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Vermilion: The Adventures of Lou Merriwether, Psychopomp

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  1,901 ratings  ·  355 reviews
The Adventures of Lou Merriwether, Psychopomp

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
Paperback, 376 pages
Published April 15th 2015 by Word Horde
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Theresa Looks like Molly Tanzer has a sequel, Quicksilver, sold to Word Horde this year, so, yes! (Likely.)

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Average rating 3.60  · 
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 ·  1,901 ratings  ·  355 reviews

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Dan Schwent
Apr 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: weird-western, 2015
When boys from Chinatown vanish mysteriously, psychopomp Lou Merriweather gets drawn into the mystery, leading her into the Colorado mountains, to the sanatorium of the mysterious Doctor Panacea. What is Doctor Panacea's connection to the missing Chinese men and what is his true goal?

I've made no secret to the fact that I have a weakness for fiction from the strange wavelengths of the spectrum. When I caught wind of a weird western mystery featuring a half-Chinese psychopomp passing as a man, I
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book is bizarre. The first third is fun, engaging, and provocative. The story is infused in interesting ways with issues related to gender identity. The settings (SF and its Chinatown in the late 1800s) are great, the supernatural stuff is silly and entertaining, and the protagonist is competent, interesting, and charismatic. Some spooky stuff happens, which itself is ghoulishly cool, and then the protagonist sets off on her adventure. The introduction of bears and other creatures as part o ...more
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Earlier this year, I read an advance copy of Elizabeth Berg's The Dream Lover, which is a novel about author George Sand. In it, Sand says "I find I don't wish to be either man or woman. I wish to be myself."

I found Molly Tanzer's heroine, Elouise Merriweather, reflected this idea, too, as people Lou encounters regularly and often mistake her for a boy. Lou dresses in trousers and (to the chagrin of her ma) wears her hair short, and (oh good gosh) smokes cigarettes (after rolling them!). But Lou
Jun 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book started out really strong. Loved the protagonist, the world, psychopompery. Then we left San Fran. It seemed to me like everything after leaving slowed the book down. Which, in most books, that is the start of the adventure. I would have been perfectly happy to stay in town with Lou and follow her around while she worked.

I'm not sure if it was the introduction of too many characters and too many storylines, but the book just couldn't hold my attention. I kept reading hoping that a poi
I had seen Molly Tanzer’s name kicking around various weird fiction anthologies and I had made a mental note to check her out when I came across her debut novel: a supernatural steampunk story set in the old West, featuring a mixed-race androgynous, gun-slinging psychopomp, uh? How could I resist that?

Lou Merriwether took over her father’s psychopomp business, which means she is called upon when ghosts and other supernatural entities are reluctant to leave our plane of existence: she eases them
charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)
Rep: gnc Chinese mc, gay Moroccan side character, gay side characters, gay Chinese side character, Chinese side characters

CWs: racism, racial slurs, cannibalism, graphic depictions of torture

this is the kind of book where the author could have stood to read this post and decide not to write it. the only way tanzer seems to know how to make it clear lou is chinese is to have characters around her be massively racist (also interesting to note a lack of homophobia at the same time), not to mention
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting alternate history of 1870s San Francisco. Chinese labourers have gone missing, and young psychopomp Lou Merriweather’s mother enlists Lou’s help in finding the men. Lou heads east to the last known locations of the men, and stumbles upon a complicated situation at a sanitarium, including a possibly duplicitous young man working there, and the doctor in charge of the place.
Lou is a brash, tough, and hardworking young woman who chooses to dress like a man and prefers people to perce
Jul 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle
I wanted so much to love this book - alt history, Chinese zombies, not to mention the wonderful attempt to bring the word 'pscyhopomp' back into everyday use. It starts off well, but that heroine Lou - sheesh, none of her motivations and decisions made any sense once she left San Fransisco. I had no idea why she did anything that she did, and really, I was just hanging about for the last half of the book waiting for the talking bears to come back.

And I admit to actually getting angry when (slig
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A fun, full-of-heart, imaginative, smart, romp through a steampunk west with talking bears, undead, and more. You'll want to follow Lou Merriweather, psychopomp, to the very end. ...more
Jan 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. This book started well- really well- I was convinced I had a 5 star read before me. But the author and story kind of lost their way, I feel.
Orrin Grey
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There's so much to say about Vermilion, and I am in the grips of a summer cold right now, and so probably can't do it justice. When I learned that Molly Tanzer's debut novel was coming out, I was already suitably excited, as Molly is a friend and one of the best writers working in our field right now, but when she described it as "taking place in past of Big Trouble in Little China," I was all kinds of hooked, and the end result didn't disappoint.

Other reviewers have certainly covered most if no
Romi || Romi Reads
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 Tanzer did a lot of research on Chinese culture. However, I just can't believe she'd ever get the "fee ...more
Original review:This sounds too good to be true?

After getting through about 30% of the novel: I liked the book, but I can't seem to really get into it. The premise is absolutely amazing and unique, but it doesn't live up to my own hype. The seemingly random racism towards Chinese people annoyed me to no end, and it bothered it me a lot. I like it enough, and may come back at another time, but I just can't read it right now.
Erin (PT)
I feel really uncertain what I want to say about this book. On the one hand, there's a great deal that delighted me about it. I never felt sure where the story was going to end up, which I love. It was interesting, character-wise and in world-building and if Tanzer makes it a series--as I hope she will--I'm definitely on-board.

But, for as much as I enjoyed the book, it falls short of being completely satisfying, so I liked it a lot, but I don't love it. If pressed to a number, it's a 3.5.

Fantasy Literature
Apr 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I am a sucker for interstitial characters: those literary beings who work the borderlands and thresholds, guiding other characters and the reader from one state of being to another. In Vermilion, her first novel, Molly Tanzer introduces us to Lou Merriwether. Lou is half Chinese and half English; she is a female who dresses as a male and she is a psychopomp, a magical artisan whose skill is to guide spirits of the dead across the threshold into the afterlife — even if they don’t want to go. You ...more
avery (avereads)
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Vermilion is such a strange, odd, bizarre, unique novel and that’s what I absolutely loved about it. Lou Merriweather is unlike any character I have read about before and the aspects of Chinese culture and pyscopomp work was so interesting.

I loved the beginning of the book set in Chinatown in San Franscio during an alternate universe in the 1800’s. The middle of the book when Lou leaves to begin her journey I still liked but there were less elements of pyschopompery and that’s what I really enjo
Kagama-the Literaturevixen
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: If you like to read where its not so much the matter who you are but what your sexual preferences is
Lou Merriwether is a psychopomp ,someone who helps put ghosts to rest before they turn into wrathful spirits.Since her mother is a chinese woman and her father was an englisman she is part of both worlds and yet stuck between them.

When she is told her estranged mother Ailien has requested her help she has no choice but to go and visit her.

Her mother tells her that several young chinese men has vanished after being offered work in Wyoming. After a gruesome package is delivered to one of the missi
E. Chow
Apr 17, 2016 rated it did not like it
Vermilion begins in Victorian San Francisco. A lot of readers say the book lost interest when the main character leaves San Francisco. For me it was much earlier, with the main character's relationship with her mother. It really felt like I was reading an imitation of Amy Tan. This is not a good thing. Growing up Chinese American, I never met anyone who acted like the stereotyped mother-daughter relationships Amy Tan sold to white people. A lot of white people really bought the stereotype. It's ...more
Dec 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: steampunk, nrbc
December 2017 Previous Release in the Nocturnal Readers Book Box.

This was my 'bedside table' book for 2018. The book that is placed in this position is doomed to be read a few pages at a time throughout the year.
I saw this one labeled as 'steampunk' but it was missing that certain je ne se qua (or whatever) that I would expect from steampunk. It was a bit more of an 'alternate reality western'. Even with my aversion to westerns this wasn't an unpleasant read.
Lou was a fascinating MC. She didn't
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing

"I’m very glad to have met you. I never knew there was anyone like you in the whole world."

I loved this book.

Anything this unique makes description difficult but here goes: Early Anita Blake set in an unfamiliar paranormal post Civil War America with a je ne sais quoi of The Sky Is Yours.

I never had any idea what would happen next. That is so rare. This book was fluid and erotic, violent and intelligent.

This was one of one.

Vermilion was part of the December 2017 Nocturnal Readers Book Bo
Bookteafull (Danny)
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gaybies
Actual Rating: 3.8

This book was surprisingly entertaining considering I had never heard about it before. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of LGBTQ+ characters represented. The protagonist was a Chinese American non-binary individual with no preference for pronoun, Lou’s character also kind of reminded me of Mulan (which is always a plus, #amiright?).

The character Dynamics were refreshingly new and often developed in a way that I did not expect but was still realistic to their backgro
Donna Tallent
May 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
She might not like her client much, but no psychopomp worth her salt ever mocked the grieving.

Lou Merriwether is what's known as a psychopomp, a person aimed at helping the ghosts realize they are ready to leave the world of the living. When she hears that some men have gone missing from Chinatown, the real adventure begins.

I was so bummed with this book! It was set in San Francisco in the 1800's with a steampunk/western vibe. It was strange and glorious. Lou, half-Chinese, was young, witty
A true 3.5 stars, in that I really can't decide whether to round up or down, and I change my opinion based on the day, the alignment of the stars, etc etc. The prose here gets the job done: Tanzer's pacing is a little slow, since the five days I spent reading Vermilion felt a bit longer. I said this in comments, but it's less like action-packed urban fantasy, and more of a sedate Western, meandering its way onwards throughout the plot and a vivid setting. The humour isn't laugh-out-loud funny, b ...more
Sigrid Ellis
I read Elizabeth Bear's _Karen Memory_ before I read Vermilion. The comparison stuck in my head. Both books are set in a fantasy analog of the American West in a fantasy analog of the late 1800s. Both feature a woman protagonist who is unconventionally employed and transgressive. Both books are aware of the systematic erasure of people of color, women, and queers from the actual history of the actual American West.

Bear's book is better-written, tighter, cleaner, with better pacing and a better a
Jason Pettus
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Out of the large stack of books recently sent to us by horror publisher Word Horde, Molly Tanzer's Vermilion is the first full-length novel of theirs I've gotten to read (the rest so far have been story anthologies); and it certainly does not disappoint, a sprawling and epic steampunk tale with supernatural elements and lots of strange little details in its world-building (such as the intelligent bears who live in the Rocky Mountain region, who like Native Americans have negotiated a territory-b ...more
Dec 28, 2015 rated it liked it
The book takes place in the late 1800s american west. And the main character is half Chinese, half English. Who is a girl disguised as a boy. Who performs exorcisms of dead bodies. Unfortunately there are also talking sea lions. And talking bears. And werewolves. And vampires. And magical elixirs. Along with all the aspects of racism and the Wild West and all the rest. And the book just spends so much time bouncing around introducing you to these random things that it just doesn't click with wha ...more
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I loved this book, it's just so crazy! It is a wild genre-mix with Steampunk elements in it as well as ghosts and vampires and Psychopompery and Chinese-undead-what?-zombies? and it is like sci-fi, but simultaneously an alternate history with western elements in it and I don't know what else. It is weird and interesting and so much fun to read.
There are some parts where I thought "Okay, maybe I didn't get something, but why exactly is she talking and smoking cigarettes with a knitting bear on a
Sep 14, 2016 added it
Enormous fun. Tanzer couples excellent research (and great tongue-in-cheek Shaw Brothers references) with smooth, sharp humor, a flip distrust of systems, and occasional bits of gut-clenching gore all the more outstanding for how smoothly they fit with the rest. After the prologue Lou comes into play and the narrative rolls beautifully along, in a third person so molded to the main character's head that it feels like first, but with more flexibility. The back cover copy says "puts the punk back ...more
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
tl;dr version: Read this book. If you love the places where speculative fictions overlap, this is the place for you. A lil weird west, a lil steampunk, a little alt-history, entirely delicious read. It really took me back to that place of the essential joy in reading.

Excerpted from my blog @

Vermilion is the story of Elouise Merriwether - Lou for short. Lou is half-Chinese and lives in San Francisco in the late 1800s, but on an alt-Earth. Here, alchemy is real and ghosts
Okay okay okay. So here’s the thing: Vermilion sounds excellent, but it’s even better in reality. I was completely blown away by this story, by Lou Merriwether as a protagonist, and by how author Molly Tanzer went about it. This book is a wonderfully diverse steampunkish paranormal adventure that was a delight to read—Tanzer really nailed everything here.

So, firstly, our protagonist, Lou Merriwether. Lou is a half-Chinese woman living in San Francisco in 1870. She dresses like a man, smokes ciga
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She-Geeks: November 2015 Read (Paranormal): Vermilion 1 17 Nov 01, 2015 08:26PM  

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Molly Tanzer is the author of the Diabolist’s Library trilogy: Creatures of Will and Temper, the Locus Award-nominated Creatures of Want and Ruin, and Creatures of Charm and Hunger. She is also the author of the weird western Vermilion, an io9 and NPR “Best Book” of 2015, and the British Fantasy Award-nominated collection, A Pretty Mouth, as well as many critically acclaimed short stories. Follow ...more

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