The Vermilion Emporium
Published November 22, 2022
About The Vermilion Emporium
The heart-wrenching story of The Radium Girls meets the enchanting world of Howl’s Moving Castle. Jamie Pacton’s fantasy debut is a story of timeless love and deadly consequences.
It was a day for finding things . . .
On the morning Twain, a lonely boy with a knack for danger, discovers a strand of starlight on the cliffs outside Severon, a mysterious curiosity shop appears in town. Meanwhile, Quinta, the ordinary daughter of an extraordinary circus performer, chases rumors of the shop, The Vermilion Emporium, desperate for a way to live up to her mother’s magical legacy.
When Quinta meets Twain outside the Emporium, two things happen: One, Quinta starts to fall for this starlight boy, who uses his charm to hide his scars. Two, they enter the store and discover a book that teaches them how to weave starlight into lace.
Soon, their lace catches the eye of the Casorina, the ruler of Severon. She commissions Quinta and Twain to make her a starlight dress and will reward them handsomely enough to make their dreams come true. However, they can’t sew a dress without more material, and the secret to starlight’s origins has been lost for centuries. As Quinta and Twain search the Emporium for answers, though, they discover the secret might not have been lost—but destroyed. And likely, for good reason.
I really enjoyed Jamie Pacton’s contemporary novels, especially her debut, THE LIFE AND (MEDIEVAL) TIMES OF KIT SWEETLY, so when I saw that she had written a fantasy novel, I knew I wanted to check it out. An ARC copy of the book recently arrived in the mail, and I could not wait to read it.
Both Twain and Quinta pretty much had me from the first page. I wasn’t sure from the first scene how things were going to tie together, but it was definitely a compelling place to begin a story! In that opening chapter, Twain is climbing a deadly rock face in search of highly sought-after feathers he can sell for passage on a ship away from his hometown and all his memories of loss.
His meeting Quinta isn’t exactly instalove, but it’s pretty close. Instalove usually requires some suspension of disbelief on my part, but I actually loved the way that the two were drawn to one another and the way their feelings heightened on their adventure through the Vermilion Emporium.
The only thing that surprised me a little was how far into the book I was before the comparison to RADIUM GIRLS became clear. I think I was maybe 75% through the book before the plotlines that draw the comparison became clear.
The late entrance of that theme did make sense in the context of the story that was being told. I guess I was a little surprised because it’s highlighted in the back cover copy, so I expected a RADIUM GIRLS theme or parallel to emerge earlier.
The late arrival of that plot didn’t harm my appreciation for the book in any way, though. The love story absolutely captured me, especially because both Twain and Quinta were so lonely and adrift in their own lives. I think the book totally delivers on the feelings of finding your person and how magical that can feel.
On the whole, something about THE VERMILION EMPORIUM reminded me of STARDUST by Neil Gaiman. The fantasy world definitely had that kind of whimsical, wide-open magical world feel to it that I remember from reading STARDUST. I think readers who enjoyed that one or CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber will love the high-stakes magical quest and the powerful romance of this book.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Both Twain and Quinta are described as having brown skin. Quinta has had romantic relationships with boys and girls in the past.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used infrequently.
Kissing between boy and girl. In one scene they sleep curled up together. In one scene, a boy and girl kiss and then make clear their intention to have sex. The scene ends before they do any more than kiss. Both Twain and Quinta reference having had past relationships and sexual encounters (no details).
Long ago, there were people who could weave starlight into magical lace that could enchant others. A magical shop appears, selling oddities and magical items. One character discovers the secrets of how starlight is made and how to create the magical lace. Characters encounter a strange creature that may be from another world or a fae creature. Another character reveals a different magical skill made with other magical threads.
Situations of peril. Twain’s brother died after a fall from a dangerous rock face. Two boys who were his brother’s peers chase Twain and try to harm him. Someone holds another person at knifepoint and threatens to kill them. Boys beat up another person, rob them, and leave them for dead. Someone kidnaps someone else and threatens to kill them if they do not meet certain demands. They later do the same to other people as well. References to torture. In one scene, a man tortures a prisoner, cutting her with a knife. Someone uses an otherworldly weapon to kill two other people. A battle in the street leaves someone fatally wounded.
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