Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: Vesper

VESPER (Deviants #1)
Jeff Sampson
Paranormal Young Adult
294 Pages
Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins
Available January 25th
Received via Star Book Tours for review

Emily has always been more of a reserved teenage girl, not overly popular or noticed by boys, and she's more than fine with spending the evening doing nothing but reading a good book. With the death of a fellow classmate sharing her moniker, however, Emily is divested of her boring, introverted life, and introduced to a world of danger, death, and the supernatural.

Not long after her classmate's death, Emily finds herself in short-lived but gut-wrenching pain every night around the same time. When she shakes it off, a new Emily has taken her place, one who wants to have fun, be popular, and most of all, find the source of an utterly addicting masculine scent.

Because this new Emily doesn't share her daytime counterpart's sense of self-preservation, she soon becomes the target of a serial killer who seems to be choosing teenagers at random, but as Emily comes to learn, is very precise in picking his victims. Knowing there are other people out there like her gives both versions of Emily the confidence to turn the hunter into the hunted, but when the smoke of her chase clears she finds she still has far more questions than answers.

Vesper is a story that leaves us in a state of suspended indecision, our emotions in constant flux as we mentally debate the merits and drawbacks of what we've just read. It's not a book that's easy to categorize or assign a label such as "good" or "bad", and this sense of being undefinable stems mostly from a complete and utter lack of knowledge despite having read clean through cover to cover. Mr. Sampson has written a novel with overwhelming potential and the potent promise for future substance, yet the story we are given lacks that which it promises so strongly. Reading Emily's story is like reading a three-hundred page prologue where interesting events are set in motion and we're taunted with the barest whispers of information, but just as we are getting excited to delve into the richness we know is just waiting for us to savor, we find ourselves on the final page, having been given a shell of a story and denied the filling we so crave.

Emily herself is as difficult to decipher as the story of which she is narrator. She starts out as the quiet, somewhat geeky, easy-to-overlook teenager with whom we can easily see ourselves eventually connecting, but with the fall of night she becomes a girl plagued by none of the inhibitions that hamper daytime Emily's social life. She quickly sheds the sweetness and innocence we've come to appreciate and embraces her latent "popular girl" behavior, thereby rendering her a complete stranger we're not sure we really want to know. She has few redeeming qualities while in this altered state of being, and any explanation for either this version of Emily or the full werewolf version of Emily remains a complete mystery. All we know with any amount of certainty is that sometime in the vicinity of eight o'clock in the evening Emily short circuits and transforms, maintaining an awareness of her daytime persona, but ultimately not caring what effect her shenanigans will have on her as long as she's having fun now.

A great deal of nighttime Emily's "fun" centers around the alluring draw of a certain musky scent her werewolf-self identifies as belonging to her mate. The search for a mate would have been a perfectly acceptable storyline if we were just provided a few of the why's for this particular behavior. We are given no explanation for her search, and once she finds the one she's been so inexplicably drawn to, we have no idea whether or not he is equally drawn to her, thus negating any potential for a romance that would have helped us understand this animalistic pull. While we are provided a hint as to the reason for Emily's physical changes, the lack of information regarding all other aspects of the story becomes increasingly frustrating, leaving us blinking in disbelief upon reaching the conclusion, shocked by the fact that we've read a full length novel but have learned virtually nothing about either the characters or the trials they face.

Periodically, Emily's narration is interrupted by the transcripts of an interview between her (though she's identified as Vesper 1) and an older gentleman who knows her secret, a deviation from the story that doesn't seem all that necessary until the end. Between the last page of the story itself and the final page of the transcript, a significant group of occurrences seem to have taken place, resulting in an Emily who is now far more informed and knowledgeable about her condition and what it means, yet we as readers remain outsiders–an unfortunate circumstance that cements our detachment from this story as the interest that was undeniably piqued is whispered away in a haze of confusion. Vesper is certainly full of potential, perhaps potential that will be mercifully tapped into in coming books, but it reads as a lengthy introduction to future events as opposed to a stand alone first installment.

Rating: 2.5/5


  1. Hm, that's disappointing. I'd seen this one on Goodreads, and the cover is certainly captivating, but found the synopsis wasn't forthcoming on plot. There was the allure of mystery, but I didn't quite get enough information to pique my interest. I guess that holds true for the whole of the book as well.

    Great review - I'll hold out for this one from the library.

  2. "reads as a lengthy introduction to future events as opposed to a stand alone first installment."

    Exactly. Though I think I enjoyed the novel more than you did for its strangeness, I hated those transcripts.

    Thanks for sharing your insightful thoughts.

  3. I've been waiting for this book for ages, but it's disappointing to hear that it's not as good as it sounded. I'll probably still give it a read anyway, just to fulfill my curiousity. Great review!

  4. Like all the other comments I am disappointed at how short this fell. Having potential but not fulfilling it makes me less than anxious to give this a try. Thanks for a very honest and well written review.

  5. It sucks it didn't live up to it's potential. I have read mixed reviews for this book so I will be taking it off my list for now. Maybe I am best to wait until book 2 comes out.

  6. Thanks for the honest review. I haven't heard much about this, but it is on my list. I'll have to check it out and see.

  7. I've got to say that I'm a little confused by all the different things that seem to be going on in this book. I've read a few books that were weaker in plot and story because they were used to set up the rest of the series - maybe book 2 will be better.

    Jennifer (An Abundance of Books)

  8. Nice review. I know when I read this is was somewhat confusing but I loved the plot of it.

  9. Hmm...interesting review. The premise sounded somewhere in between really good and really bad. I'm glad to know it has a werewolf aspect because otherwise the paranormal element sounded really strange without some context. It's one of those books that sounds interesting enough to read but I don't know if I'd like it.

  10. Vicki - It's probably a good one to get from the library, I'm guessing it will appeal to a lot of people more than it did me, I just found myself confused most of the time.

    Missie - I really didn't understand the transcripts, they were just odd interruptions. I'm guessing book 2 will be better though:)

    Rachel - You should definitely still read it! You may like it more than I did:)

    Jan - You're welcome, I'd be interested to see what you thought of it!

    Nic - I think waiting for book 2 is a good idea, it would help with some of the confusion I would guess:)

    Cheree - You're welcome, can't wait to see what you think!

    Jennifer - I was confused as well, I didn't understand why there was an interim werewolf form. I'm holding out hope for book 2!

    Savy - It had an interesting plot for sure, I just wanted some more information!

    Alison - I was confused when I read the blurb, I thought werewolf but wasn't sure, but that's what it is. Though we don't really understand much other than that:)

  11. This one just got shifted to the "Wait until the whole series is published" pile. I'm really disliking this trend of stretching books that don't have enough substance into trilogies. The first book always then reads like an over-long prologue and I don't like that at all. Now at least I'll know what to expect with this one. Thanks for your review!

  12. Hmmmmm... I was totally going to go out and buy this book. But not anymore! I will get it from the library instead. And werewolves? Ugh! From the tiny description we had gotten about the story I would have never assumed that it was about werewolves, I thought it would be about some super unique paranormal we had yet to happen across. So that is a bit of a let down. Thanks for the honest review!

  13. When books don't give me a strong pull or a final emotion that's clear, I get annoyed. This sounds like it would drive me nuts, to be honest. Excellent honest review though! :)

  14. I'll be honest, I get this book mixed up with The Vespertine, even though they are nothing alike. The book sounds spooky and intriguing, but not if it simply skirts around the underlying plot and never fully delivers. Thanks so much for your honest review!

  15. It's always a bummer when a book doesn't live up to its potential. Are there any paranormals now a days that are just stand alones? Not the beginnings of a series just straight up cover to cover then it's done? Anyone? Anyone?

  16. Jenny, I love your reviews! I have to admit, I didn't even have this book on my TBR list, but I'm glad I read your review... now, as a librarian, I'll have a better idea of what this book is about when and if patrons ask for it.

    Mollie, I don't know if this would count as a paranormal, as it's more high fantasy, but Elantris by Brandon Sanderson does just that. It's one book, which wraps up neatly with no cliffhangers. I understand he wrote it as a reaction to all those fantasy and sci-fi series that go on and on forever. It's the opposite of that.

  17. Small - I'm finding I'm getting frustrated with that as well, where the first book is either brilliant the the books following it are grasping at straws to continue a story that should have been over in book 1, or book 1 is just a giant set up for the other books. I'd hoped for a little more from this one:)

    Avery - I thought it could be werewolves, but then I thought maybe it would be something new instead, but it was a weird combination of both with no reason why.

    Melissa - This one just wasn't for me, I got too frustrated with Emily.

    Tara - I just felt in the dark the whole time and I kept waiting for him to enlighten me and it just never happened. I'll most likely pick up book two though just to know what's going on!

    Mollie - I haven't read many lately that have been stand alones! I think Angelfire did a pretty good job though even though it's the first book in a series:)

    Madigan - Thank you! I debated whether or not to mention the werewolf thing in my review since I didn't want to spoil, but I found the blurb was so confusing without knowing about the wolves that I figured it better to just mention it:)

  18. Oh no! I was really looking forward to this book. Three-hundred page prologue isn't that great as a first book in a series.

  19. Eeeek! I was looking forward to this one, too! I don't like when we aren't given explanations to stuff in the book. That bugs me to no end. Drats! I think you are right. The book should be a great stand alone! There were a few debuts I read last year which ended like there could be a sequel but if there wasn't the ending was satisfactory. I'm glad to know there are sequels for the books because I really like the characters and the world the authors created. Thanks for your honest review!

  20. Great review! Bummer that this book just read like a giant prelude:-(

  21. Bummer. I don't like books that just seem like a whole lot of set up for the next one. The story does sound interesting, but I think I could wait to read this one until the sequel comes out. I hate being left with a lot questions. :(

  22. Aw, I'm sorry to hear this one was disappointing! I don't mind when books set up for the next one as long as that's not *all* they do...there has to be some kind of plot!

  23. Doesn't sound like one that wouldn't frustrate me to death. If I decide to read it, I think I'll wait until the second book. Thanks for the great review!!

  24. @Madigan Thanks I'll check it out!

  25. Hmm, I think this shifted from a buy to a library checkout. I really hope that maybe the series will get better as it goes on. It sounds like too good of a premise for it to just fall so flat.

  26. You know, I was really looking forward to reading this one when I first heard about it. Then, I watched the trailer last week and I really didn't like it. Now your review has put me off even more. lol! (I really liked your review by the way!). I trust your judgment, though, so for now, this one is coming off my list!

  27. Nina - No, it was a little disappointing for me in that respect. You might like it more than I did though!

    Julie - I'm just getting a little tired of being left in the dark waiting for the next book in the series, I want at least a semi-conclusion:)

    Adriana - I would wait until the sequel, then this one might not be so frustrating.

    Danya - Agreed!

    Melissa - I found myself a bit irritated at the end:(

    Liz - I'm guessing it will get better now that we've been relatively set up for the events.

    Leanna - I was really looking forward to it as well, which made it all the more disappointing when I couldn't figure out what all happened!

  28. argh it sounds like such a disappointment =/ I wasnt drawn to this one b4 and even less now hehe Thanks for the great review hon!

  29. Well, that was a disappointing review. Not your review, the book. I thought this would be good, but who wants to read a 300 page book that goes nowhere. There must be some answers. Where was the editor? I'll leave this one off until I can see what you say about the second book if you read it.


  30. Aw, bummer! I was really looking forward to this one... may possibly still read it because there is just something about Emily's character that interests me. But the lack of explanations will certainly bug me as well.

  31. Great review Jenny.I must admit, this has been on my TBR for awhile, mostly because the cover is so lovely. However, that is always what I get from judging a book by it's cover. It seems as of late that authors are plunging in the oddest directions and they are writing these books (that publishers publish, might I add) that are just not up to par on the plot front. I may read this book eventually, but It's nice to know that it wasn't all that in scale. There are so many books I'd like to get to, so this one is going on the back burner. (oh, by the way, finished the first 3 books in Downside Ghosts. LOVED, LOVED, LOVED them. Sad I have to wait for the 4th to be released this fall (summer? can't remember). Chess and Terrible have got me wrapped)

    In the Closet With a Bibliophile

  32. Aww- this one sounded so promising, but I have to admit that I'm not sure I could read a book that promises, teases and then fails to deliver - which is what this book seems to be guilty of. I don't think I'll go out of my way to buy it, but would probably pick it up at the library if I did see it there. Still, a wonderfully written review Jenny.

  33. I saw the trailer for Vesper yesterday and was kind of confused to begin with. Now after reading your review, I don't think I'll be reading it anytime soon. The cover is pretty though ...

  34. This is exactly how I felt about the book! I'm still thinking I'll pick up the sequel in hopes that we learn more.