Author(s): Molly Tanzer
No. of pages: 376
Genre: Historical fiction, Paranormal, Urban fantasy
Publication date: April 15th 2015
Date read: February 21st 2018
Gunslinging, chain smoking, Stetson-wearing Taoist psychopomp, Elouise “Lou” Merriwether might not be a normal 19-year-old, but she’s too busy keeping San Francisco safe from ghosts, shades, and geung si to care much about that. It’s an important job, though most folks consider it downright spooky. Some have even accused Lou of being more comfortable with the dead than the living, and, well… they’re not wrong.
When Lou hears that a bunch of Chinatown boys have gone missing somewhere deep in the Colorado Rockies she decides to saddle up and head into the wilderness to investigate. Lou fears her particular talents make her better suited to help placate their spirits than ensure they get home alive, but it’s the right thing to do, and she’s the only one willing to do it.
On the road to a mysterious sanatorium known as Fountain of Youth, Lou will encounter bears, desperate men, a very undead villain, and even stranger challenges. Lou will need every one of her talents and a whole lot of luck to make it home alive…
From British Fantasy Award nominee Molly Tanzer comes debut novel Vermilion, a spirited weird Western adventure that puts the punk back into steampunk.
Firstly, I want to say that I’m not of Chinese descent. So, I can’t say anything about the correctness of the portrayal of Chinese culture in Vermilion. Of course, diversity in books is very important, but I find it a little weird when an author from one culture tries to represent someone from another culture. As you can read in the acknowledgements and other notes at the end of the book, Molly did a lot of research on Chinese culture. However, I just can’t believe she’d ever get the “feeling” of the culture as right as when someone originally from Chinese culture would have written it. We’ve discussed “voices” and minorities a lot in uni and that was something that really opened my eyes as a white person – but I’ll leave it with this. (please, correct me if I’m wrong)
In my review I’ll focus more on the actual story, which I really loved! I thought it was very original, but also very diverse when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. At first I really had to get used to the world Vermilion took place in: Victorian San Francisco with a fantasy twist. There were talking bears and sealions and of course Lou’s profession – psychopompery. At first I didn’t really know what this meant, but I got to know it soon enough. The story starts off with a psychopomp case where Lou has to help a spirit, that’s lingering in the human world, pass over to the spirit world. That’s basically it. Lou deals with ghosts and other undead and she has all these steampunk tools to help her get rid of these spirits. I thought it was pretty awesome! Nevertheless, it was kind of a let down when European vampires got involved. They’re just not as interesting as ghosts *shrugs*
Still, I loved the story. The book has three parts and after I finished reading Vermilion, it actually kinda felt like I’d read three different stories on Lou Merriwether. I really liked her character, mainly because she just does what she likes (without bothering others too much of course). She was a real toughass woman!
Can’t wait to read more about Lou and her world!