Alexis Hall’s Iron & Velvet, published December 2013, is an entertaining lesbian noir urban fantasy set in modern day London. Let me stress: lots of lesbians, and other LGT characters, which I’m not one to complain about but the characters in this book are mostly caricatures. I am reminded most often of Malcolm Pryce’s far superior Aberystwyth series. Alexis Hall’s writing is witty, making me smile often, but it’s never entirely clear whether the story is noir-serious or noir-parody.
I struggled to get into this book, partly because I am not a fan of noir or, really, urban fantasy. In this case, the novel has a huge amount of backstory – perhaps the author has an unpublished story set prior to this one – that creates a rich setting for the story but also forces a lot of unnecessary exposition. A lot of effort has gone into describing a detailed urban fantasy with lots of different creatures with different supernatural powers – and in trying to get so much in, inevitably the story and the characterisation suffer.
Despite which, I’m rather fond of Julian Saint-Germain – I do, after all, have a thing for London vampires – but it seems disrespectful to adopt the name made so famous by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s vampire Le Comte de Saint-Germain.
Ultimately, this feels like a noir-parody urban fantasy with a dash of lesbian erotic-romance that is spoiled a little by the parody and caricature.