Naondel by Maria Turtschaninoff. Book Review
The women who live in the palace of Ohaddin appear to lead a privileged life where they want for nothing. This could not be further from the truth, because they are a harem brought there through treachery or enslavement, to act as servants or wives. They must do as they are told or suffer the consequences of resistance.
But each of the women has their own special ability, for example, to heal, control dreams, see into the future and be a warrior. All of them dream of a place where they can live their lives in freedom and safety.
They must bide their time and plan until the time is right to fulfil their destiny.
Naondel is the second book in The Red Abbey Chronicles and is a prequel to the first book, Maresi, which charts the fortunes of the Red Abbey, a refuge for girls and women.
Naondel begins like an Arabian Nights tale but soon develops into something far more sinister and complex. This is a story about utter control of women by one man and how, as a group, they work together within the boundaries of their imprisonment and exploitation, to eventually break free of it. It does make for a very grueling read, but it is nonetheless a compelling and rewarding one, which is not without hope.
Naondel is pitched as a young adult novel but, because of the concept of the sexual violence inflicted on the women, this is probably more suitable for older young adult or even new adult readers.
There is a depth to the description of this world which makes for a richly layered story. First-person accounts increase the intensity of the narrative, as you experience this tightly controlled world from the women’s perspective. The interconnected relationships, and how each woman responds to the situation, demonstrates a terrifying insight on the part of the author into how women try to deal with the abuse, and survival techniques each of them adopt to cope with the attentions of their abuser (a dreadfully manipulative man in a position of power).
There are some very interesting plot twists which add subtle layers to the narrative, particularly with regards to strength of maternal emotion and the bonding of a mother and child put in an impossible situation.
Naondel was courtesy of Pushkin Press via NetGalley