Originally published here
I was going to talk about Siobhan Vivian's The List
today, and I still will because I have Thoughts, but then I read The Springsweet and I can't talk about anything else, so that's what you're getting.
Because this book is fantastic. I was a bit worried, in that sequel-to-a-good-book way. Will it live up to the first book? Will I wish the story had gone in another direction? Answer: yes, and no.
After the events of The Vespertine, Zora Stewart has to get away from Baltimore, any way she can. If that means ruining her reputation and being sent to her aunt in Oklahoma Territory, so be it. But in Oklahoma, she will find that she has talents she didn't know she possessed.
Okay, first of all, I love the voice. Just as in The Vespertine
, Mitchell absolutely nails the flavor of the language, the syntax and the rhythms, without making it sound all olde timey. It's a book where the writing is subtle, where the similes slip in almost unnoticed.
Second, there's a sort-of love triangle, except that it's never really in question. Zora knows her own mind and the tension that keeps the plot going comes, not from her own indecisive dilly-dallying, but from her aunt's insistence that she do the sensible thing. And the real love interest? Is awesome. I won't say anything else, because I don't want to risk spoilers, but trust me.
Speaking of Zora's aunt, I loved Birdie. The fact that she's not that much older than Zora, that she's tough without being hard, that she manages to carve a life for herself and her daughter (her husband has died). I believed in her as a real person, as someone who might easily have existed at that point in our history.
And finally, there's Zora. Zora who acts petulant sometimes, but who is also putting on act. Zora who's still grieving, but trying to find a way past her grief. She's a wonderful example of a character who feels absolutely of her time, while at the same time being very spunky and easily relatable to a modern audience. I read past most of this at the time and then realized that when she first takes her corsets off, she feels strange, where most characters in historical fiction would immediately feel liberated. She doesn't mind sewing. She's competent, in short, in the ways in which even a well-off girl of her time would have been. And all of that without sacrificing one ounce of agency or strength.
And I loved the descriptions of the magic, which are just pure loveliness.
So all that is basically to say, I loved this book! Go read it!
Book source: public library
Book information: Harcourt, 2012 (today!); YA fantasyMy brief review of The Vespertine
Other reviews of The Springsweet
:Proud Book NerdRed House BooksLeila Roy at Kirkus