Cover Image: Vespertine

Vespertine

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Member Reviews

This was my first ever Margaret Rogerson read and I wasn't disappointed. I find most YA fantasy awful, overly self-conscious and usually full of toxic, abusive love triangles and female stereotypes. Vespertine was not such a book. The characters were brilliant,  especially the grumpy-but-powerful revenant (spirit) who possessed Artemisia (the MC) and the way that relationship developed. The world building was deftly done, with a balance of the familiar (a medieval-type fantasy world) and the unfamiliar, such as how the cause of death impacted what kind of a spirit the deceased would become. I devoured it in two sittings and will definitely read the next one. 

Thank you to Netgalley for an ARC copy.
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I have read previous works by Margaret Rogerson and have always loved the characters she brings to life. Rogerson does it again and I have fell in love with Artemisia. This book is fast-paced with great twists and turns that kept me enthralled all the way to the end. I adore the writing style and you really feel you are in that world. I am looking forward to reading the next book.
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I really enjoyed this book, I found the world a fascinating place and the dark elements in the book made this book a memorable one.
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‘I imagined that if I listened closely enough to the stillness that yawned beneath the convent’s mundane everyday bustle, past the muffling hush of shadowed corridors and ancient stone, I would be able to sense it festering in the darkness of its prison.’

Vespertine is the story of Artemisia, raised by the Gray sisters who tend to the dead to prevent them turning into harmful spirits and waging war on the population.This is a solid start to a new fantasy series. Artemisia is a young introverted nun who finds her comfort zone challenged in order to fight these harmful spirits. 

“We have guarded Saint Eugenia’s relic for three hundred years. It cannot fall into the grasp of the unliving. They know that the revenant cannot be freed, only destroyed. Thus they seek to destroy it. It is our greatest weapon, and without it we have no defense.”

Vespertine is not ‘typical’ of Margaret Rogerson’s writing, having a far more somber tone and no romance as the driving force. Yet dig a little deeper and it becomes clear that that is a tale of a young girl who, after a difficult upbringing, is alone in the world and must push past her fears in order to grow and fully become her true self. The reader sees Artemisia evolve over the course of the book in a journey of self discovery and finding her true purpose in life. Her relationship with the revenant is a definite highlight and beautifully told. It is a most revealing friendship with a good balance between banter and growth.

‘How far would I go, if I had no other choice? I could no longer condemn those who had turned to heresy as a last resort - not now that I knew how it felt to see so many lives hanging in the balance, unable to help, the hopelessness and guilt closing in like the walls of a tomb. If there was any force that could save them . . .’

I did find this to be somewhat slow and heavy in dialogue but if you enjoy that aspect of a story, then the conversations between Artemisia and the Revenant are sure to please. There is a lot going on so be prepared as this is only the first installment and therefore you will be left with unanswered questions. One could say that this is more of a dark fantasy story about saints and the understanding of the many secrets history holds. It will be interesting to see where Margaret takes this world - a world of the restless dead with clerics, saints, relics and ghosts. 

‘Perhaps the decisions that shaped the course of history weren't made in scenes worthy of stories and tapestries, but in ordinary places like these, driven by desperation and doubt’





This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.
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Thanks to the publishers, Netgalley and the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

I read Sorcery of Thorns, and when I finished it I was devastated that it had ended.  I felt exactly the same way reading Vespertine, which was such a thrill to read that I can only hope it'[s the first book in a series.  

Artemesia is a wonderful heroine, bold, good and a little weird.  She grows into her saviour status reluctantly and with the help of a revanant (or spirit) whose motivations may be pure evil.  I loved their interaction and the world building is extraordinary.  Surely it's too much of a fully-realised world to finish after just one book!

A truly engaging, fantastical adventure, Vespertine had me glued to it's pages.
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Loraille is filled with the dead. Since the War of Martyrs and the Sorrow, the undead have roamed the land and it is the job of people like Artemisia to pass the souls of the recently deceased before they turn. She enjoys her job as she doesn't have to deal with people and her history of being possessed by a revenant has left her prone to rumours and isolation in addition to scarred hands. Her life is uprooted when possessed soldiers attack her convent and she wields St. Eugenia's relic, which contains a trapped revenant, and becomes a Vespertine. Evils begin to surface and Artemisia must deal with not only her growing reputation, the threat of dark magic, and her ever growing bond with the very thing that threatens to possess her. 

I was pulled in from the opening chapter. Rogerson is very good at establishing atmosphere. The misty, gothic vibes that reminded me of the old medieval cemeteries throughout Europe, especially France (which is what I think this book is based on). I would have liked to have known more about Loraille as a country and how exactly it is governed by the Clerisy.

In terms of characters Artemisia was my favourite. I enjoyed her characterisation and thought she was well written. The Revenant was fine. I did think some of his dialogue was just unneeded. I would have liked their relationship to develop a little slower so there was more of an emotional punch at the end when she begs for the Revenant's life. The other characters were fine, however there was no real stand out. 

Plot wise this could have been a bit longer so things could have simmered longer although the pacing this does work. I think I will continue the series as I thought it left off at an interesting place.

Thank you to Net Galley and Margaret K. McElderry Books for a free e-arc in exchange for a honest review.
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For anyone who loves a grumpy protagonist, or revels in a gloomy gothic fantasy world of spirits, saints, and demonic possession, then Vespertine is for you. Artemesia is scarred, grumpy, friendless, and more than happy to send her fellow convent acolytes fleeing with a snarl. Ever since she survived a demonic possession as a child, she has been - if not happy- content enough to hide away in a convent that does the necessary work of purifying the dead so that they will not rise as spirits or become possessed. The dead don't expect smiles and conversation and that's the way that she likes it. However, when her home, her refuge is attacked by the aforementioned ravenous spirits, Artemesia accidentally awakens and bonds with a powerful revenant, and together they, well, basically kick butt. Of course this sends poor Artemesia and her spirit companion fleeing into the misty distance and as far away from the attackers as possible, and as far away as she can get from anyone who knows that she has bonded with the revenant. Including a high ranking member of the church whose entire mission is to root out spiritual corruption.

Rogerson's Sorcery of Thorns and An Enchantment of Ravens were both excellent reads. However with Vespertine, the more mature and almost sombre tone elevate Rogerson's writing to another level. Yes, i am a gloomy gothy type of girl, but I love a complicated, messy, un-beautiful main character who is shockingly free of any insta-loves or love triangles. There is a possibility of a slow, slooooooooow burn romance, but I would be just as happy with a solid friendship.

There is also a grand, epic, semi-biblical conspiracy at the heart of Vespertine which, lucky for us, is going to take more than one book to unravel. Bring on book two!
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Overall I really liked the concept, I thought it was highly original and compelling. I just would of liked the pacing to slow down and we can get situated with what’s happening before jumping into all of the action. The were some twists and turns throughout the course of the storyline that ultimately kept me turning the pages but was a bit underwhelming in the end.

The potential was there just lacking that oomph for me…
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I really enjoyed Vespertine. I always enjoy Margaret Rogerson books and I always like a good duology. 

From the first sentence I was hooked and intrigued to see what would play out. The world building was amazing. 

Artemisia is such an interesting character and I liked watching her come into herself. I also really liked the Revenant and the way they interacted. 

I am looking forward to the sequel.
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A standalone young adult fantasy, Vespertine is hard to describe in a snappy elevator pitch-style summary. Fans of Rogerson’s know she builds complete, unique worlds within the pages of a single standalone book (no mean feat) and this story is no exception. 

Artemisia is living with the Grey Sisters, a religious order who assist the souls of the dead to pass on. In her world, the veil that holds back the dead has been broken and ravenous spirits have a hunger for the living. Some are harmless, whilst others so dangerous they threaten humankind’s existence. When she is forced to wield the power of a high order revenant to save her convent, she must use her wits and willpower to prevent it from possessing her. 

For me, this is very nearly the perfect fantasy book, a heroine’s journey through a dangerous semi-post-apocalyptic land filled with scary demons and ghosts. Artemisia is a stubborn and brave but sympathetic main character, dealing with both her own personal demons of the past and the current vengeful spirit that is in her head. By far the greatest part of the book is her relationship with the revenant, their banter and the reluctant alliance they form. Together, they must stop a vengeful, fearsome power from breaking free of its bonds and consuming their world. 

I highly recommend Vespertine to any reader, it’s simply just so good and I want everyone to join the Artemisia fan club.
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I absolutely adored Vespertine, it’s a must-read for fantasy lovers! This is the first in a series and I’m so thrilled that we have more to come in this universe because I’m in love with the characters, world-building, plot and EVERYTHING ABOUT IT TBH.

Artemisia is a very unusual nun, having been the victim of a traumatic prolonged possession by a malevolent spirit throughout her childhood and growing up without any social skills as her frightened family locks her up out of human contact for their safety. This could have created a tragic, self-pitying main character, but instead Artemisia out of self-preservation regards her upbringing as nothing out of the ordinary and represses all notion that what happened to her is something to brood over and her matter-of-fact attitude about quite horrific suffering infuses the book with a great deal of black humor.

It also leads to funny moments where she has absolutely no idea of how to make small talk and is more afraid of socializing than mortal danger or when she recalls trying to make friends with a fellow nun by throwing a spider at her to help her stop being afraid of them! It made sense at the time…just like lurking under the bed as though she were a demonic entity when she first encountered her roommate…

When Artemesia winds up becoming host to a revenant in a desperate attempt to protect her convent from attack, it leads to the most delightful dynamic I’ve ever read in the history of fantasy. The revenant is typically bloodthirsty and intent on causing chaos and destruction, but it’s also hilariously snarky, grouchily protective and reluctantly allies itself with Artemisia in the hopes of wearing her down long enough to possess her completely. 

The bond that grows between them as they come to understand and care for each other is just so beautifully and believably written with a helping of angst and conflict over their differing motivations. Artemisia is utterly unheeding of her own personal safety and wellbeing, putting the revenant in the odd position of being a mother hen, nagging her to look after herself while insisting it doesn’t care at all, and then there are times when she will give it the respect and consideration that no other human would in her position, leaving it flustered and out of sorts. I loved their banter and their arguments and every moment of interaction is pure gold. The funniest thing is how the revenant is better at pretending to be human and relating to humans than Artemisia, which is such an unusual and intriguing dynamic to explore!

Although she has the best intentions and demonstrates this by protecting innocents around her with the newfound abilities granted by the revenant, her perceived possession leads to the Clerisy determining she is the number one most wanted on their list and pursue her at all costs. There is a breathless tension as Artemisia struggles to retain control of the revenant, save the lives of humans at risk from other deadly spirits and also protect herself from the relentless pursuit of those determined to capture and exorcise her.

This book will effortlessly transport you to a world of magic, wonder and danger with complex, amazingly written characters and intricate mythology, easily digestible fantasy politics and a thrilling race against time to avert a grave danger to the entire realm. It’s so good you will finish this and immediately want to re-read it!
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Thank you to Simon & Schuster and Margaret Rogerson for providing me with an e-ARC of Vespertine via Netgalley. 

I have been needing to read a few of Margaret Rogerson's books for a while now, and what a way to be introduced into her writing style. I didn't know I needed this book. 

I loved how the story began, we did just jump right in, didn't we 🤣  I loved Artemesia and the Revenant's character, the banter between the two gave me Venom vibes. I love the banter that can make me laugh sometimes. 

The story itself was action-packed and the moments between it were filled with amazing world-building, character development and a great place for the story in my opinion. 

I would have liked some romance sprinkled in, maybe that's something for the future books, if there was something hinted, I completely missed it 🤣  I do understand why there is none in the book because of Artemesia's character inner turmoil, but if something is to come in that department, I would have liked a bit more of a hint. 

Overall I'm super excited to see where the story goes for any future books.
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[This post will be posted on my blog on 5 October 2021]

Vespertine had a lot of buzzwords for me, a few of those being nuns, spirits, religion, and revenants. But this story was more than just a few cool ideas – it has a a fast-paced plot, incredible worldbuilding, and a protagonist you can really get behind.

The story was completely addictive, and I read this in a day. Not only is it fast-paced and action packed, there are plenty of mysteries to mull over. There is a particularly huge twist near the end that I did not see coming. And I always love being surprised.

Artemisia is a novice Grey Sister, a nun who prepares the bodies of the dead to prevent them rising again and becoming malevolent spirits. When the convent is attacked by soldiers, Artemisia becomes bound to a powerful spirit called a revenant in order to defend her fellow sisters. But the revenant is as dangerous as it is powerful, and the Church wants to separate them. To prevent that, Artemisia and her revenant flee across the countryside, saving people along the way. Artemisia’s story is the making of a legend, or in this case, a Saint. Artemisia is just doing what needs to be done, and is guided by her system of values and ethics, so the acclaim and devotion are very uncomfortable for her. She is the quintessential reluctant hero.

There are a few mysteries that were partially explained in this book, but it felt like there were holes. And I can’t work out if they are meant to be there and are set ups for the next book, or if it’s just something that hasn’t been fixed in the editing process yet. One has to do with the nature of the revenants, and the other has to do with the high saints. I think it’s bothering me because I feel like I have the information already, but don’t quite know what it means, and how to put it together in my mind. Possibly it’s because I’m sleep deprived. I look forward to re-reading when my FairyLoot edition arrives to see if I can make sense of it then. (Apologies for the ramble!)

One of my favourite parts of Vespertine was the writing and worldbuilding. Rogerson is an absolute master at creating atmosphere and vivid, detailed worlds for her characters to inhabit. Vespertine seems to be set in an alternate fantasy world analogous to 15th/16th century France. So there are lots of French sounding place names, and I felt like the overall vibe was very medieval France.

Vespetine had such strong aesthetics, and the writing really managed to convey the world in glorious detail. I had such vivid pictures in my mind of everything, from the architecture and landscape, to the characters and spirits, especially the revenants. I tried to draw them because I could see them so clearly in my mind. My drawings were absolute rubbish, so I can’t wait to see all the fan art other, more talented, people create.

I also enjoyed the magic system, and how it was intertwined with religion. Girls and boys with “the sight”- ability to see spirits – are taken to monasteries and convents as children to trained to become monks and nuns, and all manner of other religious posts in the hierarchy of the church. Many males with the sight become soldiers, while women often hold positions of significant power, including that of the Archdivine, the highest position in the church, and one that can only be held by women.

The writing was not, perhaps, as smooth as it could be. That being said, the author made a statement about how she wasn’t entirely happy with the book as it was when the ARCs were sent out, as it was still being edited. So I’m giving it a pass, because I could see how it will shine once it’s polished.

On to the characters! I feel Rogerson really excels at creating a very small cast of well-developed, three dimensional characters. This can be a positive or a negative, depending on your preference. I always find it easy to identify with her protagonists (in this case Artemisia) and I really like one or two side characters. The rest feel very much at a remove from me. I think this is because Rogerson really delves into the psyche of the main character, perhaps to the detriment of other characters. It makes for a book that is somehow intensely character driven, but not at the expense of the plot, because the focus is only on a very limited number of characters. I find that I actually don’t mind this particular method of storytelling, but I suspect not everyone will agree with me.

I also enjoyed how most characters are neither wholly good, nor wholly evil. Even the antagonists had depth. They are not cookie cutter bad guys, and that’s what makes them so interesting as characters.

Artemisia, our main character, is introverted, and kind of socially awkward. She had a traumatic childhood, and suffered burns to her hands that cause ongoing pain. She’s always had difficulties connecting with the other novices in the convent, so she tried to mostly avoid them. She’s also stubborn, self sufficient, and has strong ethics and morals. Artemisia is not necessarily the most likeable protagonist I’ve come across, and other reviewers have said they felt like the couldn’t connect with her, but I disagree. She doesn’t trust easily, and her self-loathing and fragility make her very human.

The Revenant is a really fascinating character. He’s immensely powerful, extremely knowledgeable, kind of manipulative, and very mysterious. He’s also incredibly sarcastic, and his banter with Artemisia is one of the highlights of the book for me.

Margeurite is an escaped novice nun that trained at the same convent as Artemisia. They always had a distant, strained relationship, but they develop a tentative friendship throughout the book. I’m hoping for a bit more development of her arc in future books because she is a great character. Although she’s not immediately likeable, the reasons she is the way she is become clear as Artemisia spends more time with her.

Confessor Leander is the main antagonist in Vespertine. He’s serious, determined, laser focused, and emotionally intense. He is kind of a terrifying enemy to have because he just never gives up. The man is relentless, and completely sure that his beliefs and actions are right.

In terms of themes, one of the big ones is the role of religion and beliefs to individuals and society. Vespertine has strong Christian coded religious beliefs and practices. I liked the exploration of how beliefs develop, how they can subsume older practices, and how they can be politicised toward certain goals. There is no binary here though, only shades of grey. Beliefs are not right or wrong, and are often infinitely more complex and complicated. It’s important to be willing to change when you are presented with new information. This warns against beliefs being static and unchanging. Just because something seems to always have been a certain way, at least from your perspective, it doesn’t make it objectively true, and we must always grow and change.

I really enjoyed this book, but I have to say it felt very similar to Sorcery of Thorns in many ways, which I won’t enumerate here. I don’t want potential readers to decide not to give it a go because I made a list comparing the two books. The point is that I think the reception will be divided into one of two camps: 1) those who think it’s too similar and are disappointed or 2) those who like authors riffing on similar themes/tropes and really love this particular tune. Obviously, I love these four chords (yes, my Aussie pop culture reference shows my age. If you haven’t come across it, click here for the video that will explain everything young Jedi.)

I think if you enjoyed Sorcery of Thorns or The Bone Witch, you may also enjoy Vespertine.
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I loved the world building with the spirits of the dead and the characters were fantastic. There was great pacing and I really enjoyed the mysteries. Definitely a book to read in October.
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I loved Sorcery of Thorns so my excitement for this off the charts. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

Margaret Rogerson’s writing style shines in this. It’s captivating, honest and so brilliant.

Anxiety, trauma and PTSD play a really important role in Artemisia’s story. Because of the way these hard topics were handled, the story really resonated with me. I could feel Artemisia’s pain in everything she did. More than that, despite not living through what she had, I completely understood it. Through all of her actions, the little things and the big decisions, to the things she said (or even didn’t say), it was really easy to understand her. And what made her the way she was.

Artemisia was such a complex character, with layers and layers. I wish this was a series so I could see more of her. The development arc we did get in this story was a delight. I loved reading about her growth and would’ve enjoyed it even more if I could stay with her in more books.

I was really happy with the pacing for this. It’s fast paced and full of action. We’re constantly on the move and constantly fighting to survive. It was simply exhilarating. So much was packed into this without it overwhelming.

One thing that catch me by surprise, was the absence of romance. I completely adored the romance sub plot in Sorcery of Thorns so I simply expected it in this. But it wasn’t, which is probably a good thing. There is so much to this story that I don’t think there was room for more.

I can see how everyone wouldn’t be able to appreciate this, but I highly recommend giving it a go. Especially if you’re looking for a fast paced fantasy that is unlike what you’ve read before.
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3.5 out of 5 stars

I enjoy a lot of the worldbuilding and Rogerson's writing in general is very atmospheric, she truly does have a way of writing that really does bring you into the story. It was great learning about Artemisia and integrating into her way of life.

However, I find that that the story just didn't really grip me. There was nothing necessarily wrong with it, I just never really connected with Artemisia as a character, as I felt the writing was more focused on worldbuilding and description than allowing us to connect with the characters.
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When I first dived into this book and found out from another review that it wouldn't have any romance in it, I expected not to enjoy it too much. However, I was proven completely wrong. Vespertine has a richly developed fantasy world regarding spirits of the dead, and its characters were all interesting. Despite Artemisia being an awkward character in the beginning, her back story explains why and I completely sympathised with her. It wasn't long before I became fully invested in the story! The pacing felt nice the entire way through and the plot always kept me guessing at what was truly going on behind the scenes.

And the revenant! The banter between it and Artemisia made me laugh so much on multiple occasions. I was also pleasantly surprised by some of the twists that happened. After reaching the end, I really wanted to read some more. It's always a bitter-sweet feeling when you loved reading a book but now have to wait a while for the next one to be announced!

Overall, I think you'll enjoy this book if you like a bit of spooky in your fantasy worlds, exceptional banter between characters, some good mysteries, and don't mind an absence of romance.

(I received an ARC from netgalley and this is my honest and voluntary review)
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One of the strongest points in the marketing of "Vespertine" is its premise. Whilst not wholly unique in idea, it is undoubtedly fresh for young adult audiences. To draw on popular culture, it felt like a mix of Joan of Arc, with the novels drawing on medieval French aesthetic and almost randomly the pop comic and more recently film Venom. Although this sounds like a mishmash conglomerate of ideas, it definitely works. The push and pull between Artemisia and the Revenant is one of the most compelling components of the novel. 

Another delightful element of the relationship between our protagonist and antagonist is the approach to religion. Artemisia's devout faith warring with the revenant's perspective provides a view for many within the young adult audience. It is clear Rogerson did not seek some theological didactic tale but arrived at a conclusion I believe to be valuable for this younger audience. In some circumstances, our protagonist is right, but in others, so is our antagonist. No one is wholly wrong or right. An ethos I consider valuable. 
Being acquainted with Rogerson's other work, I believe this to follow her ability for skilful and original worldbuilding. It is appropriately but deliciously dark and morbid. 

My most prominent point of critique is pace, especially regarding the movement of relationships between characters. Perhaps this is due to the brevity of her novels, but I have always felt that her works, and in particular "Vespertine", could benefit from another 100 or so pages. I do understand shorter and fast-paced stories are an appeal of the young adult genre. Still, due to the general theme and tone of the novel, I would expect a slightly older side of the demographic to want to engage with it and, therefore, would desire a tad more control of pace. Older young adults are more likely to find reward in a novel producing delayed gratification. 

A particularly refreshing aspect was the lack of a central romance. As a reviewer, I am often asked for more recommendations with this lack of love and romance and was extremely excited to see this. This will definitely be a key feature of my upcoming video featuring "Vespertine." 

I always appreciate steps towards inclusivity and diversity and would encourage Rogerson to progress with this in the future. 

Overall, "Vespertine" was fast-paced, with a solid aesthetic ideal, characters overflowing with personality, and a considered central message. I would always like to applaud an author for keeping the book appropriate for its audience, and "Vespertine" does this masterfully even with the subject matter. I believe it was a lovely balance that will make for a great "spooky season" read.
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Big thanks to Simon Schuster Australia for a copy of this book for early review.

I've  loved Rogerson's writing style since I read sorcery of thorns and I was very excited to read her latest release.

This did not disappoint.

I loved the banter between Artemisia and the revenant. This reminded me quite a bit of the dynamic in Venom which I also loved. The revenant is not supposed to be a character you or the main character are supposed to trust and I think this relationship was done well.

I loved Artemisia as a character. Her desire to keep to herself is something I could most definitely relate to and her relationships with the other characters were very believable.

The plot did lag a little mid way through the book but overall this was a very enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel
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This. Was. Amazing!!! I was happy with how the book ended, it felt complete, however I wanted more. This is why I am sooooo happy that this will be a series. Cannot wait for the next book to come out.
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