Saturday, November 6, 2010

Review - The Vespertine

The Vespertine (The Vespertine #1)
by Saundra Mitchell
Date: 2011
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 293
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Amelia van den Broek is sent from her brother's home in Maine to Baltimore in the summer of 1889 to make social connections and find herself a suitable husband.  Along with her cousin, Zora Stewart, Amelia finds herself swept up in the excitement of lavish balls, social calls, and charming young suitors.  Nothing seems out of the ordinary... until one day when she has a vision of the future at sunset.

Under the prodding of her excited cousin, Amelia is soon the talk of the town as "Maine's Own Mystic", invited to give readings for those eager to know their futures.  But not all of Amelia's visions are viewed as good omens, and she struggles with the acceptance of her gift, even as tragedy threatens to destroy everything.

(see it on Goodreads)

I thought this sounded like a really intriguing book.  I quite liked the premise and the way it was written (even though I had to look up a ton of words... there are some words from 1889 that we just don't use anymore!).

However, I never felt like I could connect with Amelia.  Even though the story is told from the first person point of view, I didn't feel like I knew her.  Perhaps part of it was the historical aspect, but a lot of the time, I just didn't understand why she did what she did or felt the way she felt.

I actually preferred the minor characters, including the young men who acted as love interests for the girls.  Again, though, there were some problems with character development (or, really, a lack of it), so that certain character actions seemed a little forced.  Yes, certain attributes were hinted at... but not enough to prevent me from scratching my head in places when things went awry.

There were also places in the narrative that were downright confusing.  Conversations between characters were often peppered with Amelia's observations, which made me have to go back and read the dialogue again to have any sense of a coherent conversation.  I'm not sure if this was done on purpose, but I found it rather distracting.

The plot is fairly sparse, so many of the pages in the book are taken up with the silly (by today's standards) social customs of 1889 Baltimore.  For a long time, I wondered if the story was even going anywhere.  Then, in the last 50 pages, things started to pick up, and they didn't stop until they reached a dizzying conclusion.  While the ending kind of saved the whole book, it wasn't enough to erase my annoyance at having to read so many seemingly irrelevant pages to get there.

All in all, I'd say this is a fairly good story, and it would probably appeal to those who enjoy historical romance (with a paranormal twist).

Thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a digital ARC.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Originality: 5/5

Overall: 3.6 out of 5


  1. Thanks for hopping on by! I've heard of this book but haven't seen too much about it...sorry to hear it didn't quite live up to expectations, but thanks for the review :)

  2. It sounds like a fun story, sorry you didn't like it that much. Too bad that you didn't feel a connection with the main character. I know that THAT makes it harder to read the story! :)

  3. Sounds like an interesting story --- and I'm glad you gave an honest review. :)

  4. Thanks! for sharing this review.

  5. This is the first time I've seen someone say that they didn't like something about the book! Very refreshing, although I did love it myself. :)