Content Warnings: DubCon [Riftan always initiates sex and Maxi never gives verbal consent, at times even says no, but her inner thoughts tell us she does feel desire and is aroused although she is confused by the feelings/sensations], blood/gore, child abuse, ableism, abuse, mention of rape, child neglect, isolation, and war.
When I first got back into reading manga and manhwa I downloaded the Manta Comics app on my phone and was instantly intrigued by the summary of UNDER THE OAK TREE. The app allows you to read the first 4 chapters free, with a token for one free chapter unlocking every 24hrs, or you can buy a paid membership [$3.99 per month] that allows you to read as many chapters of whatever manga/manhwa you want. I was a bit nervous to get the unlimited membership, since I have so many books I want/need to read, afraid that I’d fall down a hole and lose track of time. *Nervous laugh* So instead I read the free chapters and slowly, patiently, waited as every 24hrs I was able to read one more chapter.
Around the time I started reading into the 20th chapter, or so, an ad popped up informing me that there was a novel version that contained chapters 1-39 and it happened to be on sale for 99 cents! Of course, I wanted to continue reading the manhwa, with its gorgeous artwork, but I decided to also start reading the novel as well to see how well they lined up with each other.
I’m so happy I decided to read the novel, as well as the manhwa, as the novel gave so many more inner thoughts, history, and context to the story. While reading the Manhwa, honestly the first few times Maxi and Riftan have sex, it seems like he’s raping her because she’s saying no and her body language says she doesn’t want to participate. Reading those same scenes in the novel, [which are must steamier and graphic in description] we’re able to hear Maxi’s inner monologue which shows that although she didn’t give consent she does feel aroused and desire, she’s just so unfamiliar with those feelings she’s intimidated and nervous. The only education she was given, in regards to sex, was to lay still in order to perform her “marital duties” so she feels like the sensations she feels, and any movements she makes, during sex might deem her bad at it or inappropriate.
The novel follows right along with all the chapters of the manhwa but adds so much more information that I’m glad I decided to read both in tandem. I highly recommend reading both the online manhwa as well as the novels so that you can fully understand, and appreciate the story.
I look forward to seeing the story develop as Maxi, hopefully, is able to learn and grow in her confidence. Maxi had such a horrible time growing up with an abusive father I’m excited to see her see she’s surrounded by people who care for and respect her. I long for the time when she no longer feels less than…when she no longer feels disposable.