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 received a free copy of this book from the publisher & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.
I had pretty high expectations going into this book after loving Sorcery of Thorns and, while there was plenty that I liked about it, the bad outweighed the good and I just ended up not loving this story at all.
Artemisia wants one thing in life, to finish her training as a Grey Sister and spend her life servicing the dead so their souls can pass on. But fate has other plans. When her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers Artemisia has to wield a Saint’s relic, a highly powerful weapon with the revenant of a soul contained within. Having had no previous training on how to wield a relic, Artemisia is easy prey for the revenant to possess her, but for some reason it chooses to help instead. For old magic is returning, old magic that could change the world as we know it, and it will take a Verspertine, someone who wield’s a high relic, to save the world and everyone that inherits it.
Artemisia was a character I instantly bonded with. Someone who craves solitude. After the harrowing events of her childhood she finds it incredibly hard to interact socially and is seen as weird and different by her fellow initiates. Her time at the Convent has been the happiest of her life so far, and she would quite happily spend the rest of it there, but fate is determined to conspire against her. She is truly terrible at taking care of herself, and the more you learn about her childhood, the better you understand her now. Though she may not want to be a Saint, she is almost the living embodiment of one, never afraid to put her own life in danger if it means saving others, and that strength is something she comes to rely on for her journey.
As I said above, there were some things I loved about this book and others that I really didn’t, so I’m going to start with the positives first. I loved the relationship between Artemisia and her revenant, it was scary as well as hilarious in parts, neither quite wanting to trust the other; Artemisia because the revenant is the ghost of a once evil being and the revenant because no one who has wielded them in the past has ever been nice, instead wanting to use them for their own goals. Seeing them come together, with the revenant almost looking out for Artemisia, even if they say it’s for their own selfish reasons, was a great journey, and their interactions were my favourite parts of the book.
Now for the bad. If there was one word I would use to describe why I didn’t end up loving this book it would be development. Nothing was really developed well enough for me to get a true grasp on it, even the side characters. We desperately needed some kind of history, or better understanding of the magic system, I just about grasped the basics and then another kind of magic was introduced and I just kind of gave up trying to get my head around it. The world building was similarly lacking for this reason. As for the side characters, were they fun? Yes. Did they add anything to the story at all? Not really. They seemed to be mainly used as an instrument to show Artemisia coming out her shell and making friends, but that was it and it just wasn’t enough to make me bond with them in any way.
While some of the scenes of this book edged towards the dark and slightly creepy, the authors tone and writing style was just far too light for them to have the required effect. Because of that I never quite managed to feel the danger the character was in, and it just made the ‘big’ scenes a little anti-climactic. I also feel like the pacing was way off, for a book that gives us little in the way of history of magic or world the first 75% of the book is incredibly slow, and then the last 25% moved at a breakneck pace with a certain story line ending far too quickly for it to have an impact. I do like Rogerson’s writing style, but feel that it fits better with the tongue in cheek style story and characters from Sorcery of Thorns, than the more serious style of this book.
Overall, this book was a ‘meh’ kind of read. I enjoyed it as a whole and never quite felt the need to DNF at any part, but though Vespertine is filled with plot twists and a unique and witty character duo, unfortunately they weren’t quite enough to make sure that I enjoyed this book.