Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Book Rec: The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

MJ gave me a Kindle for Christmas, something he's already claiming was a mistake, since all I want to do is read (and play the free word games I downloaded - don't tell him that though).
The Vespertine
I finished The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell last night (releasing March 7, 2011). It has a beautiful cover, but the story is beautiful too. 

The summer of 1889 is the one between childhood and womanhood for Amelia van den Broek-and thankfully, she's not spending it at home in rural Maine. She's been sent to Baltimore to stay with her stylish cousin, Zora, who will show her all the pleasures of city life and help her find a suitable man to marry.

Archery in the park, dazzling balls and hints of forbidden romance-Victorian Baltimore is more exciting than Amelia imagined. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset-visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. Newly dubbed "Maine's Own Mystic", Amelia is suddenly quite in demand.

However, her attraction to Nathaniel, an artist who is decidedly outside of Zora's circle, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own- still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. And while she has no trouble seeing the futures of others, she cannot predict whether Nathaniel will remain in hers.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia's world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she's not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

What's funny is that I actually wasn't sure about The Vespertine when I first picked it up. I loved the first sentence:

I woke in Oak Haven, utterly ruined.

Wow. There's a promie there that makes me want to read on. But what follows are some fevered, discombobulating paragraphs. The narrator, Amelia, is pretty much nuts and locked away in a bedroom, and while her madness comes through clearly, for me it wasn't the most engaging beginning.

But I read on, and once Lizzie, her sister-in-law, enters the picture to let Amelia loose, I was hooked. Sweet, spirited and wise, Lizzie is a well-developed secondary character, even though she's only in a few chapers. I enjoyed Saunders' skillful characterization and dialogue, and found myself caring for the fate of not just Amelia and Nathaniel, but for Zora and her friends and cousins. 

Most of the story is set in 19th century Baltimore, and I thought it felt well-researched and evocative; it was interesting to see through Amelia's eyes.

But. The real test of how much I liked this book? It could be considered in many ways a paranormal romance, complete with intense-love-at-first-sight, which usually has the combined effect of making me complain about reinforcing ridiculous teenage expectations of romance and toss books aside. But I didn't do that this time, because I was reading it on a Kindle and it might break. No, seriously, I didn't do it this time because it just worked for me.  It felt right for the story, that sheltered Amelia falls head-over-heels for the inappropriate "Fourteenth" (Nathaniel, an artist), especially since her paranormal powers begin to waken after they meet...

And, no matter how lovesick they are, Amelia and Zora have a strong friendship (cemented with clever and enjoyable dialogue), which is something I really love seeing in YA. Or anywhere. The friendships of women are just as important as our loves.

Definitely, I recommend The Vespertine if you like YA historical or YA paranormal romance; as if you couldn't tell I was recommending this one to read in 2011. Loved it!


Meredith said...

Thanks for the review! This one looks like fun, and I've been drooling over that cover for a while :)

Old Kitty said...

What does the word "Vespertine" allude to?

Thanks for the review - beautiful cover!

Take care

Carol Riggs said...

Yes, that does look like a gorgeous cover! And congrats on going all modern and doing the Kindle thing. I haven't succumbed yet. ;o)

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The Lovely Getaway said...

Awesome review! I've heard great things about this book and your review doesnt disappoint :) I'll have to add this book to my growing TBR pile! Keep up the good work!


Bekah said...

OOHHH! I just nt to the store and got four new books. LOVe new books and nice reveiws

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W.B. said...

Spectacular review! The story sounds very intense. I'll add it to my list of books to read for this year (which is already quite high). :p