A remarkable series
Though NAONDEL is the prequel to the first book in the Red Abbey Chronicles, MARESI, you do not have to have read MARESI to dive right in. Before the First Sisters of the Red Abbey had their title, they were each imprisoned in a harem. Some, like the first wife, were manipulated and tricked. Others were sold, captured, or coerced. Over the span of many years, the women must learn to work together if they want to save not only themselves, but the entire world around them from a man who tries to bend dark magic to his will.
NAONDEL is unlike any book I’ve read before, particularly in the YA category. It’s rare to see YA cover so many consecutive years with some characters aging out of teen years and new characters just entering them. Turtschaninoff introduces several protagonists, each unique, complex, and with a distinct voice. We see how they are pitted against each other from the beginning, in very realistic ways. Not only is the antagonist setting them against each other by favoritism, but as more years of abuse pass, some of the women mentally survive by closing themselves off and keeping everyone out of reach. Their coping mechanisms are as different as their personalities. Only by slowly learning to trust each other and seek out support are they able to find their freedom. I was constantly amazed at how the author managed to build each relationship between all of the women. Some find an ally in the other; some a true love; some a powerful friendship.
While some may find the beginning on the slower side, each chapter truly has a purpose that builds into an incredible and emotional big picture. This is not a novel to pick up hoping for a smooth-sailing story, but rather, one where tissues and perhaps a stress ball should be on hand. The conclusion combines a realistic and positive balance of hope, success, heartbreak, and pain.
By the time I turned the last page in NAONDEL, I had already bought a copy of MARESI to read as soon as possible. The Red Abbey world of magic, feminism, and cutting voice makes this a remarkable series.