I've often claimed that Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville book sequence has become one of the best urban fantasy series on the market today. Nearly as good as Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, all things considered. From the beginning, I've been going on and on about how I love the fact that Carrie Vaughn takes her characters and storylines along unexpected paths, keeping this series fresh and very entertaining. And while the early books were more episodic in style and tone, in the last few volumes the author has continued to unveil various hints and offered lots of glimpses of a much bigger and more ambitious overall story arc.
Urban fantasy is often characterized by short works which are episodic in nature and don't always allow the plotlines to progress overmuch. Up until this point, Vaughn had always managed to dodge the bullet and keep things moving, making you eager to read the next installment to find out what occurs next. The last one, Kitty Steals the Show, the eleventh volume, brought the series to another, even more multilayered, level. The previous book, Kitty's Big Trouble, had marked the beginning of Kitty's involvement in a more complex and dangerous game, and this seemed to bode well for the rest of the series.
I reckon it was bound to happen at some point, and sadly Kitty Rocks the House turned out to be the one in which Carrie Vaughn failed to live up to expectations. I'm not sure there was enough material to sustain a full novel and it shows. A lot of filler and not much killer, this one felt like some sort of interlude and didn't have a whole lot going for it. For the first time ever, a Kitty Norville novel was a disappointment for me.
Here's the blurb:
In Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Rocks the House, on the heels of Kitty's return from London, a new werewolf shows up in Denver, one who threatens to split the pack by challenging Kitty's authority at every turn. The timing could not be worse; Kitty needs all the allies she can muster to go against the ancient vampire, Roman, if she's to have any hope of defeating his Long Game. But there's more to this intruder than there seems, and Kitty must uncover the truth, fast. Meanwhile, Cormac pursues an unknown entity wreaking havoc across Denver; and a vampire from the Order of St. Lazaurus tempts Rick with the means to transform his life forever.
Perhaps my disappointment stems from the fact that Kitty Steals the Show raised the bar to new heights. The conference in London allowed Kitty to come in contact with a lot of supernatural creatures, most of them centuries old. We were introduced to yet more players in the Long Game, and once again it became obvious that the endgame was approaching. The unanticipated side-story fleshing out the Cormac/Amelia storyline was an surprising bonus that added another layer to the plot. Hence, to have Kitty return to Denver and have her deal with a rogue werewolf and her own sister's odd behavior was kind of lackluster and at times bit boring. Rick and the Order of St. Lazarus' storyline was by far the most interesting plotline, but in and of itself it couldn't carry an entire novel on its shoulders. In the end, we are left with a plot that could likely have been part of another Kitty installment and the series would have been better for it.
As always, the novel is told in the first-person narrative of the endearing werewolf radio host. And witnessing events unfold through Kitty Norville's perspective continues to be one of the highlights of this series. With her supernatural knack for attracting trouble and the fact she's not always be the sharpest tool in the shed, there is seldom a dull moment in Kitty's life. And yet, with the odds stacked against her and the stakes always getting higher, her stubbornness does put herself and her loved ones in mortal danger and that doesn't always sit well with me. Kitty is definitely changing with each new book. Although her heart remains in the right place, I think that Ben and Cormac need to have a serious talk with her. Especially Ben, who needs to start acting like a true man and not just a pillar on which she can lean on.
Kitty's Big Trouble and Kitty Steals the Show were both transition books linking past plotlines and weaving them into the tapestry of threads that will lead us to the series' finale. More revelations were made about Roman and his Long Game. New players were introduced and Kitty made yet more enemies and a few more friends. As is usually her wont, Kitty managed to stir up a lot of troubles during her stay in the British capital, something that a number of ancient vampires are not pleased with. Some have named her Regina Lopurum, the queen of werewolves, and would like to see her removed from the game board. The stage was set for another thrilling read, but Kitty Rocks the House was more of an intermission than anything else. Here's to hoping that the next installment, Kitty in the Underworld , will be a return to form for Carrie Vaughn.
In terms of rhythm, this one was poorly paced compared to the rest of the series. Then again, as the book focuses on a number of disparate and discordant storylines, it was probably inevitable. Thankfully, Vaughn has been laying out a lot of groundwork over the course of the last couple of books, and the endgame is approaching. For that reason, I'm more than willing to overlook a disappointing and somewhat uninspired novel if the subsequent books live up to the hype generated by what came before.