the land for profit vs. the beauty and strength of an intact natural world; and… and… and. The list of themes can go on for some time, because Red Mantle is a deep book. Yet what makes this novel such a good read is that the strands of the personal, societal, and ecological drama are melded together seamlessly and passionately.
Turtschaninoff has said that while Maresi’s story is finished, she plans to return to the world for more stories and other books. What a treat that will be!
Awards: 2020 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize; Nordic Council Literary Prize, nomination
Reviews of the Red Abbey Chronicles: Kirkus (the earlier books in the trilogy have received numerous reviews and awards)
Maresi Red Mantle: 2019 Pushkin Press; ISBN: 9781782690955
Red Mantle: 2020 Abrams; ISBN: 9781419731358
Written by Maria Turtschaninoff
Translated from the Swedish by A. A. (Annie) Prime
Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of over 50 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French, Italian, and German into English, including the much-loved Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels (Papercutz, 2009-2017). Two of her latest translations, Luisa: Now and Then (Humanoids, 2018) and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas (First Second, 2017) were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens; Luisa: Now and Then was also a 2019 Stonewall Honor Book and a 2020 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize Honor Book. Her most recent translations include Bibi and Miyu, Brina Cat #2: City Cat, Undead Messiah #3, and The Sisters, Vol. 6: Hurricane Maureen.