Book Review

Vespertine

Vespertine

  • Author: Margaret Rogerson
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: October 5, 2021
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • Series: Vespertine #1

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily.

CONTENT WARNING: death, blood, violence, self-harm, trauma, brief mention of off-page suicide

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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.

I kind of just skimmed the blurb before impulsively requesting this book just because I’ve loved everything else that Margaret Rogerson has written. And even though I didn’t really understand what to expect, I wasn’t let down at all. In fact, I quickly got sucked into the story and couldn’t put it down. It turned out to be one of those books that I couldn’t decide if I wanted to read it as fast as possible to find out what happened, or read it slowly and savor it. Turns out, I ended up reading it super quickly. 

Artemisia is a super flawed protagonist, and I loved her. She isn’t pretty, she isn’t sociable, she isn’t easy-going. She’s rather intense, she’s traumatized by her early experiences in life, but these characteristics make her independent, tough, and stubbornly determined. And as it turns out, these qualities also make her uniquely qualified to coexist with a revenant — a malevolent spirit that has been bound to the finger bone of a saint. 

The entire story takes place within the confines of a religious organization. It’s strongly reminiscent of the church, although it’s dramatically different than the church that we’re familiar with. Instead of the patriarchy, this church is female-led and prays to a female goddess. In addition, they’re actively involved in fighting evil; not just with prayers but with swords and other consecrated items. The world-building was intriguing, and I found the whole concept of the church to be fascinating. 

I was constantly surprised by the twists and turns in the story. The pace was consistently fast, and I never got bored. Just when I thought I had a character figured out, it turns out I didn’t know anything at all. There was a strong emphasis on developing friendships, and this book is the perfect example of a strong fantasy story that doesn’t need a romance subplot, yet is still successful and engaging. 

As I read, I had thought that this was a standalone. Upon finishing, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that this is the start to a new series. The end of this story finished with a satisfying wrap-up, but still left a little opening to the next one. I am eagerly looking forward to seeing where this goes in the next book.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 15

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