Lexie's Reviews > The Vespertine

The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell
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's review
Mar 22, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: review-blog-pr, first-in-series
Read from February 28 to March 02, 2011

Mitchell's debut, Shadowed Summer was a surprising hit for me that still makes me shiver whenever I think of the 'where y'at?'.  Atmosphere is what Mitchell is good at and she puts it to good use in this book.  The book begins at what essentially is the tail end of Amelia's story.  Mitchell lays out the consequences of Amelia's actions, serving small tidbits of information that later take on new meanings.

The book is mainly set in the Spring of 1889, in Baltimore where Amelia stays with her cousins the Stewarts, but the occasional chapter will appear to speak of her present, Autumn 1889 in Broken Tooth, Maine.  The book is somewhat haphazard about pacing, sometimes the plot races and the suspense is high and you can feel the adrenaline of the moment.  Other times its leisurely and meandering, showing us what life was like for the working middle class of Baltimore in 1889.

While Shadowed Summer seemed to dwell on friendship, romance and secrets, The Vespertine indulged in darker ideas.  Forbidden love, forbidden power and the allure of the future.  What began as a harmless game to amuse her friends and perhaps set their minds at ease quickly snowballed into a situation that Zora and Amelia lost control over.  At one point Amelia asks Zora if she would like to know her future and Zora responds "I want the wonder of it." (pg 242, ARC edition) and I wondered if I would want to know my future.

Its a rather tempting idea isn't it?  To know how taking one invitation over another will effect me.  Or to know whether or not the young man I'm eying across the hall is meant to be my true love or a big mistake.  The trouble is Amelia has to go by contextual clues to understand 'when' the vision is taking place.  In the case of the first one she sees for Zora, its easy--its the manner of the dress she's wearing.  Later, when her powers develop further she doesn't even have that to go on.

The romance of Amelia and Nathaniel was woven throughout, a counterpoise to the excitement.  He is definitely not an eligible groom.  She knows this.  She admits this, but they're drawn together and the reasoning is sound if a little shallow.  We don't get a clear understanding of who Nathaniel is.  Amelia is very much the focus of the novel and at times that means to the exclusion of all else.  In one scene, in which we could have learned quite a bit about him, Mitchell instead focused on Amelia's reactions to her surroundings.  To her teasing of Nathaniel and how she felt.  Much of what we learn about Nathaniel feels like a reaction to Amelia.

As for the ending...tragedies come in threes.  Amelia is taught a heart-breaking lesson and the 'present day' chapters take on more sense.  I had hoped for a sequel and I was rewarded for that hope!  The Springsweet is due out in 2012 and is a companion to this book.  The Goodreads page has only the smallest of blurbs but it can be considered a spoiler for the fate of two characters.

My question to y'all: Would you want to know the future, come what may?

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Reading Progress

02/28 page 33
03/01 page 57
19.0% "slow progress due to busy days..."
01/27 marked as: read

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