Velveteen by Daniel Marks
Damnnnn this was intense. I don’t mean in like the Throne of Glass suspense-intense or the Thirteen Reasons Why kind of intense (that’s on a whole other level) but the dark, tortured, demented kind of intense.
Disclaimer: I love dark, tortured, and demented.
Okay so Velveteen in sixteen when she’s kidnapped and murdered by serial killer Bonesaw (he grated her skin. Like woah) and sent to purgatory. Purgatory is kind of this limbo area where souls go until they overcome or achieve some unknown something and pass on to the pearly gates of heaven or Hell’s inferno (do NOT even start with the whole ‘Hell is cold thing.’ Don’t you dare). Given the whole good = white (Heaven) and bad = dark (so Hell) thing, it’s unsurprising that Velvet’s purgatory is completely and utterly gray (gray like the dead people’s ashes they cover themselves with–intense yet?). All the souls in Purgatory have a natural affinity for some supernatural skill (like body-snatching or poltergeist-ing) and a specific job befitting that skill. Velvet and her crew are Salvagers so they retrieve lost souls from ‘the daylight’ (living world), usually rescuing them from malicious mediums who trap the souls in their crystal balls. The number one rule is no haunting–no unsanctioned trips through a Purgatory crack into the daylight and definitely no harassing or possessing the living while you’re there–else purgatory could be destroyed. Which, of course is what Velvet is doing by going after Bonesaw. There’s also this whole evil Departurist revolution plot, possibly-corrupt leadership, and manipulative killer souls.
The reason I’m telling you all this is that it’s introduced within the first fifty pages (probably less) and the blurb mentions barely any of it. I’m not spoiling anything–trust me, I’d hate me too–I just want you all to know what the book is actually about because if I’d known, I would have been about 1000x more eager to read it.
The central plotline is not Velvet’s revenge but the Departurists’ attempted revolution and its growing repercussions in Purgatory for the millions of souls. Velvet’s revenge haunting isn’t even so much for vengeance as it is for rescue–serial killer, remember? He’s still killing people. There’s also the major aspect of love interest Nick’s training and recruitment for the Salvagers’ ranks. Still, everything that goes on is thoroughly interconnected not just in the Love Actually way where there’s some small link but as in everything is essential to everything else.
As I’m sure you’re all aware, it’s practically impossible to have a good novel if the characters suck. Velvet was one of the strangest, most unique characters I’ve ever read… in the best possible way. She’s dark, kind of emotionally numb, and borderline twisted but her confidence is intimidating (in a good way), her leadership (which she obsesses over) is impressive, and her humour is infectious. Despite her haunting and oddity and how much she swears she doesn’t care, she’s a good person and usually does what’s right, even if it’s in her own convoluted way.
Nick rapidly went from my “best book boyfriends” list to being too much to handle when he gets all extra lovey and devoted but we’ll focus on the good stuff. He’s hilarious and flirtatious and he takes everything in stride. He’s also just all around a really good guy. The back-and-forth in his interactions with Velvet is just *chef’s kiss* magnifique. The romance kicks in immediately but isn’t obnoxious (though in the second half it moves quickly into ‘love’–but, realistically, few books don’t) and the rest of the crew is equally lovely.
Honestly, there’s very little negative I can say about Velveteen. I mean, it took a little longer to finish than I’d have liked because there were a couple slower parts but they were all, as you discover in the end, instrumental to the story(ies). There are a few loose ends too which usually would leave me frustrated due to lack of sequels (I might be just borderline pissy about that one) but I was surprisingly okay with–the major problem was tied neatly with a bow and the loose ends reaffirmed that the characters’ lives would continue outside of the novel. And sometimes it’s okay to imagine.
So I guess what I’m trying to say here, dear readers, is that I loved it.
Click here for the book synopsis on goodreads!