Review: The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell

Publication Date: April 17th, 2012
Harcourt Children’s Books
Format: ARC, 278 pages
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars
Heartbroken over the tragic death of her fiancé, seventeen-year-old Zora Stewart leaves Baltimore for the frontier town of West Glory, Oklahoma, to help her young widowed aunt keep her homestead going. There she discovers that she possesses the astonishing ability to sense water under the parched earth.
When her aunt hires her out as a “springsweet” to advise other settlers where to dig their wells, Zora feels the burden of holding the key to something so essential to survival in this unforgiving land.
Even more, she finds herself longing for love the way the prairie thirsts for water. Maybe, in the wildness of the territories, Zora can finally move beyond simply surviving and start living.

Hope springs eternal.

Mourning the death of her beloved, Zora Stewart decided she needed to escape. What better way to forget about the tragedies in her life but to occupy herself with back-breaking labour? Ruined in Baltimore by her own devices, her mother shipped her off to a stead in Oklahoma where farming life flounders due to the scarcity of water. Little did she know, within her lies the ability to call on its sources. But as soon as she availed herself of the remuneration for being “springsweet”, guilt and worry soon burdens her as she recognizes hope in the people’s eyes and the responsibility of being the person who can possibly give it.  But among all things, she hopes that her stay in Oklahoma will ease some of the grief for the loss of Thomas. 

In the brusqueness of the West, she meets Emerson, a recluse who alleviates some of the pain simply with his presence. Slowly but surely, she starts to find a reason to keep going and finds the pathway toward a life she’s meant to live.

Much like its predecessor The Vespertine, The Springstweet is a historical romance with a touch of paranormal. I wouldn’t call it subtle, but certainly the characters’ abilities are pretty tame in relation to the other books that I’ve read in this genre (paranormal).  Basically, Amelia’s, Nathaniel’s, Zora’s and Emerson’s powers are natural by origin. As in, Amelia’s is fire, Nathaniel’s is air, Zora’s is water and Emerson’s is earth/soil.

Nope. Amelia does not breathe fire. She sees the future only in the backdrop of a burning sunset.

No, Nathaniel does not create super storms. He simply ‘jumps’ and he can be wherever he wanted to be. He’s like air. He can be anywhere.

Zora cannot summon a tsunami of water but she knows where she can find them.

And no. Emerson cannot direct earth to open up and swallow his proverbial nemesis. He can grow anything on his command.

Theirs was almost primitive and basic and totally appropriate in the era in which the author chose to tell their stories.

The Vespertine has the Austenesque feel to it while The Springsweet will take you back to the old Frontier. Saundra Mitchell excelled, quite spectacularly in whisking me away to these worlds while staying in the same period. How did she do it? Well, I imagine an incredible amount of strenuous research and profound imagination were involved. Call me insane, but she romanticized the wild, wild West for me.

Zora was a completely different character here compared to who she was in The Vespertine. She suffered losses in which a girl her age would consider impossible to overcome. But she grew up a lot. She lost a lot of her spright but she gained a lot more resolve and strength in spite of all the hardships, both physical and emotional she’d had to endure.

There were two love interests in this book but I wouldn’t be so quick to say it’s a love triangle. For the first time ever, I’m actually torn that the other guy didn’t have a prayer. He was sweet, gentlemanly and had the guts to chase her across the country. And his counterpart – the other guy was a force in which Zora’s abilities made more sense and therefore, a part of her that I don’t know she can live without…and he’s incredibly hot. *sigh* So what’s a girl to do? I say it’s not a love triangle because Zora didn’t really feel anything for the other guy so there wasn’t a moment when she vacillated between the two.

The Springsweet is a take off from the other books from my shelves and I loved what Saundra has given us so far. I’m dying to read the next book!

VERDICT:  Sweeping plains, barn-raising, yokels, horse-drawn wagons. The setting was, again highly imaginative yet somehow scarily accurate. If I was turned off by historical romance then, Saundra Mitchell single-handedly changed that for me.

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