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Review: Iron & Velvet by Alexis Hall

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Iron & Velvet
Author: Alexis Hall
Reviewer: B.
Rating: A

What I’m Talking About:

There’s one thing that can be said for certain about Kate Kane: she does not date vampires. Well, she tries not to date vampires. Except for the Prince of Cups, who’s managed to win Kate over with her bribes of pudding and the phenomenal sex that Kate’s not really interested in resisting. Hired to investigate a murder perpetrated outside a nightclub belonging to said Prince, she quickly learns that this case is going to get messy fast—and not the figurative sort of messy, either. As a mostly-mortal faery princess with a drinking problem and a penchant for composing her own varying, yet gruesomely hilarious, headstone inscriptions, she’s got her work cut out for her. But, with an unlikely assortment of supernatural allies by her side, she just might survive and win the girl after all.

For this review, I’ll begin with a warning, and then move on to better things. This story is filled with lots of icky things and places. And I don’t mean that as a deterrent to reading the story (because I liked it tremendously overall), but as a warning if you’re easily grossed out. The descriptions of the monsters, the sewers (and things associated with them), the carnage of battle, etc., are vivid and creative, which actually made Iron & Velvet a lot of fun to read. No half-visualized, amorphous, lackluster baddies here—no sir. These things are so delightfully revolting that I couldn’t finish the cookie I was nibbling on during one especially descriptive scene. I’m not usually a fan of gore, but Kate is such a great character, and her perspective so sharp and unorthodox, that I set my treat aside to finish the scene. Which is saying something, because it was a really good cookie.

One of my favorite things about Iron & Velvet is that I found it to be genuinely, uproariously, snort-inducingly funny. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard over a suspense novel. There are so many quips and zings, as well as drily observed portents of destruction, that I thoroughly enjoyed the entire story—even those above-mentioned gory parts. There are plenty of gems dotting the narrative, even from the very beginning, one that had me snickering early on being:

“There’s a dead body in the alley outside.”
“And it just slipped your mind?”
“No, I just decided to seduce you first.”
“Corpse first.”
“He’s dead, he’s not going anywhere.”
“You’re dead.”
“Yes, but I’m better in bed.”

Kate is surrounded with similarly humored characters, thereby giving the resulting bouts of dialog plenty of fuel to lighten the general tone when needed, as well as move the story along at a nice pace. Even the secondary characters, including an abstinent incubus, open the door for some of Kate’s most amusing observations, some of which, I imagine, will be working their way into my own inner monologues for some time to come.

“Perhaps this was the start of a beautiful indifference.”

While Kate is perfectly willing to take on the monsters if it helps her new (sort of) girlfriend, she second-guesses herself throughout the novel, an attribute that Mr. Hall somehow manages to put in Kate’s “plus column.” This tendency of Jane’s isn’t a character flaw; it’s just an essential aspect of her makeup and a generally fine idea if any of the other characters are going to survive. Kate makes bad decisions. Lots of them. But, she makes some good ones, too, and, in the end, the average balances out. Mostly.

Another thing I liked about Kate was her inability to accept the deceptively simple resolution to the case she was hired to investigate, and her determination to find her own answers, regardless of the consequences. Kate is headstrong, sometimes to the detriment of all involved, but she’s proven right when it counts, even if that vindication doesn’t help her, or anyone else, survive. She couldn’t live through the battles she fights without some very powerful allies, but that she never pretends otherwise is an acknowledgement that suits her well.

Described by the author on his website as a “lesbian paranormal detective romance,” the Kate Kane series is, to this point, an exciting, fascinating, undeniably fun addition to the Urban Fantasy genre. Iron & Velvet is a smart, suspenseful whodunit, with wonderfully written characters and plenty of well-timed humor throughout. Occasionally the carnage was more than I was prepared for, but it’s enjoyable ick that truly made for better reading, and any alteration on that count would have robbed the story of some of its visual impact. Kate is an extraordinary protagonist, and there wasn’t much about her I didn’t get a kick out of reading. So far I’ve loved everything I’ve read from Mr. Hall, and I’m very excited to see what he does with the series next.

Rating:  A (Loved It)

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About the Book:

First rule in this line of business: don’t sleep with the client.

My name’s Kate Kane, and when an eight-hundred-year-old vampire prince came to me with a case, I should have told her no. But I’ve always been a sucker for a femme fatale.

It always goes the same way. You move too fast, you get in too deep, and before you know it, someone winds up dead. Last time it was my partner. This time it could be me. Yesterday a werewolf was murdered outside the Velvet, the night-time playground of one of the most powerful vampires in England. Now half the monsters in London are at each other’s throats, and the other half are trying to get in my pants. The Witch Queen will protect her own, the wolves are out for vengeance, and the vampires are out for, y’know, blood.

I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day.

Release Date: December 16, 2013
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Series: Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator #1
ISBN: #978-1626490499
Genre: Urban Fantasy, GLBT, lesbian
Format(s): Paperback (296 pages), e-book
Book Source: NetGalley/publisher

Purchase Info:
Iron & Velvet (Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator #1)

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