Vespertine – 4.25 Star Review

I received an early electronic copy of this book from NetGalley

“Perhaps the decisions that shaped the course of history weren’t made in scenes worthy of stories and tapestries, but in ordinary places like these, driven by desperation and doubt.”

Margaret Rogerson

First and foremost, Margaret Rogerson has once again proven herself to be a favorite author of mine. I was (and still am) a huge fan of An Enchantment of Ravens and of Sorcery of Thorns, and Vespertine is already following closely on their heels. Vespertine is a bit different than the other two books by this author, most importantly because it isn’t a standalone. It’s a mixture of the His Fair Assassins books and Venom and something else that uniquely belongs to this story. 

The thing that Margaret Rogerson does best–and continues to do with this book– is give us strong, complicated, and three-dimensional characters (especially her heroines). Artemisia is no exception. She is strong, she is funny, she is compassionate, she is heroic. She has a complicated past and has trouble with social engagements but never lets that stop her. She grows so much in this book. Her strengths shine as she gets over the things that have made her weak–including her past and her inadequacy at understanding the people around her. 

Another thing this book does really well is its side characters. Each one is so much more than they seem, and we get to experience their depths as Artemisia does, as she is constantly surprised by the capabilities of those around her. In this book, the motivations for each character are so much different than they seem and everyone has hidden depths that are slowly and craftily revealed. I loved seeing how Artemisia interacted with the people around her, and how she was constantly surprised by them. This book is such a brilliant study of humanity and how complicated people can be. It explores the depth of what it means to be human, but also what it means to simply exist. 

Most especially, I loved the relationship between Artemisia and the revenant. He constantly threatened her and called her “horrid nun” or “wretched nun,” but it was more banter-based than an actual insult. Their relationship and pasts come to intertwine in a delightful way. Their conversations also always created moments of levity while the stakes were being raised. 

The reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars is twofold–for one thing, I had a really hard time getting into the world. For another, the plot took a while to get going. The world itself did not feel as rich as Rogerson’s other books, which I think is partly because it seems to be heavily inspired by medieval France. I think we are supposed to rely on this inspiration as opposed to the world being explored more deeply. I do get that the main character has a narrow scope of her own world as well–she is born in a very small town and only leaves there to go to a small convent. She leaves the convent behind at the beginning of the book, but she doesn’t know much about the world, and therefore neither do we. She also doesn’t focus much on many world-building details except for those pertaining to spirits and the hierarchy of the world. The places she visits in the book seem relatively flat. This also adds to the slowness of the plot. It gains momentum very, very gradually and it isn’t until nearly the end of the book that you finally start to grasp what’s going on. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The focus is much more on the characters and how they slowly discover what is going on in their world and how to stop it. 

This book, I think, may increase its rating when the next book (or books) in the series are released. The world will likely get bigger right along with the plot. The first book, though, has created a very solid foundation and I can’t wait to see where Rogerson takes this world next. 

*I received a free electronic copy of this book from Netgalley

*Review also posted on Goodreads & NetGalley

Reviewed by Shelby

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