Review: ARC of Iron & Velvet (Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator #1) by Alexis Hall

NB- I received this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review


The cover makes this almost seem like it’s set in the past- nope, just England

Previously published; newly refreshed by the author

I like my women like I like my whiskey: more than is good for me.

Name’s Kane, Kate Kane. I’m a paranormal private investigator, which is like a normal private investigator except—and stop me if you’re having trouble following this—more paranormal. This business comes with a few basic rules: don’t start drinking before noon, don’t get your partner killed, don’t sleep with the woman who killed him.

Last year I broke all of them.

The only rule I didn’t break was the one that said don’t work for vampires. But then a dead werewolf showed up outside the Soho shag palace of Julian Saint-Germain—a bloodsucking flibbertigibbet who’s spent the last eight centuries presiding over an ever-growing empire of booze, sex and hemoglobin.

I shouldn’t have taken the job. The last thing I needed was to get caught in a supernatural smackdown between a werewolf pack and a vampire prince. Even if the vampire prince was dangerously my type. But what can I say? I was broke, I’m a sucker for a pretty face and I gave up on making good decisions a long time ago.

I really enjoyed Iron & Velvet, and was surprised that I hadn’t heard of it earlier (this is an ARC of the revised republished version). Iron & Velvet is fast-paced, funny, and with a wealth of backstory and new intriguing possibilities to follow in future books. The characters are interesting, Kate is a fun lead, and Julian possesses the rarest character trait among vampire love interests—respect for her partner.

This book is definitely for fans of urban fantasy and paranormal romance; not just because of the host of supernatural creatures it features, but also because of the numerous jokes it holds for fans of the genre (most noticeably the jabs taken at Twilight). If you’re not already a fan of urban fantasy, the various races of supernatural beings might blend together a little, or create some confusion—the book definitely assumes you have a base level knowledge about the various supernatural creatures that inhabit the Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator world. Once again, though, I doubt a non-fan of supernatural creatures and fantasy would be inclined to pick up this book.

Another part of the book that I personally didn’t mind, but that could perhaps irritate other readers, was the way so many characters were attracted to Kate. Was it a bit unrealistic? Sure. But it was entertaining, and I never felt like any characters involved got reduced by/to the flirty interactions they were having. I think that’s about as specific as I can get without spoiling anything, and maybe I only enjoyed the interactions because for once—for once—it wasn’t a socially awkward man that supermodels were falling over themselves to undress for, but even though Kate has flaws aplenty, it’s hard not to sympathise with her.

Kate’s internal dialogue is a pretty familiar mix of self-deprecation, pop culture references and getting distracted by boobs and sudden attacks by monsters. Nothing new, for urban fantasy, but a well-written example of the type.

I’m glad that Kate has friends, family, exes and a past—not springing fully-formed but inexplicably grouchy from the fogs of noir, PI land. Her family situation is intriguing (especially with the developments in the latter half of the book) and I look forward to meeting more family members in future books (from the snippet of book 2, Shadows and Dreams included at the end of this book, I think we’ll be meeting Kate’s parents soon enough).

The plot of Iron & Velvet was pretty straight forward, very classic noir; some of the developments were a bit convenient, relating quite directly to information Kate was told directly, rather than discovering it herself in a more narratively satisfying way. That being said, I still enjoyed the book immensely, and would read the next book without question.

The interesting cast of powerful monsters in Iron & Velvet create interesting situations, resolving in unique ways. Every interaction with Patrick, Aeglica or Elise was comedy gold, and I really liked the inclusion of the Multitude. The way this series portrays demons is likewise interesting, and I look forward to seeing how Ashriel’s backstory is developed in future books.

All in all, Iron & Velvet is a fun, quick read that pokes fun at expected themes in noir, urban fantasy and paranormal romance. The quality of the writing is excellent—reminiscent of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series, early books from Kim Harrison’s The Hollows and a little of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, while the heroine—Kate—reminds me a lot of Toby from Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series (a personal favourite of mine). If you don’t need your fiction to take itself too seriously, and you enjoy character driven mysteries with plenty of unlikely team-ups and witty banter, consider reading Iron & Velvet. This version will release on October 7th, and is well worth the read.

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