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It's no secret that Saundra Mitchell's Gothic novel, The Vespertine was one of my favorite novels of 2011. I'm a romantic at heart, and drawn to all kinds of anachronisms, and to me, The Vespertine was a book that, wonderfully, and amazingly, just didn't fit in, didn't quite belong amidst all the other young adult books I was reading, and that's a huge part of why I loved Saundra's book and her ethereal writing style quite so much. I've recommended The Vespertine to so many people and talked extensively about it here, so when I received a copy of The Springsweet for an ARC tour, I was thrilled and elated, and I also had high hopes for the sequel to The Vespertine, it being Zora Stewart's story. The Springsweet picks up right at a year after the events of The Vespertine, and it's not a lie to say that when I read the opening passages, I felt like I'd come home, back to Saundra's beautiful writing.
That I went a little mad, I cannot deny. - Zora Stewart, page 1.
With a beginning like that, I KNEW I was going to love The Springsweet, and I did definitely adore this novel. As Zora flees Baltimore, and the reminder of the tragedies her family has suffered, she starts anew in the untamed West, and under Saundra Mitchell's pen, Oklahoma comes alive, a hot, dry, hard place that Zora nevertheless finds something elusive in: hope, and a rebirth of sorts when she discovers her ability to locate water underground, becoming a "springsweet." This touch of the paranormal was very well-done, and flowed nicely with the rest of the story. I immediately felt for Zora, who is Understandably broken and grieving, and fell for her all over again, for the spirit buried underneath her mourning. Zora was changed vastly from the first book, but she still impressed me throughout The Springsweet with her heart and her ferocity.
I also fell for secondary character Emerson Birch, and one of Zora's two would-be suitors. The second suitor, Theo de la Croix was a true gentleman, and although I found him to be very kind and sweet, it was Emerson I was drawn to: brave, unfettered Emerson. I could see why Zora gravitated toward him, as well. Saundra Mitchell certainly brought to life a man befitting the wild, feral Oklahoma, giving us just enough glimpses of Emerson, his abilities, and his heart to make him utterly irresistible. I looked forward to Zora's interactions with him, and only wish we'd seen more of them together!
The Springsweet left me a little breathless with the beautiful scope of the story playing out, and Saundra's ability to so easily draw me in to the story she's telling. Page after page, I was astounded at the grace spilling from the pages, and my ONLY complaint is that the story wasn't long enough! I wanted and needed more - more time with Zora, and with Emerson, and even with Birdie, who was a wonderfully developed character. I couldn't help it - I LOVED what I was reading and I quite desperately didn't want The Springsweet to end. However it DID end...and on an amazingly heart-pounding cliff-hanger that left me grasping at the pages, and already looking forward to the third and final book in this series, Aetherborne. I'm going to hate the wait, but I have EVERY bit of faith that it will be worth it!