Author: Xavier Axelson
Publisher: Seventh Window Publications
Length: 50,471 words
Genre: m/m Historical Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Alt World, Royalty, Tailor, Forbidden Love, Cautionary Tale, allegory
Rating: Really Liked It
Make sure you don’t miss my other post today about this book! Today is TAR’s spot on the Velvet Blog Tour, and we have an excerpt and GIVEAWAY for you!
The first novel from Xavier Axelson is set against a backdrop of decadence, privilege and intrigue. Virago, the royal tailor, makes a discovery that will test the bonds of brotherhood, unravel the forbidden secrets of his heart and threaten the very fabric of his existence.
In a land where cruelty is disguised as allegiance, loyalty is masked by obligation and the laws of sumptuary govern the people, nothing is more dangerous than Velvet.
I’ve found in the past that Xavier Axelson has a rather unique style of writing, though always somewhat different from work to work, and this novel is no different. In part allegory and seen as a cautionary tale from the eyes of the somewhat naive and innocent Virago, Velvet tells the story of a small kingdom brought down by vice and power. Virago is the royal tailor, as was his father before him. And just like his father, he gives counsel to the King. But where they were once young playmates, as close as brothers, the power of his newfound station and the power he grants to others, makes King Duir drunk on himself and his closest friends and counsel, the rest of the young boys they grew up with in the shadows of their fathers.
Bidden by Duir to create a coronation vest better than any other, Virago finds himself drawn to vice — to the sumptuous calling of a unheard of fabric from faraway lands — velvet. With the kingdom in a state of antiquity from years of isolation and compounded and savage laws for the most meaningless things, Virago finds himself drawn to the fabric alongside the clarity it brings him, just as an unheard of plague seems to be taking hold of the population. Throughout this, Virago finds solace in his one truest and most hidden desire — his love of men — in Seton, a lute player new to the country and wise in the knowledge of the differences in the rest of the world. Virago must wake up, and see the court and his old friend for what they have become before he is destroyed along with the rest of them.
I noticed from several reviews that I’ve read that many people found this to be somewhat melodramatic, but I have to disagree. I suppose I can see it somewhat in the style of writing, which uses a somewhat Renaissance era style of speech and even writing (lots of exclamation points and whimsical lyrical tone to the voices of the characters). But in the story itself, I found the style and plot to be much more of a large metaphor of the downfall of society instead of melodrama. It is somewhat reminiscent of Sodom & Gomorrah, if only by the climate of greed and debauchery (and not in detail, obviously, since one of the greatest laws which sends someone to the death in this story is homosexuality). So I found just cause between both the stylistic writing that went well with the culture of the city, making it seem centuries behind the modernity of the rest of the world (which is told in the first chapter by the merchant’s wife and occasionally by Seton), and the metaphorical nature of power in the story.
As far as my enjoyment of the story goes, I did enjoy it — though I found myself having to make myself read the first half. Not that the story wasn’t good, but that the story is setting the tension piece by piece and at times it was a little overwhelming for me, watching Virago step into the traps laid before him. If I hadn’t known there would be a satisfactory HEA (maybe technically HNF, but I think HEA) from the first chapter, it would have been even worse for me. I really enjoyed seeing how the story played out though, as some of that tension was eased for me. And all of that comes about from the world Virago sees. One act, a pretty brutal scene, changes everything for him and allows him to see what he turned a blind eye too before. That is when I really found myself into the story.
I have only read one story by this author prior to this, Lily and it wasn’t so much to my taste even though I admired the writing. So I was happy that I really enjoyed this novel and I’m really happy to recommend it!