Magic, historical fiction, romance, and the Old West collide in fantastic ways in The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell, a delightful companion to her previously released novel The Vespertine.
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
In some ways, I liked The Springsweet even better than The Vespertine, though I feel the comparison is unfair. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for the Old West setting of this novel — which Mitchell colorfully brings to life with historical accuracy and perfect detail. Each page breathes new life into this world of days gone by, and the characters who live there are engaging, intriguing, and worth rooting for.
Zora is at times a weary character to follow, as her heartbreak and self pity can be burdensome to the reader, but it’s lovely to see her coming back to life — both through life on the prairie, and through the attentions of two possible suitors. And time spent with both of these young men is well worth the effort, as the reader — much like Zora — struggles to choose between them. Sure, you’ve heard that love triangles are overdone in YA lit, but not so here. It’s not a romantic entanglement so much as a choice, and at a certain moment, the right choice becomes perfectly clear. Mitchell simply gives readerstwo gentlemen worth swooning over!
And as delicious as the story of The Springsweet is on its own, its the epilogue that truly makes the reader — especially those who have also read The Vespertine — sit up and squeal with delight. It’s an utterly satisfying ending, all the while making you long for more. Perhaps the book’s only shortcoming is the fact that Zora’s gift as a “springsweet” seems underdeveloped and under-utilized. I’d have liked to see this talent prove more central to the action and plot of the book, especially given it is the title of the book! But really, The Springsweet is less about this supernatural gift and more about moving on, making the choice to live after tragedy, and the challenges of life in the overly-romanticized Old West.
The Springsweet is a fantastically delicious story of romance in the Old West, and is in stores tomorrow!