Published: October 5, 2021
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Series: Vespertine #1
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Page: 400 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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.
I have read a streak of amazing books lately, but this one wasn’t exactly a surprise. Margaret Rogerson has firmly established herself (IMO) as a reliably excellent author so I had decently high expectations. As with Sorcery of Thorns, I was entranced from the first pages and spent a nice chunk of a 16 hour car ride reading.
What I may enjoy the most about this book is our main character Artemesia. She has the Sight, which means she can see spirits and that means she is vulnerable to possession. Unlike most who have the Sight, Artemesia had it from birth and was possessed in her vulnerable state by a spirit called an ashgrim. Her family had no idea and thought she was just mentally unwell from birth and locked her in a shed until she severely burned her own hands to exorcise the ashgrim from herself. Events unfolded such that she was taken in to a convent where the nuns specialize in caring for the dead and this is where we find her when the story begins.
Artemesia is not particularly popular among the novices because she quite frankly pretty scary. That’s what happens when you spend many of your formative years possessed. This had the upside of making her quite capable of sensing spirits and making use of the Relics (artifacts bound with spirits) used among the Clergy. Artemesia declines to move on from her post, which is fortunate since when possessed soldiers attack the abbey she must use the relic of a Revenant, one of the Seven most powerful spirits. This act, along with following events end up garnering too much attention on our young Revenant-wielder. The people dub her a saint, but the Clergy are concerned that she is not in control and desire to hunt her down. The plot is really, really excellent and I won’t reveal any more here.
I loved Artemesia! She has a fascinating origin story and how she handles her life going forward is quite motivating. The Revenant who possesses her is actually a fairly likable character as well, and even some minor characters ended up being rather decent in the end too, despite first impressions. The characters really made this excellent, but MAN is it cool to see a story with these super cool, yet terrifying Revenants with uncertain backstories. I’m really thrilled to learn more about how they came to be bound to saints in the first place! This is certainly a world I can’t wait to see more from this series and I’m super happy that IT IS A SERIES, because I thought it was another standalone!