Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Review: The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

In 1889 Amelia van den Broek is caught in a summer between childhood and womanhood. Her brother sends her from her home in rural Maine to spend her summer in Baltimore with more fashionable and well-off relatives so that she may have her debut season as a young woman, and hopefully find herself a husband.

She instantly becomes friends and a partner-in-crime with her cousin Zora, who shows her all that city life has to offer, and teaches her the ropes of being a young beauty looking for love in the Victorian big city. They spend their days making and receiving social calls, picnicking in the park, and practicing archery.

But life is interrupted when Amelia begins to have visions, visions that only occur at sunset, and that appear to tell the future, quite unlike the phony spiritualists who claim to commune with those beyond the veil. With her new gift, Amelia becomes quite popular, and night after night she receives calls from friends, as well as strangers, who hope to get a glimpse of their futures through her unusual gift.

Her time in Baltimore also brings about an introduction to Nathaniel Witherspoon, an artist who fills the 14th seat at Zora's first dinner party after Amelia arrives (as dining with a party of 13 is considered unlucky), and a young man with secrets of his own. Though he is exactly the wrong kind of man to marry, and thought of as "below" the circle of friends she and Zora have made, she cannot help but be drawn to him.

While seeing the future in the setting sun has its benefits, what Amelia sees is not always pleasant, and when a particular vision occurs that bodes death for one of her new friends, and great injury for another, Amelia must decide if disclosing the future will help to avoid disaster or only work to create chaos in her new world.

Mitchell's descriptions of the fantastic are beautifully written and make the reader feel as though they themselves have been transported to Victorian Baltimore. Prepare to lace up your corset and dive into the mystical and mysterious summer of 1889 in The Vespertine.

- Blaine (Who just finished the sequel to The Vespertine, Mitchell's second book, The Springsweet, and will be reviewing it shortly!)

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