Review: Vermillion

Vermillion by Molly Tanzer

VermillionGunslinging, 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…

I had a hard time getting into Vermillion, and kept having a hard time reading it. It almost annoyed me; I was really excited by the premise, really wanted to read it, but…I’d read a few pages and I’d put it down, go do something else. It was frustrating, and unfortunately, it now means I’ve given up on it. It’s rare that I do give up on books, but I plodded as far as Part Two and just thought, “I’m not enjoying this”.

The story just wasn’t engaging. I wanted to warm to Lou, wanted to get into her world…but I just found myself skimming the details without any interest. I love the psychopomp details and the mix of alt universe and ghost/spirit ideas; the animal-folk and alt San Francisco. But the writing just didn’t catch me. I couldn’t keep focused on the story, despite the well-drawn characters, the plot that looked fairly interesting…

It’s frustrating. I wanted to like this. I wanted to be engaged. I know other people have read it and liked it; I can see that it’s nice writing and a wonderful setting. I’d suggest that anyone who’s into adventure or steampunk gives it a go; it’s got a nice Wild West (with several twists) theme. But for me…meh.

This was part of my Discoverability Challenge.

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.