Thank you to Peach Tree Teen / Holiday House for a copy of The Vermilion Emporium in exchange for an honest review.
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 of 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 of the Emporium, two things happen: One, Quinta is sure she’s infatuated with 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 decades.
As Quinta and Twain search the Emporium for answers, though, they discover the secret might not have actually been lost — but destroyed. And likely, for good reason. — From the publisher.
It’s no surprise that author Jamie Pacton references Erin Morgenstern‘s The Night Circus in her author’s note. The highly descriptive prose Pacton uses reminded me so much of Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea.
Except I actually liked The Vermilion Emporium (🔥!) Pacton utilizes descriptive, flowery language that propels the story forward, keeping it from being gratuitous. That said, sometimes the language does slow down the plot.
The Vermilion Emporium is a location within The Vermilion Emporium, and it, too, reminded me of the underground library in The Starless Sea.
The other major component of The Vermilion Emporium is it pays homage to the Radium Girls. The Radium Girls were a group of factory workers circa WWI who worked with radium and used it to paint their dresses because it glowed. Unfortunately, that radium poisoned them.
The way that Pacton reworked this story into fantasy is really cool and imaginative. It’s different enough that I wouldn’t have known The Vermilion Emporium was based on history had I not been told.
I love the idea of starlight and moonshadow being tangible objects — so tangible they’re anthropomorphized.
Should you read it?
Yes. The Vermilion Emporium has an interesting structure and several components that combine to create something better than the sum of its parts. (‘Cause, in all honesty, the individual parts could be considered a little hackneyed.)
Although this book deals with some dark themes, this book feels like a cozy hug. And there’s a cute little romance to boot!
The Vermilion Emporium is out now. Pick up a copy at your local indie bookstore or library. 📚👗