I saw the cover on the "New Arrivals" shelf at the library. I had to have it - that cover! Surely the story inside wouldn't be as beautiful as this Book With A Color In (Or As) The Title.
Would you believe that Vermillion actually is as awesome as that cover? Stop. Just look at it. Go to the Goodreads or Amazon page and look at it in full screen. Just look for a while.
Once you're done, you can rest assured in the knowledge that this book is as amazing as the cover. That dusky, starry, hand-scrawled feeling? Yeah, it's all there.
Vermillion is a sort of alternate-history kind of affair, a Western steampunk with added ghost-hunting and talking bears. It's got all manner of gender-bending excitement and understated romance, for one thing, all of which is almost flawlessly integrated into the actual, really exciting plot. Racial tensions, too? Yep. Flawless. Does the book actually get around to storytelling with all this diversity that Tanzer is throwing around? You'd better believe it.
Though all of that is present in Vermillion, the story and characters are always front and center. How's this for a hook: Lou Merriwether, a Chinese Stetson-wearing ghost-hunter, goes out west to find out why Chinese workers keep dying when they go to work at a mysterious sanatorium that claims to have the Fountain of Youth. Interested yet? If you're not, then you shouldn't read the book, because this is exactly the story you get, with an added metric crapton of character development and growth.
Lou is a fantastic main, for one thing. She's hardbitten and tough, but it's not that annoying kind of "I'm a Tough Girl (TM)" that gets thrown around. She's actually tough, but she's actually human, and these two things create conflict sometimes - but it also helps her get things done. She gets things done really well, too. She's sometimes hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking, but almost always 100% awesome.
This world is so fun, too! Tanzer incorporates Chinese ghost stories and creatures, which is especially fascinating for a story set in the 1800s. I'm still not sure why there are talking bears, but I just rolled with it, and it wasn't a big deal. And there are vampires, too. Probably some other creatures, but I forget just now.
It's an adult novel, so there are some adult themes. But if you're comfortable with that, and you need some rollicking Western steampunk with a great female lead? Vermillion is the book with a color in the title that you really, really need. Then you can sit with me in my prayer circle for a sequel.