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 was one of those books which popped onto my radar as soon as it released but never made it into my basket, though I'd picked it up a million times, until the other day. Alas, too many books, too little time! It's like a personal motto with me. Seriously. I should have T-shirts made or something.
A lush historical paranormal romance, The Vespertine didn't disappoint. Amelia and Zora were a great pair who were just the right mix of rash and prudent, a refreshing look at teen girls within the strict confines of turn of the century morals and social rules. I enjoyed how Mitchell showed the girls being improper in a variety of small ways to push the bounds, as I'm sure so many did. But I also loved Mrs Stewart (Zora's mom), and I appreciated the way she both attempted to coral the girls but also turned a blind eye to some of the frolics.
"I'm glad to see you go," Mrs. Stewart said, fussing with the luggage on the victoria... "You've done nothing but eat and drink us into the poorhouse."The characters were lovable and the dialogue was fun and genuine. I could picture this house teeming with the energy of two young girls, swirling through the excitement of their first social season.
Giggling, Zora twisted around, popping up to watch her. "You always said you would see me socially accomplished."
Mrs. Stewart offered an unladylike snort, then a grunt when she fixed the second strap. "That was before I had to resort to selling my hair combs for tea and cookies."....
"I should thank you very much to leave that tongue at home. If you should embarrass us with Mrs. Castillo..."
"Mama!" Zora recoiled, incredulous. "I would never!"
"That goes for Amelia, too," Mrs. Stewart said..."Whatever spiritualist nonsense you goslings have been up to lately, I expect none of it while you're in Annapolis."...
Zora rested her head against mine. "For that, I'm running away with an actor."
"Good luck finding an actor who could keep you in tea," Mrs. Stewart muttered.
Amelia's breathy, often dreamy voice, and her sudden, and often rash, decisions fit perfectly with the theory of fire being her element, and I loved how Mitchell built it into her personality but also made it very normal teen sort of fare as well.
Most of all I loved the mystery and the slow build of the drama. The coiling disaster which builds around all the cast, slowly twisting around them until there is no escape was engrossing. How it tied in with everyone, in the inevitable conclusion, was satisfying as much as it was horrifying.
Boy was I relieved I'd left it so long since I was able to pick up The Springsweet directly. So sometimes I guess it does payoff to get behind, right?
The Vespertine, by Saundra Mitchell
Published by Harcourt Children's Books/Graphia, March 7th, 2011
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