Book review: Vermilion

Woah. So okay. This is in the same realm of Archivist Wasp, in the sense that it is a blending of genres and is utterly batshit crazy.

The genre blending by Molly Tanzen is western meets ghosts and monsters. Yes. And it totally works. Also sentient bears. Just go with it.

The main Character is Lou Merriwether, the daughter of an English ‘psychopomp’ (think ghostbuster/exorcist) and Chinese apothecary mother. They live in 1800s San Francisco. Lou is also a psychopomp, following in her father’s footsteps, and we first meet her putting the ghost of someone’s wife safely into the afterworld.

I don’t want to give too much away because it’s something you have to experience, it’s just such a great read and really good world building. The world just unfolds so well, introducing you to all the weird stuff before taking you off into the main plot – Lou going off to Colorado to solve a mystery for the the Chinese community in San Francisco.

There’s a wonderful gender balance with a mixture of female and male characters. As well as a mixture of people being gay and straight or…whatever. Which is rare, in the sci-fi or fantasy books I read anyway. The other book that did remarkably well with that was Ready Player One. However, there’s one bit in the book that when you’re reading it, you can’t believe it didn’t make an edit. It was just odd.

But really, the star of the show is Lou. She is amazing and delightful and snarky and such a smart ass. I adore her as a character. I love that she dresses like a cowboy and lets people decide whether she’s a guy or a girl. I love how good she is at her job but also how her insecurities let her fuck up. But she’s tenacious and amazing and determined. I want her to be real and I want her to be my friend.

The world itself is well crafted. The central conceit of the plot is allowed to happen because of the way the Chinese were treated at that time. But the racism isn’t omnipresent and as awful as it was coming through in The Luminaries. I love the ghosts and vampires and sentient bears. It was just well done.

I don’t think it quite matches the FEELS of Archivist Wasp (but not much could), I think because the author doesn’t give into the temptation to make it a happier ever after kind of ending (even though that’s what I really fucking wanted, god dammit.) Also, I don’t quite buy the cartoonish villain at the end, there was just something that I just didn’t quite believe. I think it just seemed a bit out of character with the rest of the book. It didn’t quite have the emotional impact as Archivst Wasp. It wasn’t anticlimactic, but it felt like there should have been something more at the end. But maybe that was me wanting the happier ever after ending.

But anyway, there’s a nice set up for a sequel (I hope there is a sequel, I want more Lou).

I think I keep comparing it to Archivist Wasp because it was such a great and weird world. I kind of get tired of the same types of world building and having something so familiar as the American West but with all this weirdness thrown in was awesome. It was also like Sunshine in that regard, normal life but also just weird shit.

Totally worth a read. Also, the cover is gorgeous.

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