Review: The Vespertine

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The VespertineThe Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell
Series: The Vespertine #1
Published by Harcourt Children's Books on March 7, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Romance
Pages: 293
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

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.

The Vespertine is one of those books that I cannot decide whether or not I liked it overall. I really thought the premise was interesting. I have always had a soft spot for high society/season things (I even made it through Godbersen’s Luxe series). Plus, there’s the magic element, which came off with a hint of magic realism (super cool). Still, there were other aspects that were less well done or just not fully used.

For instance, the opening chapter is pretty astounding. Amelia is shut up in a room for having brought shame upon herself and the family. Locked up by her own family. With that and the period piece element, I was thinking back on Wildthorn, although the books really are quite different. This chapter grabs the reader’s attention and takes a powerful hold. You want to know all the gritty and dirty details about what Amelia has done. But that atmosphere never really comes back again.

What bugged me the most was how much like a trashy romance novel the story was at times (okay, only when Amelia is with her boy). Seriously, the dialog and descriptions would not be out of place in the latest Judith McNaught book. Plus, I never really got to liking Nathaniel (that’s his name). Or mostly I just couldn’t take him seriously, because he’s such a stereotypical flirty bad boy leading her down a bad path in his introduction. Then, you get a description of him on a usual day: “His coat was cut in green and gold tartan, and he’d pinned the pocket with a nosegay of tangerine silk” (73). Yikes! That’s some color combo.

The Vespertine makes a nice change from some of the more typical teen fare. Some important issues are brought up, along with magic, love, romance and ruination. Not for everyone, but some will enjoy this late nineteenth century romp.

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