Cora needs very little introduction to anyone in the world of books. She has been nominated for and won numerous awards, she’s achieved several prestigious Netgalley badges and is just generally a wealth of knowledge when it comes to books. In her piece for #FeministFebruary, she has once again introduced me to an author I hadn’t heard of and added a fantastic-sounding series to my TBR.
Maresi and Naondel by Maria Turtschaninoff hold a special place in my heart.
It’s very easy to be sucked into the Strong Female Character narrative, where you get a kick-ass female character who ruthlessly kills and uses her physical strength to overcome challenges. She’s Not Like Other Girls, she sneers at such frivolities as fashion and make-up.
I used to think that that was the goal, that was the aim. It was conditioned into me from a young age that to be stereo-typically feminine was to be weak. To be strong I had to emulate male stereotypes, shun all things “girly” and essentially become a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I was that Manic Pixie Dream Girl for a while, one of the lads but with boobs, and I’ll tell you something from the depths of my soul – it was awful. It’s toxic. And it is not the goal.
It took me a long time and a lot of books to change my thinking. And last year when I first picked up Maresi, I knew that I was reading something magical (and not just from the fantasy setting). Here were women from all walks of life, brought together, practising their faith and living their lives. They supported each other, taught each other, protected each other. The sacrifices they made for each other broke my heart. And I finally got the message, I finally understood what it meant to be a feminist.
But it wasn’t until reading Naondel that I truly realised the depths of my own toxicity and checked myself. It is one thing to check your privilege, another to check you internalised, socially conditioned, misogyny. Naondel is utterly heart breaking and shocking, but it’s a triumph of feminine power in all its forms. This book challenged what I’d been taught all of my life about strength and power and what it means to be strong as a woman. It showed toxic relationships, and how you don’t always realise how bad they are. It showed women overcoming everything that stood against them, stood in their way, to create something bigger and better. Naondel is glorioius and it made my heart soar.
“I saw the same thing in him as I had seen in the eyes of the men who stole me and my sisters that night, and in the eyes of the men who had sold me for silver and gold: to them I am a thing.”
Maresi and Naondel subtly explore feminism in our world in the realms of the Red Abbey universe. It so closely parallels what I know that it shook me. And they are so marvellously written that I couldn’t put them down. These two books are the stories of women being women, and women supporting women, and women fighting desperately in an unfair world just to be equal.