A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers can compare the ghost lore here to that of other spooky tales. A page in the back of the book lists the "Hierarchy of Spirits" based on how ghosts died and imbues them with different powers. There's also a religion in this story that seems plucked from Medieval times with nuns, monks, and saints, but here women seem to have more power in the church. Readers can compare what they know about religious practices from Medieval times with what they read about in this story.
Sacrifice, bravery, overcoming fears, and accepting heavy responsibilities with heroism and grace. Also, much thought given to how the lives of the famous or legendary become more legend than real.
Positive Role Models
Artemisia suffers from social anxiety and more after her terrible childhood possessed by a ghost and locked in a cellar. She wants the quiet life of a nun but is called upon to wield a dangerous relic and be a hero to her people. She walks a difficult line between trusting her instincts about her relic and its influence and trusting what she's learned as a nun. Her lack of care for herself nearly kills her more than once and she needs to be told to recover her own strength so she can help others.
Artemisia suffers from social anxiety and childhood trauma. She also has disfigured hands from a fire and only chooses to hide them when she doesn't want to give away her identity. Also, this religion feels like it's plucked from Medieval times, but women have more power in the church. God is the Lady, there are more nuns than monks, the major saints are women, and the closest thing to the Pope, the Divine, is a woman.
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Violence & Scariness
Scores of people die from ghost attacks or are possessed by ghosts or given the "blight" -- burns from contact with ghosts, but there's no gore. Some soldiers possessed by ghosts attack and kill their fellow soldiers and a group of nuns. A ghost soldier in armor gives chase and attacks with a giant mace. Possession by strong spirits nearly kills their hosts, or they are so weakened that they pass out. The main character nearly dies a few times, from possession, hunger, and sickness. A dysentery-like sickness sweeps through a medical ward. Talk of the main character's childhood of trauma, possessed and locked in a cellar, then burning her own hands so the ghost inside her doesn't kill her family.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A nun drinks heavily in one scene.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Vespertine is a ghostly dark fantasy by the acclaimed author of An Enchantment of Ravens. Ghost imagery and possession dominate the story, which is set in a fictional world where there's a Medieval-style religion with nuns, monks, saints. But there aren't any gory descriptions of deaths, just sadness at the loss and determination to stop the evil forces trying to take over. Possessions by strong spirits do nearly kill their hosts, including the main character, Artemisia, who passes out and gets very sick. Artemisia is a survivor of childhood trauma who has social anxiety. She wants the quiet life of a nun but steps up to be a heroic when called upon. She must walk the line between the rules her religion dictates and what she believes she's called to do, which includes listening to the advice of a restless spirit who may or may not have the best intentions. A nun drinks heavily in one scene, and that's it for mature content. Vespertine is fine for teens younger than the publisher's recommended age of 14 who like the scary stuff, but they may miss some of the deeper themes, and the complex workings of this world aren't as clearly spelled out as they would be for younger readers.
Is It Any Good?
Fans of ghost stories and rough-around-the-edges female heroes will devour this fantasy read faster than a revenant can devour a lesser spirit. Vespertine builds a world around a Medieval-style religion with nuns, monks, saints, and marauding ghosts set loose by hidden evil forces. And Artemisia, a survivor of childhood possession who burned her own hands to save her family, is the outcast hero this bleak world needs. She's completely untrained to wield any kind of relic, let alone one of the most powerful, and it's only through her sheer survivor resilience that she's able to keep it from consuming her. From there, her relationship with the revenant inside the relic, and now inside of herself, builds into something quite fascinating. Their forced bond drives the story to more profound places, especially as they realize what they have in common.
Author Margaret Rogerson doesn't always dig deep into her characters, however. So much seems left to the imagination about Leander. The shady confessor many not be as bad as he seems at first, but he's also still a big mystery by the end. And Marguerite, Artemisia's former roommate, is a delight and full of surprises without enough time on the page to really get to know her. Here's hoping a series develops with more time exploring these characters and this fascinating world.
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