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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Naondel: The Red Abbey Chronicles
by Maria Turtschaninoff
Age Range: 14+
Maria Turtschaninoff’s Maresi captured the reader’s imagination as she drew them into the fantasy world of The Red Abbey, located on a remote island, a woman-only refuge where no man is allowed to set foot. Now Naondel tells the back story of the founding sisters:– Kabira the first Mother), Garai (the High Priestess), Estegi the servant and second Mother, Orseola the Dreamweaver, Sulani the Brave, Clarás who led the flight, Daera the first Rose and Iona, who was lost.
Eight women brought together by one man, Iskan, the Vizier who wants to achieve power at any cost. Some of the women have special gifts and he will stop at nothing to obtain them for himself whilst trying to destroy them in the process: – Kabira, who becomes his first wife, has the knowledge of Anji, a sacred spring of which her family were the guardians. Anji’s water can bestow life and wealth but she can also bring death and destruction if her powers are misused. Garai, bought as a slave, has a special inner sacred energy and a mastery of healing herbs; Orseola is a dreamweaver who can live others peoples dreams but also weave them, Sulani the Brave, whose tremendous strength originated from the river and the teenage Iona whose destiny was to sacrifice her life but who holds the power of her predecessor in the form of a skull.
Turtschaninoff’s novel is a cross-over feminist epic that gives insight into a time when women were nothing more than chattels. The stories of these women show them finding friendship and salvation in each other when all else is lost, but also displaying incredible strength in the face of terrible adversity in a world of complete male dominance over women’s bodies and soul.
The undercurrent of darkness is never far away, and although there are no graphic descriptions of violence, the sexual exploitation, abuse, depravity and rape is made clear. A novel of true sisterhood, excellently translated from Swedish by A. A. Prime, one that lingers long after you have put it down.