Kitty in the Underworld

Time was, Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville book sequence was one of the best urban fantasy series on the market. Nearly as enjoyable as Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. I loved the fact that 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 middle installments the author 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 the tenth volume, 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.

Unfortunately, in the eleventh book the series lost a lot of steam. Indeed, 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 showed. A lot of filler and not much killer, that novel felt like some kind of interlude and didn't have a whole lot going for it. For the first time ever, a Kitty Norville title was a disappointment for me.

And if its predecessor marked the point where the series started losing steam, Kitty in the Underworld definitely brought it to a standstill. This is by far the most underwhelming and often downright boring installment thus far.

Here's the blurb:

As Denver adjusts to a new master vampire, Kitty gets word of an intruder in the Denver werewolf pack's territory, and she investigates the challenge to her authority. She follows the scent of the lycanthrope through the mountains where she is lured into a trap, tranquilized, and captured. When she wakes up, she finds herself in a defunct silver mine: the perfect cage for a werewolf. Her captors are a mysterious cult seeking to induct Kitty into their ranks in a ritual they hope will put an end to Dux Bellorum. Though skeptical of their power, even Kitty finds herself struggling to resist joining their cause. Whatever she decides, they expect Kitty to join them in their plot . . . willingly or otherwise, in Carrie Vaughn's Kitty in the Underworld.

My disappointment evidently 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. And the surprising side-story fleshing out the Cormac/Amelia plotline added yet more layers to the plot. All in all, Kitty Rocks the House turned out to be sort of lackluster and at times a bit boring. In the end, we were left with a weak plot that could likely have been part of another Kitty installment and the series would have been better for it. Sadly, Kitty in the Underworld suffers from the same shortcomings. And then some. Once again, there is not enough material to sustain a full book. Kitty gets kidnapped and she spends the better part of the novel talking to herself. That's pretty much it in a nutshell.

The book is told in the first-person narrative of the up-until-this point endearing werewolf radio host. 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 keeps putting herself and her loved ones in mortal danger. In my last couple of reviews I've said that it doesn't always sit well with me and this continues to be the case. Kitty is definitely changing with each new installment. 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 truly needs to start acting like a true man and not just a pillar on which she can lean on. Their relationship makes no sense and it's getting worse. The main problem with Kitty in the Underworld is that the bulk of the novel features Kitty by herself. And if she has grown particularly reckless in the last few volumes, she acts absurdly dumb in this one. Her inner monologue gets old after only a couple of chapters, and things keep going downhill after that. The supporting cast remains absent for most of the book and this is what kills the story. Kitty, at this juncture in the series, cannot, on her own at least, carry the weight of the tale on her shoulders. Not only is she acting stupid, but her association with a bunch of nutjobs while she is acutely aware that what they're doing could kill them all goes against everything she stands for.

Both Kitty's Big Trouble and Kitty Steals the Show were transition titles linking past plotlines and weaving them into the tapestry of threads that will lead us to the series' finale. The stage was set for other thrilling reads, but Kitty Rocks the House and Kitty in the Underworld were little more than subpar intermissions. At this point, it's obvious that both the author and Tor Books were milking Kitty's popularity for all it was worth. Here's to hoping that the last two installments will refocus and end this series on a high note.

The pace was terrible. I'm sorry, but there is no way to sugarcoat it. 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 two disappointing and uninspired novels if the subsequent books live up to the hype generated by what came before.

It would be a shame for the Kitty Norville book sequence to end in forgettable fashion. But the Long Game has been introduced years ago and it's obvious that the proliferation of sequels has hurt what used to be a quality series. Quality will always win over quantity.

Hopefully Low Midnight and Kitty Saves the World will be a return to form for Carrie Vaughn. . .

The final verdict: 6/10

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