The Coin, a Fast-Paced Metaphysical Fantasy Thriller by Anna M. Elias

The Bottom Line: Spiritual possession has rarely been this entertaining. This fast-paced, metaphysical fantasy thriller is addictive, cinematic and moving. 

The Coin opens in a Ugandan village, where a woman inhabited by a mysterious spirit is hunted by rebel soldiers. She escapes into the jungle, but relief is short-lived as she encounters the General. Against all odds, the spirit within her takes control, enabling her to overpower and kill the man – until the spirit has no more use for her, either. 

As a Vessel for spirits seeking redemption, former Pittsburgh detective Tal Davis is marked by a mystical portal tattoo and armed with an ancient protective coin. The coin serves as more than just a safeguard – it’s also a spiritual gateway to the other side. 

In this, the second book in author Anna M. Elias’ The Vessels series, Tal’s first great moment comes in frustration. Why did I have to get this spirit, she thinks after realizing that the new spirit inside of her is Eli, a gang member who was killed at age nineteen (hilariously, Vessels can’t hide their thoughts from inhabiting spirits). With Eli inside her, Tal gains incredible superpowers – including the ability to witness the past, amplify her hearing and summon winds strong enough to knock over furniture. But Eli’s plan will force Tal into incredibly uncomfortable situations. And when Tal objects, it becomes clear that Eli is in total control. What’s more, she faces the prospect of losing her memories to serve Eli. 

Readers entering the series with The Coin will find that Elias, who is also a veteran screenwriter, does a masterful job of laying out the rules of the world without bogging down the book’s brisk pace. For example, spirits have a finite number of chances for redemption and reaching “Elysium,” and Vessels agree to be chosen by spirits. A primary source of the book’s suspense is in the realization that even the afterlife has lawlessness. 

While the story is obviously metaphysical in nature, it’s also proof that supernatural possession outside of the horror genre can be just as captivating.  But the story is at its most interesting when its characters’ moral views come into play. A Vessel named Link reflects that “Revenge, especially for such evil, felt too good,” which is why a human would “continue to hate him until he proved his truth.” Moralizing can trigger eye-rolling when it’s out of context, but within this story, it’s what gives it teeth. 

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