I picked up Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson sort of by accident. I remember thinking the plot and general world sounded interesting. What I didn’t realise until after the fact was that I had read both of Rogerson’s previous novels and really enjoyed them. Of the three, Vespertine is definitely my favourite.
It’s very much a standard YA fantasy plot, with a late-teens Chosen One discovering world-saving powers. In this case, Artemisia is a seventeen-year-old Gray Sister, an order of nuns who are responsible for laying the dead to rest. She discovers she is resistant to possession, and gains awesome powers that she puts to use protecting her world from bad guys. Happily, Rogerson’s writing and world building more than elevates the material.
What I enjoyed most here was the world. This is a fantasy world reminiscent of medieval-ish Europe, governed by a religious order. When someone dies, depending on the manner of death, their spirit returns unless it is put to rest. Some spirits are weak, and some are so powerful they can destroy humanity if released. The ruling body is based on the religion that arose to combat these spirits, and leaders hold relics that house spirits that grant them powers (ie healing, fighting, compelling other to do as they say, etc). Rogerson introduces everything beautifully, without trying to mash it all into two sentences like I just did. Rogerson gives you the answers you’re looking for, without being too obvious, or having three solid pages of exposition.
Artemisia, our hero and first-person narrator, ends up wielding one of the revenants without training, which means she has to live with it constantly in her head. It’s a bit like being given a lightsabre, but not being told how to turn the lightsabre off. She has to walk around with this dangerous thing blasting all over the place, but it turns out that the revenant is sentient and has a personality, and its own wants and agenda. It grants her tremendous power, but for her to use them puts her at risk to be consumed by the revenant, who seems to have an unquenchable thirst for human lives.
This is the first of Rogerson’s novels to be part of a series, her previous two being standalones. While this novel didn’t end of a cliffhanger, I closed the book wanting more. Not because there were loose ends, but because the world and characters were so compelling I just wanted to know more. I could go on and on about everything I loved about this novel. If anything I wrote here sounds at all interesting to you, you should absolutely pick it up. Definitely my favourite book so far this year.