Vespertine (Vespertine, #1)

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Vespertine (Vespertine, #1)
Age Range
14+
Release Date
October 05, 2021
ISBN
978-1534477117
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From the New York Times bestselling author of Sorcery of Thorns and An Enchantment of Ravens comes a thrilling new YA fantasy about a teen girl with mythic abilities who must defend her world against restless spirits of the dead. The dead of Loraille do not rest. Artemisia is training to be a Gray Sister, a nun who cleanses the bodies of the deceased so that their souls can pass on; otherwise, they will rise as spirits with a ravenous hunger for the living. She would rather deal with the dead than the living, who trade whispers about her scarred hands and troubled past. When her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers, Artemisia defends it by awakening an ancient spirit bound to a saint’s relic. It is a revenant, a malevolent being that threatens to possess her the moment she drops her guard. Wielding its extraordinary power almost consumes her—but death has come to Loraille, and only a vespertine, a priestess trained to wield a high relic, has any chance of stopping it. With all knowledge of vespertines lost to time, Artemisia turns to the last remaining expert for help: the revenant itself. As she unravels a sinister mystery of saints, secrets, and dark magic, her bond with the revenant grows. And when a hidden evil begins to surface, she discovers that facing this enemy might require her to betray everything she has been taught to believe—if the revenant doesn’t betray her first.

Editor reviews

Another stunning fantasy by Margaret Rogerson
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
The mission of the Gray Sisters is to cleanse the bodies of the dead to prevent their souls from turning into terrifying spirits. Artemisia may not win any award for most friends at the convent where she trains to become such a sister, but she at least knows she's good at what she's learning. When her convent is unexpectedly attacked, she must defend her home using a saint's relic that holds one of the most powerful spirits. Thus begins a long journey of Artemisia trying to figure out who was behind that attack and those that follow, all while trying not to become possessed by the spirit she was never supposed to carry at her stage of training, a spirit that could betray her at any moment.

VESPERTINE has all the rich trademarks of a Margaret Rogerson fantasy: incredible world-building, a protagonist with a spine of steel, sharp dialogue full of banter, and gorgeous writing. In this story, Artemisia has experienced significant trauma, both in her past and through what she currently faces. Though she exists in a world with unique magic, her character arc is very grounded in a familiar reality for readers who have experienced their own traumas. She has guarded her heart closely and felt alone for so long that when potential friendships and bonds arise, she doesn't quite know how to recognize it. She can be stubborn and judgmental, but once she starts to realize initial impressions aren't always right, she opens up little by little, all in the middle of epic battles, a deadly mystery, and more.

While Rogerson's prior YA fantasies were standalones, VESPERTINE is the first in a series. Rogerson makes the transition from standalone to series seem effortless as one portion of the story is concluded but many mysteries remain for the sequel. Readers who enjoy the works of Holly Black, Robin LaFevers, and CJ Redwine are sure to find another favorite author in Margaret Rogerson.
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Vespertine is a good versus evil story with a unique magic system.
What I loved:
Vespertine has complex characters, beautiful writing, immersive world-building, a plot with twists and turns, and a unique and original magic system. This book has just what all fantasy lovers want from a story. Artemisia is our introverted main character who spends most of the book trading banty wit with the Revenant inside her. Her character development was fascinating as she went from a hermit in a convent to a savior and realized that friends are not so terrible to have.

What Left Me Wanting More:
The ending is very anti-climatic like the author wasn't sure if there would be more than one book for this story. There is an excellent building up to a final big confrontation between the revenants and spirits, but then we have the epilogue. There is no romance in the book, which works well for our anxiety-ridden Artemisia. I would think of more clarification of how the hierarchy went and the Clerisy, as it took a bit to handle all of that.

Final Verdict:
Margaret Rogerson's writing of places and people is engaging, but the magic system was complex for me to follow versus her previous books. I'm not sure where the story will go, but I hope we get some more snarky interaction between Artemisis and the Revenant, doing this worth reading.
Vespertine (Vespertine, #1)
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stunning YA fantasy
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
VESPERTINE is a riveting, thrilling, and enthralling YA fantasy about humanity, human nature, and sacrifice. Artemisia is a novice in a convent, one of the jobs available to someone who has the Sight. In this world, spirits often rise after death as a ruthless being with power based on the manner of their death. To combat this, those with the Sight, who can see- and also be possessed by- the spirits, are trained to fulfill jobs within the religious-based government built around The Lady, their diety.

Artemisia is one such person, who is content where she is with the Gray Sisters, those who cleanse the bodies of the deceased to prevent them from becoming spirits, and longs to stay away from people in general. However, when possessed soldiers arrive at the convent, Artemisia is handed a task by the head of the Gray Sisters, and in doing so, opens a box with a magical artifact - one containing a revenant, the strongest and most powerful of the spirits - and the most dangerous. As she unleashes its power, making her a vespertine, she loses control of herself and sight of the things she values most. In the struggles that follow, Artemisia is soon to learn humanity is on the line and left to determine her own role in the events to come.

What I loved: This was a consuming and atmospheric read that transports the reader to this magical and dangerous other world. The premise and the plot are tightly constructed with many twists and unexpected turns along the way. This fascinating world raises important themes around politics, religion, benevolent (or not) deities, twisted motives, humanity, and morality. These thought-provoking elements leave readers to consider which actions can be defined as good and who gets to determine the morality of them, as well as the ways in which they can be corrupted or skewed by the audience.

Artemisia is swept into this battle she did not ask for and does not desire, and the consequences change how others view her and what they want from her. The religion to which she ascribes is also interesting in how it relates to the deity the people worship and how the characters interpret signs and the influence in their own lives. There may be an element of choice in fate, but the significance of divine destiny/intervention is a frequent one. There are many questions raised around this worship, the power structures, and the way that it has developed. Between these intriguing topics, the book is certainly one worth pondering further and would make for a great book club pick.

The characters in the book are endlessly compelling, and beyond Artemisia, who is flawed and often seems to be muddling her way through the mantle she carries, there are several side characters who are beautifully constructed and felt so real. Marguerite, Leander, Charles, and Jean are particularly complex and well-developed. I appreciated the depth of their characters and the way that understanding changes how they are viewed by the reader. Some of the other/older nuns were also fascinating, and I would have loved to have spent even more time with them. Additionally, the revenant that is possessing Artemisia becomes one of the most endearing characters, and as she gets to know it, so does the reader, endearing it to them. Through Artemisia's eyes, there are so many the reader will come to love, and the power of the writing is in gaining these insights, understandings, and allowances that bring these characters to life. I'm hoping to see more of all these characters in future books.

The lack of romance was intriguing and not often seen. Notably, it was not missed in this action-filled read. This story is a stand-out with an intriguing and unexpected plot, twists that you don't see coming, and characters that leap off the pages.

Final verdict: With masterful world-building, compelling characters, and thought-provoking themes, VESPERTINE is a stunning and riveting YA fantasy read. Highly recommend for fans of THE MERCIFUL CROW, THE PRISON HEALER, WHAT WE DEVOUR, and DANCE OF THIEVES.
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