The Vespertine

The Vespertine

by Saundra Mitchell


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The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547721934
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 03/20/2012
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,247,394
Product dimensions: 5.52(w) x 8.06(h) x 0.78(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Saundra Mitchell is a screenwriter and author. Her companion novels The Vespertine, The Springsweet, and The Elementals have been praised for their rich historical settings, evocative language, and heart-pounding romance. Her debut novel, Shadowed Summer, was a 2010 Edgar Award Nominee, a Junior Library Guild selection, and an ALAN Pick. Visit her website at

Read an Excerpt

Broken Tooth, Maine
Autumn 1889


I woke in Oakhaven, entirely ruined.

The ballad notes of a quadrille lingered on my skin, remnants of a chaîne anglaise danced only in slumber. I heard a velvet voice against my cheek, and I burned in the dark and dreaming light of his eyes.

Morning had come, its watery brightness stealing shadows from the corners, but still I swayed.

Perhaps this once I could find my visions—my awful, eerie gift—without the fires of sunset. Perhaps this once I could abandon the vespers and go there on my own. To the place where I saw more than eyes could see. Where I knew more than minds could know.

Where I could be with him.

I had learned to do it for Zora, my sweetest friend—lost, and I was to blame! I couldn’t bear to wonder about her. I knew how I’d left her—wrecked and desolate, a shell because I’d cracked her open. I should have listened when she told me to bear it alone.

If some ethereal part of me counted sins, that part bore the darkest stain for the tragedy I brought her. Rocking until the floor kept time, I drew a breath elongated. I opened my arms to open my body.

If I could spill everything out, if I could but empty myself of sensation and thought, I could be filled again with the sight. If this were sunset, the visions would come. Through my mind’s eye, I would step inside someone else’s skin.

I’d walk on their legs, see with their eyes—whispers of all things to come. Until now I’d been too afraid to look for my older, wiser self. Today I whispered and rocked and rolled my eyes, hoping to see anything at all.

The need overwhelmed me, my breath rushing like wind, blood pounding in my ears—all distractions, terrible distractions. I begged through bitten lips, "Please, please, please . . ."

My skirts washed around me. I made fists of my hands, nails digging into the palms. If only pain brought clarity! Locked in this hopeless attic room, I flung myself at the desk. How viciously darling of my brother. He’d jailed me with pen and paper, but no one to write to.

I had nothing. I had no one.

Weighted by the ornate train of my gown, I climbed up. Only on my toes could I see the world outside, the first peach and plum shades of morning in the distance. Something heavy in me turned. I flattened my hands on the glass.

"Nathaniel, Nathaniel!" I cried, then seized by a terrible rage, I screamed. "How could you abandon me to this?"

I beat at the windows. I imagined my fists shattering the panes, shards making ribbons of my flesh. I tasted the blood. I felt the cold that would come of letting it course from me. This was no premonition, just dread hope.

Intention weighed my arms. I stood coiled. I meant to spring! To have it done! To end it all!

But my craven nature restrained me. The threat of pain made me a coward. I could only slap the glass uselessly. Ashamed, I pressed my brow against the wall and wept.

Then the attic door swung open.

Startled, I lost my balance entirely. The desk tipped over, and my skirts dragged me down like an anchor. In a shower of writing paper and unstoppered bottles, I fell to the floor. India ink splashed in black puddles, and my hands came up smeared with it.

August, my pale and angled brother, hauled me to my feet. His fingers bit through my sleeves, writing five hot points of pain on my flesh.

"What’s the matter with you?" he demanded.

"Nothing at all! I am fit and bright and sober as a priest."

With another shake, August asked, "Shall I send you to the sanitarium after all?"

"You should!" I shouted.

"Don’t test me, Amelia," August said, his voice rising. "I will beat the devil out of you. You have my word on that."

I couldn’t help but smile. "You can’t. You’d have to beat me dead. What will you do with your devil sister’s body, Gus? How will you explain me away?"

He answered me with a slap. It left a welt on my cheek, raised and burning, and all I could do was touch it gingerly—and laugh. Softly, but laughter all the same, for August was far more troubled by it than I.

Gray as wash water, he cast an accusing look at his hand.

I lay back, turning my eyes to the plastered ceiling to welcome a weary numbness. "Just poison my breakfast. You can call it a fever. Be done with me," I told him as I dropped to the bed.

"I doted on you once." Backing toward the door, August looked everywhere but at me. "I used to pull you about in my wagon."

"I’m much too heavy for your wagon now."

Taking out his key, August warned me as he once more locked me in, "Stay away from the windows."

Perhaps tomorrow, I thought, I shall be brave enough to put myself through them.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"[A] richly conceived historical romance. . . . Fans of Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty will find themselves enchanted by this atmospheric tale."—Bulletin

"For teens who enjoy gothic romances, there is much to savor."—VOYA (5Q, 4P)

"Mitchell depicts Victorian middle-class society with real flair. Her descriptions of the girls ring vibrantly true."—Kirkus Reviews

"A lush, romantic tale blending the Victorian era with the paranormal."—

"This historical paranormal romance, taking place in 1889 Baltimore, is equal parts vivid period detail, gothic melodrama, and foreboding premonitions coming true. . . . An absorbing tale."—Booklist

"Sheer pleasure from beginning to end." —

"Written in a passionate, inviting voice, THE VESPERTINE is a rich, historical novel of otherworldly power, forbidden romance, and questionable motives. From the very first line, readers will be swept up in Amelia's plight to discover her own powers and find the courage to face her fears, her blossoming love, and even accusations of murder."—Aprilynne Pike, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Wings and Spells

"I savored every word of THE VESPERTINE; I knew it was an amazing book from the first page and I was entranced until the very last. Saundra Mitchell's descriptions are almost truer than truth—you feel them rather than know them."—Carrie Ryan, New York Times Bestselling Author of the critically-acclaimed The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves

"Dark and luxurious with rich, compelling characters and a perfect blend of the mysterious and the fantastic, Saundra Mitchell's THE VESPERTINE is Victorian gothic at its finest—at once evoking the lyricism of Bronte, the heart-pounding of Poe and a vivid, enticing voice that is entirely her own."—Sarah MacLean, Author of The Season and 9 Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

"Equal parts vivid period detail, gothic melodrama, and foreboding premonitions coming true . . . an absorbing tale of a headstrong and passionate (but not anachronistically so) woman seeking her future." —Booklist

Customer Reviews

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The Vespertine 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
ParaBooks More than 1 year ago
I am a huge fan of the Victorian era. To the way the women dress, to the chivalry and etiquette, and most of all, the beautiful prose that authors wove into immortal tales. That being said, it's hard for me to find a current historical novel that touches me as much as the classics. The Vespertine did just that, and it moved me. I fell in love with the relationship that Amelia developed with Zora, the kinship they shared, their companionship. I enjoy reading the banter of that time, two young girls gossiping innocently about their friends and trying to figure out their place in the world. The paranormal element was an exciting twist, too. Wuthering Heights is my favorite classic for this reason. I love the mix of the old world and the paranormal, it almost seems that the two belong together, both are so fantastic. The relationship between Amelia and Nathaniel is amazing and intense. Nathaniel's pursuit of Amelia made my heart speed, I held my breath with their every encounter, it was beautiful and magical. But don't let that deter you; this is a truly haunting tale. I found myself staring off into space after I finished the book trying to place just how it made me feel. I was left with an eerie contentment and fascination. Though the only thing I wished the book expounded more on was the actual supernatural element. I felt I didn't receive a good explanation and understanding of their powers. But overall the story was bewitching and utterly romantic. I give The Vespertine 4 flames! On my blog at YA Bound
Dazzlamb More than 1 year ago
In the Baltimore summer of 1889 Amelia van den Broek is plagued by visions. People are asking for her advice and prophecies, but then terrible things start happening. Can Amelia find a way out of it all and trick fate? THE VESPERTINE is told by young and adventure-seeking Amelia who is new to Baltimore and soaks up every tiny detail about the city and the people she meets, making this a very descriptive read. Like other 19th century tales Amelia's story is very much about her relationship to her family, which has been problematic thanks to the visions she's been having. Amelia is haunted by them and fears that they turn out to be true. Those visions bring a high mystery and paranormal factor to her story. Amelia is also supposed to find a well-respected suitor. So when she falls for Nathaniel, someone she shouldn't be seeing at all, it's clear that theirs is no easy love. Nothing in Amelia's story struck me as overly outstanding, but all in all following her new start in Baltimore made for a pleasant read. 3/5 *** THE VESPERTINE - This historical YA read right out of the Victorian era convinces with its paranormal elements and a heroine like no other. For those of you who enjoyed THE VESPERTINE, Saundra Mitchell wrote two historical YA companion novels, following Amelia's cousin Zora and Kate Witherspoon. You don't come across companion novels in this genre too often, so give this series a go and get three novels to fall in love with.
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
This was an okay book. Certainly not the best, but it had it’s moments where it did engage me as a reader. The book had some gothic overtones and the setting of the story (which was Victorian but in the USA era) was interesting - which kept my curiosity going. I really enjoyed reading about Amelia because she didn’t care what others thought of her or what society thought. She did whatever she wanted to do despite the consequences. I really liked her paired up with Zora. They were like two kindred spirits and made an interesting duo to read. The other characters were also pretty good. I’m trying to figure out whether Nathaniel is some other worldly creature, or just someone with paranormal powers. I was a bit confused there (I’m sure that’s probably explained in the other two books) What bugged me about this book is, it went at such a great pace, and then halfway through the book it slows to the pace of waiting for the entire carton of molasses to empty. It goes SUPER SLOW. Almost to the point where I wanted to give up the book. I’m not sure why it became this way, after being halfway in the book you’re then set back on pace and the book gets interesting in the end. In fact it’s the ending that makes up for the snail’s pace. Sort of. Worth a read and if possible, try and work your way through the snail trail in the book. The ending makes the reading worth it. Otherwise if you don’t have the patience, you might as well pass this one by.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Characters are interesting, but I felt like half the book was missing...
NoMoreMarbles More than 1 year ago
I love finding fictional books set back in the Victorican Era, so when I saw this book, I have to give it a go. Sadly, I wasn't to impressed. Nothing pulled me in to want to read more. It just seemed to drag along, and was then over.
DeannaO More than 1 year ago
What an outstanding novel! The writing is so beautiful that it lingers like the most wonderful of fragrances. The description is rich and perfect, never too much, just enough. And the characters, so well done! I felt as though I lived their story right along with them. And what an ending! I can hardly wait to read The Springsweet.
PanolaJD More than 1 year ago
Amelia moves in with her cousins in Baltimore for the spring/summer of 1889 to experience a season full of fashionable dances & dinner parties, risky meetings with boys, and parlor visits for tea & gossip. Along the way, she indulges in spiritualists performances, which were the entertaining highlights of the time, like Lady Privalovna and Miss Avery at the local theater. Purely by chance, Amelia becomes a bit of a silly sensation among her friends when she has a vivid image of her cousin Zora dancing at the upcoming ball and ever details plays out. Before she knows it, word spreads of her unique parlor gift and callers all over Baltimore come for a reading by "Maine's Own Mystic, Miss Amelia can den Broek" (pg. 165) Yet, not all predictions are good and Amelia finds she is beginning to hold back what she sees, keeping secrets of dark truths that are bound to happen. Things become even stranger, when the boy, Nathanial, she is developing feelings for reveals startlingly truths about himself as well. Can Amelia face the pressures of just how powerful and haunting her psychic powers are becoming all while on the hunt for a decent husband and proper social standing? 'Not all that glitters is gold' would be the perfect motto from The Verpertine. Amelia is a head-strong girl that I immediately liked. You can tell she's damaged goods right off from the beginning of the story and that adds a lot to her character development throughout - something I always admire in a good book. Her cousin, Zora, was probably my favorite character since she's so deliciously evil and sweet. Together they are a frightful combination and when Amelia's power of foretelling the future becomes known, Zora becomes her quick-minded assistant in setting up the proper meetings. Yet, things easily get carried away when some of Amelia's morbid readings become unexpectedly true and the tables quickly turn. All in all, I liked this book, it was invigorating since the setting/plot was not all that common for a young adult tale, so I hope you enjoy it as well. Likes: I'm excited Book #2 -- The Springsweet in the series will focus on Zora Stewart, yayy! April 2012 Dislikes: I highly enjoy historical stories, but if this book would have had a little bit more creative insight, some extra spark within the characters, and even some much needed oomph to the overall tale, it would have received a higher rating from me. Yet, sadly, it dragged out and played almost too leisurely for my taste to get anything higher than 4 out of 5.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a good story but was omewhat undeveloped. First while i always enjiy reading stories written and set in the late 1800's i found it dufficult to read a book written "now" and set bck then. Somthing about the language used not feeling quite as natural. Also it took a long time to get to anythung to exciting and then it was a quick drop to the end. ALSO it was a little to unbelievable paranornmal stuff for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
lovepassionbooks More than 1 year ago
So this book was pushed on me by Lynn at Bringing the Epic. She has always pushed really great books on me so when she was like, " you have to read this book! It is my favorite book of the year!" So I promised her I would give it time when I have the time. Well I had the time and I am happy I did. The book is a historical fiction and it is about this girl named Amelia. Amelia goes and lives in Baltimore with a family. While she is there she is going to go to school and work for the family. But also during this time, she becomes very close friends with Zora, the daughter of the house. But also while she is there she meets Nathaniel, and there is more than meets the eye with Nathaniel but she just can not put her finger on it. This book had everything that I thought was going to be in the book. It had a great love story, and a great mystery story to it. This would defiantly be a book that I would recommend to someone that loves books where there always is a happy ending. This is defiantly a book for them. The only thing that I can complain about the book is that it did have a happy ending. I prefer books that keep you going. Keep your attention and make you want more. This book was just a really good book. It was a easy read and a rainy day read. I need more suspense to the story. But that is just me. Some out there are going to fall in love with the this Lynn.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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BasilRose More than 1 year ago
This has the genuine feel of the time it is written about, written with wonderfully descriptive language. It almost feels as if it could have been written years ago! Really recommend this one.
DaniRoo More than 1 year ago
In the summer of 1889, 16 year old Amelia is sent to live with the Stewart family in Baltimore where she is to meet influential, respectable people and to make a good match to secure her future. Instead Amelia meets the intriguing Nathaniel, a struggling artist, and unwittingly creates all kind of trouble for her new friends when she discovers that she possesses the ability to glimpse the future. "The Vespertine" is endearing as it is heartrending and written in a classical style that evokes the Victorian era. Though at times a little verbose, I loved that the period was upheld in this way. Amelia is an interesting character; naive, at times selfish and petulant, yet she has a good heart, a strength of will, and a lovely sense of humor. I would've liked to see romance built a little more gradually. There was a little bit of insta-love going on and although I loved the romance in this book, I would've like a bit more substance. A dark, witty, tragic, dangerous and strangely hopeful book.
Shanella More than 1 year ago
Once I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down. To be fair, I have a soft spot for period fiction. I love reading about the mannerisms and the social interactions from the past. Seeing how much we've changed, but yet not changed has always been fascinating to me, so when I read that the book was based in the 1800s I knew that I was in for a treat. The story follows Amelia, who has an odd power to see the future at sunset. Her brother sent her from their home in Maine to live with cousins in Baltimore so she could find a suitable match. However, she ends up falling for a man her brother would not approve of and getting into a lot of mischief along the way. Amelia and her cousin, Zora, are quite likable. Their friends are quickly introduced and, with the exception of Sarah and Mattie, we don't find out a lot about them. It would have been wonderful to read more of their relationship with their friends and acquaintances. However, we do see a lot of Thomas and Nathaniel, as well as the whirlwind romance as the two court their ladies. I cannot deny that I wished there were more pages to this book. I love the way Saundra described the period and the way the girls pushed the limits of their time. I loved the interactions and insight into how society worked with its rules and etiquette, as well as the parallels that could be drawn with society today. I loved the paranormal twist to the story and the fast paced ending . The Vespertine was a lovely tale, that left me wanting more. [review of arc via netgalley]
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Amelia spends the summer in Baltimore with her cousin, Zora, in hopes of finding a proper husband during the season. As it will be her only season, Amelia has really high hopes for this summer. At her very first party, she meets an artist who's only invited to make sure the table has an even number. Even though he's beneath her, she looks forward to meeting him again. Meanwhile, her cousin's in love with Thomas, a boy from town. One evening, while looking out the window, Amelia has a vision of her cousin wearing an elegant gown and dancing with Thomas. When that vision comes true, Zora begins to spread the word. Soon, other girls are coming to see Amelia and Zora. Calling cards from all levels of society appear. Everyone wants to have their future told. The girls happily oblige the crowds - they've never been more popular. However, not all of the visions are delightful. Some are dark, and unfortunately, the dark visions Amelia has also come true. When this happens, will the two cousins still be looked upon favorably? A lush, romantic tale blending the Victorian era with the paranormal, THE VESPERTINE hints at the darkness of the story in the beginning of the book. The time period shifts back and forth between before and after the season. Amelia and Zoe's friendship thrives, making the time of fancy dresses, balls, calling cards, and societal rules come alive.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ReadergirlReviews More than 1 year ago
This book was unlike the type I typically read. I'm not much of a historical reader, but I'm glad I tried this one. It was so interesting to see the historical detail in this story. The author obviously did her research, and I felt transported by the ambience of the time period and the lush backdrop of old parties and the "society" of the day. It sucked me in completely. Amelia's character was intriguing, strong, but still somewhat sad, due to various events that occur in the story. Amelia's visions, I knew, were going to end up getting her into trouble, which wasn't much of a guess, considering how the story starts, but I still found myself upset for her when the inevitable occurred. Nathaniel was a sexy character. It wasn't anything in particular that made me feel that way. He just was. And the interactions between these two were hot, but still so sweet. Their encounters were made even more compelling by the beautiful language of the prose. Saundra Mitchell's writing was my favorite thing about this story. It was beautiful, lyrical, poetic. It was a pleasure to read just to be able to savor its beauty. There are a few authors like that whom I've read that just make me want to read their work for the sake of the work itself. Check the teasers I posted this week for a taste of her writing and you'll see what I mean. I seriously loved this story, these characters, and most especially Saundra Mitchell's writing. I would highly recommend it to anyone, but especially to those readers that love a beautifully crafted sentence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
HeatherMcC More than 1 year ago
This is easily the best book I have read so far this year. It is so beautifully written that I felt as if I was living the story, experiencing it along side Amelia. In a world of trendy writing it isn't often one comes across a book that is written so masterfully that it takes my breath away. This novel did that and so much more. It has just the right amount of magic to go along with a prose so perfect it reminded me of why I love to read. A must read would be putting it lightly! Go get this book now!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago