Author: Margaret Rogerson
The dead of Loraille do not rest.
Artemisia is training to be a Gray Sister, a nun who cleanses the bodies of the deceased so that their souls can pass on; otherwise, they will rise as spirits with a ravenous hunger for the living. She would rather deal with the dead than the living, who trade whispers about her scarred hands and troubled past.
When her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers, Artemisia defends it by awakening an ancient spirit bound to a saint’s relic. It is a revenant, a malevolent being that threatens to possess her the moment she drops her guard. Wielding its extraordinary power almost consumes her—but death has come to Loraille, and only a vespertine, a priestess trained to wield a high relic, has any chance of stopping it. With all knowledge of vespertines lost to time, Artemisia turns to the last remaining expert for help: the revenant itself.
As she unravels a sinister mystery of saints, secrets, and dark magic, her bond with the revenant grows. And when a hidden evil begins to surface, she discovers that facing this enemy might require her to betray everything she has been taught to believe—if the revenant doesn’t betray her first.
Vespertine first caught my attention as I loved the author’s other works, An Enchantment of Ravens and Sorcery of Thorns. This novel took me by surprise, as it was different from the one I was expecting. The first thing of note was there was no romance in this story, unlike the other two novels. As this is the first novel in the series, it gives an excellent introduction into the world and story filled with the clergy and different spirits.
Artemisia is a young Gray Sister, which have had to carry out the sacred duty of tending to the dead for the past three hundred years. The story takes place in Loraille where the dead do not sleep and the souls that are not put to rest are placed inside relics. Each spirit is placed in a different House that each possesses its own unique characteristics. While I loved the descriptions of each House’s spirit type, it was sometimes a little difficult to remember when they appeared later in the novel. They were still very interesting and my forgetfulness did not take away from my enjoyment of the story. When she takes on a Fifth order revenant, she is captured by Leander, a Clerisy Confessor, and must find a way to escape.
As a main character, Artemisia is a strong lead and has been through a lot in her past. She is alone a lot and slowly learns to trust others as the story moves forward. She is more introverted compared to many main characters of the same genre and I enjoyed how unique she was. Her banter with the revenant was a standout feature of the story, as there was a lot of humor on the page to break up the dark content. The revenant was an excellent character, as I loved his darker humor with a complicated personality. For me, neither character was immediately likable, but it was not long before I was fully invested in both of them. Even the minor characters were well written and complex, so it was easy to care about them.
Overall, the novel is a nice mix of the fantasy and paranormal genres. It was a captivating story that follows along Artemisia’s journey. This novel also stands out, as the story does not end with a cliffhanger, so I am very curious how the series will continue. I hope that there is more exploration of the magic and world as both are fascinating. The pacing of the novel is a little slower, which is expected of a series, for me, and I did not mind it. The series has great potential and I cannot wait to see what will happen in the sequel!
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Margaret K. McElderry Books, for the opportunity to read this entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**