The Vespertine

The Vespertine - Saundra Mitchell Starting off with the positives, I thoroughly enjoyed the prose. It was enjoyable to read and didn’t feel overdone or pretentious. With such period settings, especially when written in 1st person, it’s all too easy to get carried away or let your guard slip but Mitchell does a good job with the prose; it was the thing that kept me reading the book through most of it. For the most part I also enjoyed Amelia, the protagonist. She’s practical and fully aware of the societal expectations weighing down on her as well as possessing a wit a little out of place for her standing in society. She wasn’t the greatest protagonist I’ve ever read in such a setting (I also give kudos to Mitchell for going with Baltimore as the setting, it’s a place I’ve never seen before in period drama YA, and much of it is described very well in the novel) but she was more than serviceable. Unfortunately, for me, she was also the only memorable character in the story. As much as I loved the prose and liked Amelia, the deathly slow pace of the novel and sporadic appearances of the plot seriously disappointed me. The novel opened intriguingly yet Mitchell seemed to forget she was supposed to be writing a paranormal novel for large stretches of time. The paranormal element could have been dropped completely and it probably wouldn’t have made much difference. If the novel was shorter, maybe a novella, and a more straightforward period romance about a girl and the social expectations plaguing her life, it would have been much better. I wonder if Mitchell has ever written any short stories; if not she should definitely write some because her prose is excellent and I feel would be suited better to something less drawn out. “The Vespertine” started off so promisingly and for all its faults there are also many positive things to say about it. Giving this book a rating was a tough one. The prose is very high quality for YA, I enjoyed the protagonist and the setting was well realised, but the plotting, pacing and under-developed paranormal elements are so poor in comparison that the novel is just so boring for long stretches. There’s a lot to like but getting through all the bad stuff to see it might not be worth your while. I do hope Mitchell can improve with her problematic areas because her prose deserves better (she is writing a companion novel to this, entitled “The Springsweet” and I think she’s definitely got the imagination to support it.2.5/5.