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Reading Group Guide for Vespertine
By Margaret Rogerson About the Book
After being possessed by a spirit for a good portion of her childhood, Artemisia has decided to become a Gray Sister—a nun responsible for the cleansing of spirits from the recently deceased. But when armies of spirit-possessed soldiers begin to invade her convent, she finds herself called to help in some way or other. In the midst of the uprising, Artemisia awakens the relic of the most dangerous and difficult type of spirit to wield—a revenant. Despite the risk of being wholly consumed, Artemisia teams up with the revenant to unearth the hidden evil behind the attacks and stop it. With the knowledge of vespertines, priestesses who wield high relics lost to time and history, this is the only way she might save her people from catastrophe. The only question is . . . will the revenant betray her before her work is done? Discussion Questions
1. Throughout the book, we learn that Artemisia struggles with social anxiety, and it manifests in different ways. Despite this, she is successful in saving her people from the wrath of Sarathiel, the revenant. Discuss the supports that helped her manage her anxiety throughout the novel. Alternatively, discuss what you would have done to help her cope.
2. Artemisia was possessed by an ashgrim in her early life—the reason many in the Clerisy believe she can both withstand and wield the revenant. Discuss a time in your life when a hardship prepared you for a more difficult situation later.
3. Some spirits possess the capacity to speak to their human vessels, though the Clerisy teaches the humans to block out the voices of spirits for fear of possession or dangerous influence. Why do you think Artemisia continued to speak to and work alongside the revenant after learning that she was committing heresy?
4. The revenant, an immensely powerful and potentially dangerous spirit, maintains a witty and sarcastic humor throughout the book. Were you surprised by this? Discuss a moment in which the revenant’s humor significantly shifted the tone of a scene or influenced an outcome that would have been different otherwise.
5. Artemisia makes several unlikely alliances at different points in the story: the revenant, Marguerite, and Leander to name a few. Discuss these relationships and their impact on Artemisia’s character development and ability to achieve her goal.
6. “We regarded each other at an impasse, and the world fell away in a weightless plunge as I realized that looking into her face was like gazing into a mirror. We both believed the other misguided for trusting a revenant—both thought the Lady meant us to ally ourselves with our own. One of us was right, the other wrong. A warped reflection in a glass.”
Discuss Artemisia’s realization in this moment with the Divine. If you were her, do you believe you would feel convinced of your purpose, or doubtful? Give evidence to support your answer.
7. Artemisia goes by many names: Artemisia of Naimes, Saint Artemisia, Anne of Montprestre, and lady vespertine. Discuss the significance of each as they relate to how Artemisia sees herself and how others view her.
8. The development of Marguerite and Artemisia’s friendship reveals the ways that our unspoken assumptions influence our ability to connect with others. Have you ever experienced a friendship in which you had to challenge your thoughts about who the other person was? How did that impact the relationship? How did it impact your future approaches to friendships?
9. At multiple points in the text, we find that, despite some of the grave tragedies that have occurred, it is not such a foreign concept for humans and spirits to work alongside one another. Discuss a moment when you have seen unlikely groups ally with one another, despite a troubled history. What were the difficulties in the relationship? The benefits?
10. Were you surprised to find Leander and Artemisia were on the same side all along? What clues led you to believe (or not believe) that he was working in favor of the Clerisy?
11. Artemisia and Leander were both working to save the people of Naimes and Bonsaint, but they took two entirely different approaches. Discuss each, and evaluate their plans for their benefits and drawbacks.
12. Mother Dolours is a force in the Clerisy, so much so that she was the intended heir to become the Divine. Why do you believe she refused the position initially? Support your response with evidence from the text.
13. A number of religions that are practiced globally center upon a singular male entity. However, in this story they worship the Lady. Do you feel this shifts how you perceive gendered roles and power within the story’s society? Why or why not?
14. Ravens are often associated with death and darkness, but are also historically very intelligent and wise. Discuss the presence of ravens throughout the story and their significance to the plot’s development.
15. Unlike her peers, Artemisia persistently expresses a desire to remain in Naimes and to be a Gray Sister, a nun. But she ultimately submits to what she believes is the Lady’s will—to be a vespertine and to save her people. Discuss the events you believe led Artemisia to abandon her own desires.
16. Why did the people of Bonsaint place such hope in Artemisia? Do you believe it was ill- placed? Why or why not?
17. The Divine, the highest religious leader, ultimately fell prey to deception by a revenant. Knowing this, do you believe that in our own society we place too much trust in our leaders? Why or why not?
18. Compare Artemisia’s relationships with others at the beginning of the book and at the end. What are the major changes you notice? Are there any areas in which you would have liked to see her develop more?
19. What role do you believe religion plays in society’s interpretation of events and writing of history? If possible, offer an example to support your response.
20.The revenant Rathanael is known as the “Scorned One,” because of its connection to Old Magic and its detrimental impact on its fellow spiritual beings. Do you believe that this connection, alongside its involvement with its human vessels, is an act of betrayal? Why or why not?
21. Heresy refers to the violation of widely accepted religious teachings and practices. Discuss heretic acts such as Old Magic and talking to spirits, and the extent to which you agree or disagree with them being labeled as problematic acts in this story. Extension Activities
1. Imagine you have the Sight, and are offered the chance to wield or become possessed by a spirit. Create a visual depiction of yourself and your spirit. Then, write a brief description in which you identify the spirit’s order and type, the relic in which it lives, how/when you would wield it, and the nature of your relationship with the spirit. Be prepared to discuss and share your work.
2. Rewrite your favorite scene of the book from the vantage point of another character. Be sure to account for their distinct personality, biases, and goals.
3. The book ends with the death of the Divine and her revenant, the installation of Mother Dolours as the new Divine, and the sparing of Artemisia’s and the revenant’s lives. On your own or in a small group, write the first chapter of a second installment to Vespertine
4. Create a soundtrack for Vespertine
, including 6–8 songs. Then write a paragraph that explains your song choices, what they convey about the book, and how you decided on song order. Afterward, discuss your soundtracks and how the songs you selected influenced your understanding and interpretation of the book.
5. With a partner, create a card game based on the various shades. Using the Order of Shades page in the back of your book, design your deck of cards. Then create an objective and a set of rules. Once you’re done, have your classmates try out your game. What do you notice about the types of games created? What do they say about how you and your peers perceive the various spirits? Other Stories Readers Might Enjoy Within These Wicked Walls by
Lauren Blackwood City of Bones
(The Mortal Instruments, Book One) by Cassandra Clare A Trial of Sorcerers
by Elise Kova Serpent and Dove
by Shelby Mahurin Sabriel
by Garth Nix More from Margaret Rogerson An Enchantment of Ravens Sorcery of ThornsMelanie Kirkwood Marshall holds a BA in Secondary English Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a M.Ed in Reading Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has taught in many learning contexts from High School ELA teacher to Primary Literacy Interventionist. Currently, Melanie is completing her doctoral studies in Multicultural Children’s Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.