Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Book Tour for Iron & Velvet by Alexis Hall (Review & GIVEAWAY)


Hello, and welcome to my second ever blog tour, celebrating Riptide Publishing’s release of my second ever novel, IRON AND VELVET. Yay!  Thank you so much to Words of Wisdom from The Scarf Princess for hosting me. And, to you, dear reader, for stopping by. If you’d like to come with me and keep me company on my virtual wanderings, you can find a full listing of when and where I am here.

One of the things I was very conscious about when I was writing Iron and Velvet was that the book would necessarily have a large number of prominent female characters and that because of this I was in danger of falling into what I took to calling the “too many girls” trap. It is apparently the case (I understand there are studies) that many people will see a mixed group of men and women as having an “equal gender balance” when the ratio of men to women is about 2:1, and will see any more equal ratio as “female dominated”. It's hardly an academic study, but you can see reasonably good anecdotal evidence for this in the faction leaders in World of Warcraft: both Horde and Alliance had exactly three starting races, exactly two on each side were led by men and exactly one on each side was led by a woman (and a hot elf woman at that). When the new starting races were introduced in Cataclysm both factions were given male leaders because … well it would be sexist to make a faction leader female just for the sake of it. That would be political correctness gone mad.
Knowing that only fools think themselves immune to the prejudices inherent in their society, I very consciously watched out for my “too many girls” instincts, and deliberately stomped on them every time they reared their heads. I was very aware that most paranormal archetypes – the archmage, the alpha werewolf, the terrifying vampire enforcer – default to male, and I wanted to deliberately override those defaults. Unfortunately, this led to a first draft of the book which had basically no men in it at all.
My editor flagged this up at an early stage, and I was extremely ambivalent at first. It was true that in the first draft (in which, amongst other things, Mercy was Prince of Swords, Thomas Pryce didn't appear at all, and Kate went to Nancy rather than Jack for information) pretty much the only male characters were a reformed incubus, a man made out of rats and a couple of werewolves but I really wanted to make certain that this was actually a problem rather than a quirk. After all, a lot of m/m is set in extremely male dominated environments and I didn't see why the converse shouldn't be true of f/f. In the end, though, I decided that I probably had overcompensated. Even then it wouldn't really have been a problem, except that I did identify a couple of issues with a very female-dominated setting that made me a bit uncomfortable.
The first was a simple question of world building. A lot of paranormal settings have quite specifically defined gender roles for their supernatural beings (J.D. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood and P.C. and Krisen Cast's House of Night series being two good examples) and I was concerned that if all of the 
prominent supernatural beings we encountered were women, it might create the impression that supernatural creatures in this setting were actually matriarchal (which, to further muddy the waters, the werewolves are), rather than being meritocratic. This led to my second issue with the no-men-except-incubi draft of the book, which was that I was a little concerned that the absence of male characters in positions of power created the impression that the female characters had only been able to succeed because the men had been artificially taken out of the picture. I admit that this might have been paranoia, and might have actually been grounded in some unexamined assumptions about gender roles and the derivation of power and authority, but the more I thought about it the more important I thought it was to demonstrate that Julian occupies a position of power because of her abilities, not because of her gender.
My editor's original suggestion was just to gender-flip Mercy, but that was something I was very keen to avoid. Mercy's backstory is only hinted at in Iron and Velvet, but her whole arc is about the rejection of the routes to power typically prescribed for women (seduction, innuendo, beauty) and the embrace of the power that comes from being a terrifying, indestructible creature of the night. Gender-flipping the character would have undermined that quite a lot. So instead I decided to simply roll the position of Prince of Swords back a generation. I'd always intended Mercy's predecessor to be somebody extremely old and rather out of his time (in the original backstory he'd died in the blitz), so I went back to my concept board and put together the character of AeglicaThrice-Risen.
This involved really quite a lot of rewriting, since the Prince of Swords has a relatively major supporting role in the book, and his relationship with Julian wound up being very different to the relationship she would have had with Mercy (who would have been a relative newcomer to the role). He also simply has a very different style. The climactic sequence of the book, which I probably shouldn't spoiler here, originally involved the Prince of Swords taking much more of a hand in the organisation of … things I again probably shouldn't spoiler. But while this made sense for Mercy, who understands people and knows the value of allies, it made no sense at all for Aeglica, who has spent the past thousand years working almost completely alone.
As is usually the case when my editor suggests large-scale changes to a piece, I'm much happier with the final product than I was with the original. I think the world comes across better and the ending is a lot more powerful than it was in the first draft. So, yeah, score one for editing.

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.
You can read an excerpt and, y’know, cough, buy the book, if you want, at Riptide Publishing.

MY IMPRESSIONS OF THIS BOOK:

As a fan of paranormal reads I was immediately drawn to this atmospheric and lyrically depicted world inhabited by werewolves, vampires, and Fae.  From its pulse-pounding action scenes to complicated main character, Alexis Hall has created a memorable read that sets itself apart from other paranormal stories.

Kate Kane is a heroine not always easy to like.  Since the death of her business partner and because of her numerous relationship issues she's become hardened and cynical.  Booze and cigarettes have become her best friends.  Life becomes complicated when she's called in to discover who killed a werewolf outside the club owned by a Vampire Prince.  From that moment on numerous creatures become possible villains as Kate discovers whodunit while navigating her burgeoning relationship with the vampire Julian in some steamy sexual encounters.  Alongside this sensual yet antagonistic relationship comes numerous action-packed scenes that drag out the mystery way too long.  These action scenes also introduce a slew of secondary characters that are just as quickly forgotten and distracted from the overall mystery.

Kate and Julian make a compelling couple in their intense attraction that's far from loving.  Theirs is a battle of wills that results in lots of verbal banter that amps up the sexual tension.  It's not often a f/f relationship is depicted and this one is erotic though far from romantic.  The world-building in this story draws you in with each otherworldly group clearly defined.  Some mythological stereotypes are apparent whereas new mythos are presented too.  I found the writing style a bit flowery and melodramatic at times but definitely unique and engrossing.  Kate is a polarizing character because of her snarkiness and won't be everyone's idea of the quintessential heroine but she is memorable and I look forward to her solving more mysteries in the future.

My rating for this is a B-

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for review in exchange for my honest opinion.

AUTHOR INFO:

Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de si├Ęcle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a seventeenth century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car. He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.
You can also find him all over the internet, on his websiteFacebookTwitterBookLikes, and Goodreads.

**********GIVEAWAY**********

There’s also some kind of contest type thing happening. I had a bit of trouble choosing a prize for this one because most of the things Kate likes (booze, cigarettes, knives, women) are illegal to ship internationally. I thought about a fedora, but then I remembered people had differently shaped heads and there was no point sending somebody an item of clothing they wouldn’t be able to wear. So, basically, that leaves coffee and Bovril and nobody likes Bovril except people from the North East of England. I’m therefore going offer 250g of Jamaican Blue Mountain, the nicest coffee in the known universe, purchased from a wonderful speciality shop, ground or beaned to your specification. If you don’t like coffee, I’ll replace it with an equivalently lovely tea. And if you really want to try the Bovril, I could probably be persuaded to throw that in as well.
If you’d like win this distressingly perishable souvenir please answer the three questions below (clues in the book) and drop me an email. I’ll announce the winner a handful of days after the end of the tour.
1. Whodunnit?
2. What is hanging in the study of Aeglica Thrice-Risen?
3. What’s Rule Twelve?

-GIVEAWAY ENDS 12/31.

3 comments:

  1. Fascinating stuff. :) Altho I'm usually surrounded by other women, when I real a book I can feel the 2:1 balance (ha!). Maybe that's 'cause I tend to shut out other people but there's no shutting out characters?

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    1. Thank you :) It is weird, isn't it, what flags up as "balanced" and "unbalanced", and how much it's socially conditioned. You see it a lot in ensemble shows I think, there's one POC and one woman and maybe one queer person, although sometimes they're the women or the POC ;)

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  2. Thank you so much for hosting me :) And I'm glad you enjoyed the book.

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