Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

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.

From the very first page, the language of this book brought me right into this Victorian world. It was very poetic to match this time period, even though it could seem flowery to today's standards. The choice of words caused me to stop from time to time to jot down a word or two because of their beauty and eventually I had to push myself to keep going so I wouldn't lose the story.

The mystery that is presented in the first chapter sets up the reader to wonder what will happen to the main character, Amelia. We know it must come from her newly acquired talent of seeing into the future at sunset, but it is hard to know what will cause her misfortune. In the meantime, her friendship with Zora and romance with Nathaniel keep us occupied as we are thrust into the past.

The friendship between Amelia and Zora is a huge part of the book. From the very beginning, you can sense that Amelia cares for her friend above all else and wants the best for her. Their infectious repartee is something to look forward to with each chapter and really shows that they understand and care for each other from the very beginning. Zora stands by and supports Amelia through all their meetings because of her talent, and when Zora reads a shattering prediction of her own, her understanding shines through.

On the other hand, Amelia's relationship with Nathaniel isn't as charming or healthy as the one she has with Zora. Nathaniel is an artist and one of the Fourteenths, who sit in on parties who don't want the unlucky number thirteen sitting at their table, and this is how they first meet. Amelia and Nathaniel are instantly linked from their first meeting and they seem to jump into the romance, despite that they have no real future in their world. They dare the odds, and sometimes I wished I could believe that there was a real chance of them getting caught with repercussions. The rules of the society forbid them to be together, but their sneaking around didn't leave me nervous at all.

The intriguing part of their relationship is Amelia isn't the only one with an ability. We discover that Nathaniel has a secret of his own, and this somehow deepens their understanding towards each other. It isn't until this revelation that I am convinced that there are more risks that could cause them trouble in the future.

It seems to take a bit for the climax of the book to appear, and it was done with a splash. The pace of the book caused it to take longer for me to read than other books that I have picked up recently. After the climax, the pace seemed to change. It was an unexpected surprised at the sense of immediacy that appeared to push me to the ending a lot quicker than if the information in the first chapter was shoved in there. I believe that was a good call.

I did have some reservations at the end as to why Amelia's ability didn't show up sooner than when she traveled from Maine to Baltimore and if Nathaniel knows more than he has told her. The talk of the elements when regarding them (fire when she sees the future, air for his ability to travel) also leaves me with unanswered questions that might appear in the next book (or maybe not).

3 Stars-- Liked it

Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the chance to read this book.

Be sure to check out the Author's website for more information on the book and posts on various reviews.


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