Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville book sequence is quickly becoming, in this house at least, what is probably one of the best urban fantasy series out there. Nearly as good as Jim Butcher's Dresden Files in fact.
Although the early installments were a bit episodic in style and tone, the author has unveiled hints and offered glimpses of a bigger and more ambitious overall story arc in the last few volumes. Which bodes well for Kitty Norville fans.
I've always loved the fact that Carrie Vaughn takes her characters and storylines along unexpected paths, keeping this series fresh and very entertaining. And Kitty Goes to War is no exception.
Here's the blurb:
Kitty Norville, Alpha werewolf and host of The Midnight Hour, a radio call-in show, is contacted by a friend at the NIH's Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology. Three Army soldiers recently returned from the war in Afghanistan are being held at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs. They're killer werewolves—and post traumatic stress has left them unable to control their shape-shifting and unable to interact with people. Kitty agrees to see them, hoping to help by bringing them into her pack.
Meanwhile, Kitty gets sued for libel by CEO Harold Franklin after featuring Speedy Mart--his nationwide chain of 24-hour convenience stores with a reputation for attracting supernatural unpleasantness--on her show.
Very bad weather is on the horizon.
As I mentioned, I like the fact that Vaughn explores various themes that you rarely or never see in most urban fantasy series. Bless her, there hasn't been a bizarre love triangle involving a sexy woman whose heart is caught between a muscular werewolf with a twelve-inch cock and a hip vampire. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it won't happen any time soon.
The premise for this one was quite interesting. The US army secretly put together a unit of werewolves operating in Afghanistan. But when the alpha male is killed in action, the struggle to raise a new alpha male to lead the unit leaves the werewolf pack decimated. Three have survived the aftermath, but post-traumatic stress have left these killing machines unable to control themselves and interact with normal people. The Center for the Study of the Paranatural Biology calls upon Kitty to assess the soldiers' potential and chances to be returned to society and live regular lives, or at least as normal a life as a werewolf can live. Carrie Vaughn explores what it means to be a werewolf, how could anyone accept to become one to serve their country, how a werewolf can and should interact with the rest of his or her pack, how to live, or try to live, a normal life within their community, how to deal with their special needs, etc. Which makes for an engrossing read, especially since Vaughn isn't afraid to tackle the deeper issues involved.
Of course, Kitty Norville has a supernatural knack for attracting trouble, whatever she does. Following one of her radio call-in shows, she gets sued for libel by the CEO of Speedy Mart, a nationwide chain of convenience stores. As always, there is more than meets the eye regarding that lawsuit and Kitty soon finds herself the target of an even more sinister plot. All the while, Cormac is acting weird, which doesn't sit well with Kitty at all.
A bit like Kitty's House of Horrors, this one feels like an interlude or a side-story. As fun and engaging as the previous books, Kitty Goes to War is more self-contained. The Harold Franklin storyline revealed that Kitty might be in more trouble than she envisioned, but that plot thread is not pursued in this novel.
Told in the first-person narrative of the endearing werewolf radio host, witnessing events unfold through Kitty Norville continues to be a pleasure. She may not always be the sharpest tool in the shed, and with her uncanny ability to turn a bad situation into worse she is constantly an accident waiting to happen. But she always means well, and I find it impossible not to root for her. Fans have been looking forward to Cormac's return and it was nice to see him again after such a long absence. Though his time behind bars has irrevocably changed him, it's nice to have him back. Tyler's plotline added another dimension to this tale, and Harold Franklin's reminded us that there are bigger and better things to come.
The pace throughout Kitty Goes to War is fast and crisp. There is never a dull moment and the book is a veritable page-turner.
However, I can't help but feel that the set-up stage should be done by now. With nine installments behind her belt, here's to hoping that Carrie Vaughn's Kitty's Big Trouble will mark the beginning of Kitty's involvement in that more complex and ambitious overall story arc, of which we have only been granted glimpses thus far. . .
The final verdict: 7.75/10
For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe