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Book Review: One very magical shop in "The Vermillion Emporium"

Maybe it’s the Harry Potter-obsessed kid in me that loves the concept of a magical store, and “The Vermillion Emporium” by Jamie Pacton is a mystical treat.

Set in the world of Severon, orphan violinist Twain stumbles upon a strand of starlight on the cliffs of Severon. Meanwhile, Quinta, the daughter of a circus performer, looks for answers and an opportunity in the form of a magical shop, the Vermillion Emporium. When the two meet outside the Emporium, sparks fly after they discover a book on weaving starlight into magical lace.

Their talents catch the eye of Severon’s ruler, and she commissions Twain and Quinta to weave her a starlight dress in exchange for all their dreams to come true. Yet, its origins have been lost for centuries, and they only have a few strands left. The only place that holds any answers is the Emporium. Still, as they dive further and further into the store, the secrets of starlight turn deadly and throw Quinta and Twain into danger.

The world of Severon felt like flying to Italy or the Mediterranean. Pacton’s magical starlight lace was an intriguing concept to incorporate into the novel. Although the magic system was basic, it worked well with Twain and Quinta’s journey.

Twain and Quinta are the epitome of teenage romance––falling in love hard and fast, without any care for the rest of the world. Although adorable and steamy, their relationship felt like Pacton didn’t have enough pages to write a half-decent build-up to their love story.

When the two were introduced, Quinta and Twain became entirely different characters from what we began with. I’m all for protagonists growing within their relationships––especially teenagers––but Twain and Quinta’s characterizations did a complete 180 to the point of being unrecognizable. Quinta is the “I-don’t-fall-in-love” girl with a heart of stone. Twain is the charming, sad boy running away from all of his problems. Right off the bat, these initial traits are thrown out the window––Quinta becomes the poster child for soft-heartedness everywhere, and Twain suddenly wants to put down roots. If they were warranted, I wouldn’t have as much of an issue with these changes, but the trait changes were too inconsistent for my liking.

“The Vermillion Emporium” also reads like a middle-grade book with some PG-13 themes. From the writing style as a whole, villains, love story, and the protagonist’s emotions, this novel read for a much younger group than intended. If this was marketed as middle grade and without the more PG-13 themes, “The Vermillion Emporium” would’ve worked well.

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