ARC Review – ‘Vespertine’ by Margaret Rogerson

TITLE: Vespertine
AUTHOR: Margaret Rogerson
GENRE: YA Fantasy
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 400 pages (hardcover)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by on October 5th, 2021

Blurb from Goodreads:

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 absolutely adored Vespertine, it’s a must-read for fantasy lovers! This is the first in a series and I’m so thrilled that we have more to come in this universe because I’m in love with the characters, world-building, plot and EVERYTHING ABOUT IT TBH.

Artemisia is a very unusual nun, having been the victim of a traumatic prolonged possession by a malevolent spirit throughout her childhood and growing up without any social skills as her frightened family locks her up out of human contact for their safety. This could have created a tragic, self-pitying main character, but instead Artemisia out of self-preservation regards her upbringing as nothing out of the ordinary and represses all notion that what happened to her is something to brood over and her matter-of-fact attitude about quite horrific suffering infuses the book with a great deal of black humor.

It also leads to funny moments where she has absolutely no idea of how to make small talk and is more afraid of socializing than mortal danger or when she recalls trying to make friends with a fellow nun by throwing a spider at her to help her stop being afraid of them! It made sense at the time…just like lurking under the bed as though she were a demonic entity when she first encountered her roommate…

When Artemesia winds up becoming host to a revenant in a desperate attempt to protect her convent from attack, it leads to the most delightful dynamic I’ve ever read in the history of fantasy. The revenant is typically bloodthirsty and intent on causing chaos and destruction, but it’s also hilariously snarky, grouchily protective and reluctantly allies itself with Artemisia in the hopes of wearing her down long enough to possess her completely. 

The bond that grows between them as they come to understand and care for each other is just so beautifully and believably written with a helping of angst and conflict over their differing motivations. Artemisia is utterly unheeding of her own personal safety and wellbeing, putting the revenant in the odd position of being a mother hen, nagging her to look after herself while insisting it doesn’t care at all, and then there are times when she will give it the respect and consideration that no other human would in her position, leaving it flustered and out of sorts. I loved their banter and their arguments and every moment of interaction is pure gold. The funniest thing is how the revenant is better at pretending to be human and relating to humans than Artemisia, which is such an unusual and intriguing dynamic to explore!

Although she has the best intentions and demonstrates this by protecting innocents around her with the newfound abilities granted by the revenant, her perceived possession leads to the Clerisy determining she is the number one most wanted on their list and pursue her at all costs. There is a breathless tension as Artemisia struggles to retain control of the revenant, save the lives of humans at risk from other deadly spirits and also protect herself from the relentless pursuit of those determined to capture and exorcise her.

This book will effortlessly transport you to a world of magic, wonder and danger with complex, amazingly written characters and intricate mythology, easily digestible fantasy politics and a thrilling race against time to avert a grave danger to the entire realm. It’s so good you will finish this and immediately want to re-read it!

Disclaimer: digital copy provided free from publisher via Netgalley for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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