Review: The Revenant by Sonia Gensler

Title: The Revenant
Author: Sonia Gensler
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: June 14, 2011
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Source: Random Buzzers
When Willie arrives in Indian Territory, she knows only one thing: no one can find out who she really is. To escape a home she doesn't belong in anymore, she assumes the name of a former classmate and accepts a teaching job at the Cherokee Female Seminary.

Nothing prepares her for what she finds there. Her pupils are the daughters of the Cherokee elite—educated and more wealthy than she, and the school is cloaked in mystery. A student drowned in the river last year, and the girls whisper that she was killed by a jealous lover. Willie's room is the very room the dead girl slept in. The students say her spirit haunts it.

Willie doesn't believe in ghosts, but when strange things start happening at the school, she isn't sure anymore. She's also not sure what to make of a boy from the nearby boys' school who has taken an interest in her—his past is cloaked in secrets. Soon, even she has to admit that the revenant may be trying to tell her something....
The Revenant is a historical fiction, a bildungsroman, and a story about a vengeful spirit all in one.

Willie is an interesting main character. She admits to being a liar and a thief. She's also sort of immature and spoiled. There are moments in which she allows herself to be intimidated or is close-minded and ignorant about some things. It sounds like a recipe for hating her, but it isn't. Her point of view does something to dilute her flaws because we know the motivations behind them. She's flawed, but she's also got great qualities such as drive and determination. And a love of Shakespeare. The other girls at the seminary are pretty well-developed also. Her friend Olivia is warm and likable, her boss is hard and strict, and the girls range from the Caroline Bingley type to charity cases. There exists a separation of class, as well as some racial distinction (assimilation with white people seems to be preferred by the upper class girls).

The setting is a lot of fun. Who doesn't like a haunted boarding school in the late 1800s? There are strange occurrences, confrontations, and struggles on Willie's part to fit into her stolen role, which keep the pacing steady throughout and make it a quick read. The haunting is presumed to be the ghost of a student who the girls all believe was murdered, so there's a good deal of mystery surrounding her death as well. The one complaint that I have is that I wish there'd have been a little more of the relationship development between Willie and Eli. I didn't feel like their attraction to each other was rushed or forced, partly because of the time period, but I do wish that there'd have been more of their interactions throughout the story to give it a little bit more sentimentality.

The novel resolves the ghost and the mystery. But the thing that I really like is that it then goes beyond that and forces Willie to deal with her past and her family issues. She's forced to make amends for her irresponsibility. She suffers some consequences for her choices. And this was probably my favorite part of the book - the ending. I'd recommend it to fans of ghost stories, murder mysteries, historical fiction, coming of age stories, and kittens.


  1. Historical fiction is one of my fav genres. The Revenant sounds like a read I'd really enjoy. Great review.

  2. I bought this book way back when it first came out because the description makes it sound SO good and the cover is GORGEOUS! Especially the spine, it's just so pretty on my shelf! But I just haven't been able to fit it in! I seriously need to just say screw it and read it anyway though because your review has me all sorts of excited again! Yep, definitely going to find a way to fit it in!

  3. This character drove me nuts, but she seemed to redeem herself by the end so it made up for it somewhat.

    Great review!

    Rie @ Mission to Read


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