A guest review by Sirius
Summary: Nicely written, but strange story, which did not have too much of a medieval feel for me.
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 was a little bit at loss as to what I thought about this story after I finished it and I am probably still a little bit at loss, which is the reason for the somewhat disjointed nature of this review.
First and foremost I was confused and I do not like feeling that way after I finish with a book. I still have no idea whatsoever what was the meaning of Velvet, besides its use as sewing material for clothing (and it IS used as a sewing material for one of the jobs Virago takes for the king, though I will not say anything more since it is will be a spoiler). But at the same time, since the blurb gives so much attention to it and it is the title of the book, I kept wondering what metaphor it was supposed to personify and I just did not get it.
I had to ask Raine for help and she pointed to me the pretty obvious nature of Velvet metaphor and I cannot believe I did not see it.
I interpreted the main theme of the novel as Virago opening his eyes to what lies in his heart and who the people around him truly are. While I could see the theme of Virago understanding his own heart being executed on the page decently enough, him realizing that most people around him whom he thought his friends are not his friends just did not work for me. It did not work for me because I was either not shown (just told about) them being friends in the first place, or it was so clear and unambiguous to me that those were horrible people that Virago’s surprise, pain, whatever he was supposed to feel just fell flat for me.
There is a romance in the book or at least I thought it was supposed to be romantic storyline. It starts incredibly fast, way too fast for me, and it did not quite work for me (although sex was hot), because I did not even feel that after they decided they loved each other (first meeting basically, even if they do not say the words right away), that they get to know each other much. My impression was that they just decided that they were each other’s loves and proceed according to such a decision I guess. I just did not feel a lot of connection with the characters.
Virago narrates the story, so I thought it was almost very well done that the writer managed to convey the sense of suspense and urgency as to what will happen to Virago. There is a reason why I said “almost well done”. The first chapter of the story basically starts from the end – it shows what happened to the main characters so to speak. So when Virago starts to narrate from the beginning, I had a strange feeling that while I liked how the sense of urgency kept increasing, at the same time I felt that it was all kind of fake, since I already knew what would happen.
I also thought that the historical settings in the story could be only called medieval if one stretches the meaning of the word a little. Oh there are some general signs of an unnamed medieval society, but they are so general that to me, the story could have taken place in huge stretch of time and in so many countries. Despite having said what I just did, I really liked how the settings were portrayed in a sense of how the writer showed the society dying inside in a sense . You know, the saying “feast before plague” (translated from Russian, maybe English has a different idiom) applies to this story perfectly. I thought it was well done.
Another thing that confused me was two of the secondary characters. I did not see what the reason was for one of them being in the story and for another one his actions were just not explained well enough to satisfy me.