Author: Saundra Mitchell
Release Date: March 7, 2011
Genre: Young Adult
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children's
5 out of 5 Robots!
The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell is the debut in a wonderful new historical paranormal romance series that will easily suck you into a magical tale of a girl who can see the future flaming in the setting of the sun and the boy she loves who mysteriously seems to come and go like a phantom breeze. The flowing prose of this novel are both eloquent and descriptive, perfectly painting the setting in the reader's mind and capturing the lush sophistication and strict formality of the era. Filled with enjoyable characters, an engaging plot and a haunting romance that tugs at the heart, this novel has all the intrigue of youth with a voice that is far more insightful and considerate then character's sixteen years. Simply, this is a can't miss read in 2011!
The writing style is what initially captivated my adoration of this novel. There is a sense of tragedy surrounding the main character, Amelia that was so devastatingly haunting and oh so intriguing. The beautiful prose so wonderfully captures the characters and the settings of this novel that they seem to ensnare you, transporting us through time to an alternate place and point in history. The somewhat formal, yet accessible, writing emphasizes the cultural and social differences creating a rigid skeletal structure overlaid with a sense of wild abandon brought to life through the vivid construct of the youthful characters and yet again perfectly captures the time period of the late 1800’s.
The characters themselves are so vibrant and interesting that it is hard to not be drawn in by them. Amelia’s ‘country mouse’ appeal as she enters proper society is endearing, making her far more relatable in her less rigidly dignified personality. She craves to become a proper woman, but some part of her also yearns for the freedom of wickedness, the temptation personified through a tantalizing rogue stranger, Nathaniel. Zora, her cousin and confidante, while a bit more dignified is no less indulgent in her desire to be carefree in the last seasons of her youth. The onset of Amelia’s visions add a fun and tempting lure to the girls to indulge in freedom and notoriety within the more prestigious circles and they relish in the popularity that comes with it.
The romantic entanglements of the girls to Thomas and Nathaniel, one respectable and one improper, adds a whimsical romantiscm to the novel. While Thomas is everything proper and respectable in a young beau, his romance with Zora is somehow predictable though he inevitably is sucked into to the girl’s less then appropriate whirlwind taking a few liberties that his honorable nature otherwise might not have. His sense of chivalry is admirable and you come to love the blossoming of what promises to be a long and happy life between the two. Meanwhile, Amelia is left conflicted as she is invariably drawn to the complete opposite sort of man she was sent to mingle with. He is improper in his mannerisms towards her, taking liberties no proper suitor would and altogether is a mysterious and tempting stranger. It is this impropriety in him to do and say as he pleases that draws Amelia as she senses something similar in their natures. The forbidden romance between the two is alluring and the tone of it is developed well beyond the usual YA standards making this seem exceptionally mature as Amelia reasons through her feelings for the enthralling and elusive stranger.
The overlying tones of the novel were also well captured and thoroughly presented to the reader. The warm stmosphere of hope and wildness at the first of the novel are off set by the growing chill of looming tragedy at the end. This disheartening chilling mood of the novel looms until the dam bursts and the full scope of what Amelia’s visions have been telling her come to pass. The ruination of her reputation is of little consequence when she comes to bare the full weight of her manifestations and the tragedy that leaves her alone and desolate back in her home town of Broken Tooth. Since I don’t want to spoil the ending let me just say, I can’t wait to see what awaits Amelia in the future as she once more sets out to find her place in the world and what her vespers will show her next!
Overall, the tone and world building within this novel far surpassed anything that I had dreamed possible. While this is YA fiction, it speaks in such a mature and well thought out manner that I simply couldn’t have put it down even if I’d wanted to. I was hooked by the romance and mystery of Amelia’s visions and her dark and forbidden romance with her inappropriate yet utterly charming rogue. This is my first time Reading Mitchell’s writing, but I can safely say that it will not be my last!