Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Review: The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

Title: The Vespertine
Author: Saundra Mitchell
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Release Date: 03/07/2011
ISBN: 0547482477

Like your supernatural books with a little historical edge to it? Then you'll probably love this book. Want it to progress at a fast rate with lots of shocks & thrills? Then you'll probably be slightly disappointed. While this book is excellent, it isn't one of those types of stories.

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

Rather than go quickly to the thrills or chase scenes, Mitchell decides instead to start her story with Amelia after the fact & slowly build up the suspense for what will eventually happen. We're told that something will go wrong, but what exactly it will be is only slightly alluded to in the beginning of the story. It's a smart move, as it gives the otherwise optimistic beginnings of the book a bit of an ominous tone. While there's not a huge amount of detail given to Amelia's heart throb Nathaniel, the richly written atmosphere more than makes up for it.

It's just that the book's description makes this seem like there's more action & supernatural elements to the book than there is & I can't help but feel like this might be a bit misleading for some. The paranormal aspect is interesting but to me it just seemed to be a little underdeveloped at points. I wanted to see more of Amelia's abilities as well as (trying not to be spoilerish) some of the other talents mentioned in the book. The big emphasis is on the social problems rather than the paranormal ones & while I loved that Amelia's abilities played a bit of a backseat for the first part of the book, it just needed a bit more meat to it.

Overall though this is a nice tale & it's sure to find a nice following, especially with the sequel (The Springsweet, only click on this link if you want to be slightly spoiled plot-wise) coming out in spring 2012.

(ARC provided by NetGalley)

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