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Publisher's Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of Sorcery of Thorns and An Enchantment of Ravens comes a thrilling new YA fantasy about a teen girl with mythic abilities who must defend her world against restless spirits of the dead.

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. 

©2021 Margaret Rogerson. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Another great adventure from Margaret Rogerson

First off I want to say I'm a big fan of Margaret Rogerson's stories. Her books are very different from each other, yet they're all beautifully written with a vivid cast of well rounded characters and a strong female protagonist. I was excited when her latest novel showed up on Audible and I've been eagerly looking forward to its release. Her first book, An Enchantment of Ravens, dealt with Faeries and their courts, her second, Sorcery of Thorns, is a Regency populated with magical beings and sentient grimoires and her third, Vespertine, is about religious orders and malevolent spirits that can manifest from the dead.

The story is fascinating from practically the first word. Set in a middle age like scenario it details a society where the church is just as much a power as the land's rulers. As it unfolded, elements reminded me of Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series. (Which made me even more psyched about the story.) But instead of lineages from the charter being the key to fighting the dead, individuals in Vespertine's world come from all walks of life.

Regardless of class or social standing, anyone manifesting abilities is indoctrinated into a religious order. People that can see, sense or communicate with spirits are segregated from the general populous, because they might be killed due to fear and ignorance. The convent (or monastery) provides shelter, support, education, training (to protect themselves and to fight the various types of malevolent entities) and the church periodically tests the novitiate's to determine their strength. Rare individuals have the capacity to wield a Saint's relic. Depending on the relic's properties, they'll gain incredible abilities. To heal, to fight, etc. The rub is they can be drained to death by the relic, lose their mind or become possessed and transition into a ravening monster that consumes all life in its vicinity.

To make the story even more interesting, the main character, Artemisia, is on the spectrum. Uncomfortable around people, always at a loss to say the right thing or respond the right way with the other novitiates, she prefers working with animals, tending the stables and keeping company with the dead brought to the Grey Sisters convent for burial. The cause of death determines what malevolent entity they'll manifest as and one of the many duties the Grey Sisters perform to help the living is to cleanse the corpse's spirit before that can happen. Most novitiates dislike this assignment, but Artemisia prefers the silent crypt, far from the stares and gossip and shunning she endures from her peers. She wants nothing more than to stay in this quiet backwater community and take her vows to become a Grey Sister, unlike the other novitiates that can't wait to leave.

The day comes when a Confessor arrives at the convent to test the older novitiates. He'll determine if they're ready to take vows and the position they're best suited for in the church's vast network of sects and orders that's spread throughout the world. Artemisia, used to no one realizing the depth of her abilities, is distressed when he states she's coming back to the city, (in essence, the Vatican) with him to be trained to wield one of the many Saint's reliquaries stored in their vaults.

But things don't go as planned. Artemisia ends up wielding a Saint's relic with no instruction or training. The Confessor assumes she's been possessed by the strong revenant that was contained in the relic, declares her extremely dangerous and wants her imprisoned. And Artemisia, now with the relic's hostile entity in her mind, goes on the run.

The ensuing adventure of the two of them coming to terms with their co-dependent relationship, the revenant's knowledge and advice helping Artemisia to survive (with the threat it will always try to gain its freedom by taking over and her having to fight off the attacks) as they travel to the heart of the church's power, avoiding the Confessor and an army of church soldiers between them and their destination with clever cat and mouse tactics, wielding incredible power fighting malevolent spirits that have invaded the countryside and uncovering a nefarious plot embedded in the church's hierarchy makes for avid listening.

Caitlin Davies narration is very enjoyable to listen to. She has good range and has the wide variety of characters in the story stepping off the page. I could quibble there's a male voice I didn't find believable, but the rest of her performance is strong, making it a very small blip in an otherwise great listening experience.

Well worth the credit.

3 people found this helpful

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LOVE this book!

I was hooked from the 1st chapter. Absolutely beautiful performance and story with thrilling takes on familiar elements and wonderful characters. I dearly hope there will be a sequel. These characters deserve to continue their story.

1 person found this helpful

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Lovely story , will never forget it

This book drew my attention from chapter one. I believe for me, I had bit of difficulty understanding the religious phrases or objects in story but eventually I caught on.
There was a very parallel relationship forming with her revenant . A “unlikely friendship” story is always lovely to read. I also noticed that the main character Was described to be on the Autism Spectrum, which I found really unique about her. She was very intelligent but disliked socializing, which is why I found it so pure when she formed a bond to her revenant.
She saw herself in the revenant, something that felt it couldn’t be cared for or truly loved. She was willing, despite the revenants countering, to put her own life on the line to save him. And he to her..
it was so lovely to witness however I do wish the story didn’t end right after they realized how much they could care for each other and make each other whole. It was a little saddening to see things end suddenly after a huge realization. I can’t wait to see more of their friendship tested and developed.

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent!

What a treat this book was! Excellent world building. Absolutely drama free, well grounded heroine. Plot was paced perfectly. Character growth was consistent but organic, so noticing our mc's growth from adolescent to adult happened effortlessly too. The narration was. very good, missing excellence only because of the narrators penchant for changing her voice volume overmuch when she changed characters. This excellent book is a rare event which I strongly encourage you to enjoy.

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Creative and Interesting

The plot of the book definitely kept me focused on, and engaged with, the overall story. I will say, however, that I wished there had been a bit more emotional exploration shown in the main character. But, even with that said, after having read this book I'm impressed by Margaret Rogerson both as an author and as a builder of fantasy worlds.