Margaret Rogerson’s newest standalone fantasy Vespertine fuses elements of Gideon the Ninth and Marvel’s Venom into a poignant, cathartic story about learning to see the best in others — and in yourself — when the world has given you every reason to doubt.
The heroine is also possessed by a ghost that nags her about self-care. It is amazing and it will make you cry.
After surviving a horrific ordeal as a child, all Artemisia wants is to stay at her convent as a Gray Sister, a nun who lays the dead to rest — and who makes sure that they stay there. When she tries to defend her fellow nuns from an attack on the convent, though, she finds herself possessed by a dangerous revenant and thrust into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with forces she doesn’t fully understand. To make things worse, people start to whisper that Artemisia might be a rare and powerful kind of saint called a vespertine…
It’s hard to oversell how good the relationship between Artemisia and the revenant is, and it is easily the biggest selling point of the book. If snarky, prickly enemies slowly learning to trust and care for each other while sharing a body sounds like a fun time, this is your book. (Seriously, Venom fans, don’t slack on this book.) Rogerson has also crafted yet another beautiful fantasy world that is so detailed and evocative that it feels like a real place. The death nuns are a treat: if Gideon the Ninth, The Unspoken Name, or Le Guin’s The Tombs of Atuan were up your alley, you’ll feel right at home.
When Vespertine was announced, I knew right away that it was going to be one of my favorite books of 2021 (and it’s a crowded field this year!) It can be hard to actually read a book when you’ve set your expectations so high, but reading Vespertine for the first time felt like returning to an old favorite. I am confident that it will become a new favorite for readers for many years to come.
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