ARC Provided by Simon & Schuster
Publication: October 5, 2021
“If I could read humans’ minds, I wouldn’t have ended up trapped inside a little girl’s finger bone.”
I have enjoyed everything that Margaret Rogerson has written thus far, but I do think Vespertine may possibly be my favorite of them all.
Artemisia is a Grey Sister, working alongside nuns at the convent, preparing dead bodies for their final rest. Before the convent, and when she was only a child, she was forced to use the most extreme measures to purge a revenant who was possessing her, and now has disabled hands. But because of her past, she likes to keep to herself and live a quiet life with very few friends. But when an army of possessed soldiers come to destroy the only place that has ever made her feel like home, she is forced to use a saint’s relic that allows a very powerful revenant to share a body with her once again, while also protecting the monastery. But Artemisia quickly realizes these soldiers are not the only ones being possessed by so many different spirits of different powers, and the only hope for this world could be her and the spirit that is currently inhabiting her own body.
Word quickly sweeps across all the lands of a Vespertine who has the power to cleanse and save them all, but there are many who will stop at nothing to ensure she does not come into her full power with her revenant who remembers the past these people are trying to hide very well. But Artemisia must learn if she can even trust this spirit, especially because she has his relic which she must protect because if it is destroyed, the revenant will be destroyed with it.
“On this day, we honor her by denouncing the Raven King, bringer of the Sorrow, ruin of the Age of Kings. May his face remain forgotten. May history scorn his name.”
I know the premise of possession can be a little questionable, but Artemisia and her revenant (and their banter) was truly my favorite part of their book. And their friendship, and their trust in one another, while also learning boundaries, was really enjoyable to read. Also, her having that relic and power over the revenant was very important for me, as a reader! And I think the author does a really beautiful job also always remembering and discussing Artemisia’s trauma from her past, while allowing her room to grow but to also decided for herself how she wants to heal and grow, regardless of how linearly the healing is throughout the story and throughout Artemisia’s life.
Artemisia is also very inspired from Joan of Arc, who was also believed to be a saint under divine guidance from a higher power to save her people, even though she was “just” a young and poor girl. Since this is the first book of this duology, I do hope Artemisia does not meet the same end, but the parallels were very subtle and loud at the same time, but always very beautiful.
“I wondered if I should pray. But the stars were gone, the Lady’s gaze obscured. I had no sign save the hundreds of voices chanting my name outside.”
I also really loved this whole entire world and magic system. The different castes and hierarchy of spirits and discovering all their different levels and powers was so absolutely fascinating. Even how the cause of death would impact what kind of spirit manifested! I also loved every stop Artemisia and her revenant would make on this journey, and all the new things about these spirits we, as the reader, would learn alongside Artemisia. If you’ve read the author’s previous works, you know that they just really excel at world building and crafting the most beautiful settings, and Vespertine was no different. And I was happily exploring cities and inns, and cathedrals and crypts, with Artemisia.
Overall, I just really loved this and it was a true joy to pick up each time. The side characters were also very amazing, and each friendship that Artemisia chose to start really was beautiful. And I loved seeing Artemisia realize that she is deserving of safety and happiness, regardless of what happened to her in the past. And also seeing her realize that the family you choose will always be more important than the family you were born into. I really recommend this one for so many reasons, but I also think most of you know I just have a really big soft spot for magical fighting nuns always, too. Happy reading!
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Content and Trigger Warnings: abandonment, child neglect + abuse in past, possession (the mc uses self-harm in the past + threats of suicide to get spirits to leave her body – both very brief mentions), brief mention of animal abuse, mention of animal deaths, blood depictions, vomiting, drugging, anxiety depictions, talk of plagues, loss of a loved one in the past, mention of spiders, talk of suicide, death, and please note this is a book about sharing a body with an ancient spirit, so i can see that making some people uncomfortable, please use caution!
When not writing I can be found drawing, reading, gaming, making pudding, or creeping through the woods in search of toads and mushrooms. I enjoy coMargaret Rogerson is the author of theNew York TimesbestsellersAn Enchantment of RavensandSorcery of Thorns. She has a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology from Miami University. When not reading or writing she enjoys sketching, gaming, making pudding, and watching more documentaries than is socially acceptable (according to some). She lives near Cincinnati, Ohio, beside a garden full of hummingbirds and roses. Visit her at MargaretRogerson.com.