Before I get into this, you need to answer a question for yourself: Are you prepared for latter-Victorian automatons possessed by ages-old paladins squaring off against demons? The answer to that question directly affects your interest in Sarah Hans’ debut novella, An Ideal Vessel.
Now for some questions the book itself poses: What if H.H. Holmes was possessed by a demon? What if a member of the millennia-old order sworn to fight said demons across time and space found itself inhabiting a body of more metal than flesh? What if a humble cleaner and a not-so-humble inventor found themselves at the center of this conflict? What if that was when things started getting weird?
An Ideal Vessel ends up coming across as a somewhat Lovecraftian approach to a demon hunting yarn couched in a Gaslight-Steampunkish setting. The idea itself is unusual, but Sarah grounds it in solid characterization and quite a bit of heart. Campion and Zuzana aren’t perfect or even all that good at what they are doing, but it lends a sense of reality and tension to the affair. It’s also worth mentioning that I really want to spoil the crap out of the end set piece, which is absolutely bonkers in the most wonderful way.
Now, it is worth noting that the prose is a bit purple here, which may put a few people off. I also feel that it could have used another chapter to round out Campion and Zuzana’s narrative. But, all in all, it’s a fun read that goes some places I never would have expected.