Genre: Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 5 stars Series: yes - first book in duology
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. She’d rather deal with the dead than the living, who point and whisper about the odd girl who was once possessed by a violent spirit.
When her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers, Artemisia fights back by awakening an ancient spirit bound to a high saint’s relic. It is a revenant, a malevolent being now whispering in her head. Wielding its extraordinary power almost consumes her in body and soul. But death has come to Loraille, and only a vespertine, a priestess trained to wield a high relic, has a chance of stopping it.
As Artemisia investigates a mystery of saints, secrets and dark magic, an ancient evil is stirring. Can an untrained girl, tormented by the burden of containing the revenant’s devouring power, have any hope of defeating it?
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
VESPERTINE was so much fun!
This book has a very subtle aroacespec lead (written by an aroacespec author.) Subtle in that it’s not a plot point – no wannabe love interest to deal with (aka, say no) and no other situation that brings up a discussion of Artemisia’s sexuality. Sure, there are three main men she interacts with, but there’s no tension or chemistry between them – and no desire for it.
It’s the sort of rep that will be noticed by people who share the identity, or people who know in advance. Otherwise, people might (and do, based on reviews) assume the main character is straight and just “hasn’t found the right man/was too busy to fall for one of the boys this time.” This proves to me why we need more of this rep, so that people are aware of this identity. I mean, I loved it – because I share that identity and for it not to be made a big thing of? Just be part of her character without needing lots of time to focus on? It makes it not something unusual.
I also read Artemisia as being on the autistic spectrum (again, like me.) The way she struggled to deal with crowds and just people (displaying emotions in a way that other understand easily? It’s hard!) Unlike the aroacespecness, this isn’t confirmed anywhere, but it was nice to have that space to read it into a heroine.
The story itself is great.
Wight and ghosts and possession, and everyone accidentally taking Artemisia for a Saint when she’s actually using the very power the religion condemns? I very much appreciated the slightly tongue-in-check commentary on Medieval Christianity’s hypocrisy when it came to saints and its leaders.
The pacing is great, with plenty of “down time” between the action pieces for Artemisia and the revenant to bond. Their relationship (wholly platonic) is the heart of the story. I’ve seen this story pitched as “a Venom-like nun” and that is such a good description of it.
The revenant? Hilarious. All dry comments, sarcasm, and contempt for humans. But you can see how it comes to care for Artemisia as the tone of the comments change towards her (without losing any of the humour.)
This is the first in a duology. It reads as a standalone, and the second book is apparently also possible to read as a standalone. I can’t wait for it!
Read my reviews of other books by Margaret Rogerson: