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Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Author: Carrie Vaughn
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
     Kitty and the Midnight Hour (11/2005)
      Kitty Goes to Washington (7/2006)
      Kitty Takes a Holiday (4/2007)
      Kitty and the Silver Bullet (1/2008)
      Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand (2/2009)
      Kitty Raises Hell (3/2009)
      Kitty's House of Horrors (1/2010)
      Kitty Goes to War (6/2010)
      Kitty's Big Trouble (6/2011)
      Kitty Steals the Show (7/2012)
      Kitty Rocks the House(3/2013)
      Kitty in the Underworld (4/2013)
      Low Midnight (12/2015, a Cormac Bennett story)
      Kitty Saves the World (8/2015)(FINAL)

Short Stories:
      "Doctor Kitty Solves All Your Love Problems" (free, on-line origin story, 2001)
      Kitty's Greatest Hits (collection of short stories about Kitty and her friends) (7/2011)
      "Wild Ride" in Running with the Pack (5/2010)
      "Kitty Learns the Ropes" in Full Moon City (3/2010)
      "It's Still the Same Old Story" in Down These Strange Streets anthology (10/2011) 

This ongoing post was revised and updated on 8/15/15 to include a review of Kitty Saves the World, the 13th and FINAL novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by a very brief overview of the world-building, links to my reviews of series-related short stories, and my reviews of novels 9-13. 

                    NOVEL 14:  Kitty Saves the World                    

     O.K., folks…This is the big onethe suspense-filled, action-packed finale of this terrific series. Of course, the title is a bit of a spoiler, but didn't we always know in our hearts that Kitty and her allies are unbeatable when it comes to ending evil and saving humanity?

     To review: Cormac has posted the late Amy Scanlon's book of shadows on the Internet in the hope that someone will be able to decode it. Now, he and Kitty are shocked when a response comes in from none other than their nemesis Roman (aka Dux Bellorum, aka Gaius Albinus), the very person/vampire/villain they are trying to defeat. Of course, Roman doesn't know that Cormac posted the journal because he used Amy's name. When Roman requests a meeting with Amy, Kitty and her allies decide to set up that meeting in Albuquerquefar away from Denver for safety reasonsand then try to kill Roman in an ambush. Just as they are trying to figure out who will stand in for Amy, Kitty's psychic friend, Tina McCannon, comes knocking on their door, explaining that she has been sent by Anastasia, a mutual friend who now exists on another plane of existence. 

     As the story proceeds, the action heats up and the suspense builds, particularly when the Albuquerque ambush falls apart, and all of Kitty's pack members disappear from their homes. As Kitty and her allies continue to investigate and strategize, they become more and more convinced that Roman is planning to use a powerful spell to ignite a major volcanic eruption that will devastate the entire world. Eventually, some of Kitty's friends and allies from past adventures arrive to assist in the big showdown scene with Roman that we've all been anticipating. Vaughn has frequently brought  back characters from previous books to assist Kitty, underscoring her heroine's friendly, altruistic personalityalways making friends in strange places and helping out others who are on the side of truth, justice, and free will. I won't give you a full list of the allies who turn up to help Kitty because at least one of them is a major shocker. Adding a cryptic note to the story, some mysterious MIB types skulk around in the background, lending a hand (or a light) just when Kitty needs it the most. Roman also has an ally or two, including his Caesarhis ruler/boss/overlord. In less talented hands, the presence of these outsiders could have come across as a manipulative deus ex machina, but Vaughn carries it off so naturally that their presence seems perfectly logical. It's really a reminder that this isn't just Kitty's battle, but that many others (on both sides) have a stake in Roman's long game.

     The story is engrossing because there are so many players with so many different agendas that Kitty is never sure which of the newest ones are on her side, or why they are helping. At one point Kitty muses that "This had turned into a Rube Goldberg plot, where we thought we knew what Roman knew, but knew he knew we knew, and we had to work around that. We were second-guessing our second-guesses." Vaughn has done a masterful job of weaving together all of the Roman-related loose ends to create a riveting thriller that brings the series to a satisfying conclusion.

     In her "Author's Note" at the end of the novel, Vaughn states that "I'm a fan of endings. Series…have natural lifespans, I believe, and it's better to have a big finish than to peter out. It's time. There are scenes in this book I've been planning almost since the start, and it was a great feeling to be able to write them, to be able to bring Kitty's story to that closure." Vaughn is right about ending a series when it is still at the height of its life. Just a few days ago, I wrote a review of the latest novel in Jennifer Estep's ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN series and made that exact same point (because that series has, to its detriment, gone beyond its natural lifespan). Kudos to Vaughn for following her instincts on KITTY NORVILLE. Another subject Vaughn addresses in her "Note" is the baby situation for Kitty and Ben (and I'm not going to say anything more on that subjectyou'll have to read the book). 

     Vaughn also hints that future novels will probably be set in the KITTY world "because I'm not very good at world building and I decided early on that any story I wanted to write about vampires and werewolves necessarily had to be set in the same world." She ends her "Note" with a suggestion that a Cormac Bennett story might be next on her agenda. That makes sense because the Cormac/Amelia relationship remains unresolved. Is Cormac destined to live out his life alone (except for Amelia's "spirit")? Will Amelia somehow become corporal? Or will Cormac find a real-live woman who accepts his dual personality?

     Click HERE to go to the Kitty Saves the World page on where you can read or listen to an excerpt by clicking on the cover art or the "Listen" icon.

     Kitty is an independent young werewolf who escapes from her abusive pack leader, starts her own pack, and establishes a career as the increasingly well-known host of a late-night radio talk show called The Midnight Hour, which has an audience of angst-filled real-life vampires and lycanthropes as well as a lot of delusional wannabes. Think Ann Landers for supernaturals with a tiny bit of Howard Stern mixed in. Supporting characters include her lawyer and (spoiler alert!) eventual husband, Ben O’Farrell, and her friend (and Ben’s cousin), Cormac Bennett, who has spent his life hunting down and killing werewolves and other creatures of the night. Rick, a local vampire leader, also shows up frequently as a supporting character. 

     As the series opens, the world at large doesn't really believe that vampires and were-creatures exist, but after Carrie is forced to Change into her Wolf form on national TV, after being kidnapped in book 2, the secret is out. Kitty's adventures include battles with her original pack leader, serial killers, religious fanatics, crazy scientists, an evil skin walker, and nasty vampires. 

     If you are a fan of this series, you might enjoy an analysis of the various literary tropes that show up in various books in the series. The site provides protective "lids" for all of the spoilers. If you want to read a spoiler segment, just click on the blank-space "lid," and the spoiler will instantly appear. Click HERE or HERE to go to those pages. 

               SHORT STORIES               
     Click HERE to read the full text of the very first KITTY story—"Doctor Kitty Solves All Your Love Problems"—which appeared in Weird Tales 324 in the summer of 2001. Click HERE to go to my story-by-story review of Kitty's Greatest Hits, an anthology of short stories all written by Carrie Vaughn in the KITTY NORVILLE world. Click HERE to read my review of the Down These Strange Streets anthology, which includes the short story, "It's Still the Same Old Story" featuring Kitty's friend, Rick, the vampire leader of Denver. 

             NOVEL 9:  Kitty's Big Trouble             
     As this book begins, Kitty has been wondering about werewolves in American history, particularly William Tecumseh Sherman, the infamous Civil War general, whom she suspects was a werewolf. When she fails in her attempt to have Sherman's body exhumed, Kitty heads off to search for a fabled vampire nest in Kansas that may have wiped out by Wyatt Earp, legendary lawman and (possibly) a vampire hunter. All of Kitty's historical studies are put on hold, however, when she gets a call from Anastasia, her vampire frenemy, asking for help in recovering a powerful object before the evil vampire, Roman (aka Dux Bellorum, aka Gaius Albinus), can get his hands on it. Both Anastasia and Roman have appeared in previous books. In fact, Roman is one of the series' perennial villains—an ancient vampire who has sought worldwide power since before the days of Ancient Rome (from whence he took his name).

     Soon, the four intrepid warriors are off to San Francisco: Kitty, Ben, Cormac, and Amelia Parker—the spirit of a Victorian wizard who possessed Cormac while he was in prison. Anastasia explains that they are searching for the Dragon's Pearl, which has nothing whatever to do with dragons, but is actually a magical object that has the power to exactly replicate any object it touches—imagine an enchanted Xerox copier. Roman wants the Pearl so that he can duplicate the bespelled coins he uses to create and control his vampire minions. Anastasia says that she just wants to keep Roman from getting his hands on the Pearl, but Kitty never really knows when Anastasia is telling the truth. 

     The group spends a great deal of time in some spooky and mystical tunnels under Chinatown, where they are attacked by rogue werewolves and then meet up with some Asian deities who seem to be on their side: Xiwangmu and Sun Wu-Kong. By the end of the story, the Pearl has been found, stolen, and found again—sometimes by the good guys and sometimes by the bad ones. As the story resolves itself, Roman makes it quite clear that he is not yet finished with Kitty and her pack. Oh, by the way, Kitty does finally get an answer to her question about General Sherman.

    Kitty has come a long way since she began the series as a newly changed werewolf who knew nothing about supernatural life. Here, she muses about her changing perceptions of reality and fantasy: "I'd always drawn lines. Before I became a werewolf, I had assumed—blithely, confidently—that I knew what was real and what wasn't. The world was solid and logical. Then I'd been attacked by an oversized wolf late one night, and a lot of assumptions turned inside out. Werewolves were real, and I'd stepped through a certain kind of looking glass. Then I'd met vampires, were-jaguars, were-tigers, psychics, wizards, ghosts, djinn, fairies. With each encounter I erased the line and drew it a little further out. Like, maybe Bram Stoker's Dracula had been based on a real-live—real undead—vampire. Maybe a lot of those stories had their roots in reality. But that didn't mean that some ultrapowerful guy named Zeus ever turned himself into a swan to try to pick up girls. It didn't mean that when you prayed there was actually someone out there listening. Did it?" (p. 227)

     Kitty's Big Trouble is not my favorite KITTY book. The characters spend so much time mucking around in the tunnels and trying to interpret obscure Chinese mythology that I found my interest flagging a bit. My favorite KITTY stories are the early ones, when she was fighting her way up in werewolf society and struggling to make it on her own. Now that she's achieved some power and fame, she's not quite as interesting. And poor Ben, who has never been a macho man, has turned into a real wimp, always on the edge of losing control and never decisively winning his fights. Sometimes I think that Kitty would have been better off with Cormac. That being said, I still love Kitty and her friends, and I will definitely keep reading. Let's hope that KITTY gets back on track in the next books. Click HERE to read chapter 1 of Kitty's Big Trouble free of charge. 

                 NOVEL 10:  Kitty Steals the Show                
     As the story opens, Kitty, Ben, and Cormac/Amelia are off to London to the very first International Conference on Paranatural Studies, where scientists, academics, policy makers, and others will gather together for the first time. Such a gathering presents all kinds of opportunities, both for the good guys and the bad guys. Chief among the bad guys is the evil vampire, Roman (aka Dux Bellorum, aka Gaius Albinus), with whom Kitty tangled in the previous book. Roman is the chief player in the Long Game, a plan that involves the worldwide unification of vampires under Roman's command, with lycans serving as slaves, and humans being nothing more than a source of nourishment. Kitty knows that some of the vampire masters attending the conference have already gone over to Roman's side, but she doesn't know which ones have succumbed. As the conference proceeds, Roman's followers go after both Kitty and the local lycan and vampire leaders, but there is no sign of Roman. 

     Another story thread follows Cormac/Amelia's attempts to revisit Amelia's former life, including a visit to her childhood home and several meetings with her living relatives. Cormac is a minor character in this London adventure, appearing in just a few scenes.

     In this book, Kitty reunites with several characters we (and she) met back in book 2 (Kitty Goes to Washington): Alette, the vampire master of Washington, D.C.; Emma, Alette's former human servant who was Turned in book 2 and who now lives in London in the household of that city's vampire master; and Luis, the sexy were-jaguar with whom Kitty had a steamy one-nighter while she was in Washington. (Kitty's reunion with Luis brings out the jealousy in Ben.) And don't forget Dr. Paul Flemming, the mad scientist who kidnapped Kitty in book 2 and forced her to Change on national television. It wouldn't be an international paranormal conference if the crazies didn't turn up right along with the "normal" people.

       As usual, Kitty uses words rather than weapons to make her points, although she does get into a few physical brawls along the way. Kitty's goal is to win as many vamps and lycans to the anti-Roman side as possible in an attempt to weaken Roman's forces and postpone his big take-over plan until the good guys can get themselves organized. The scene in which she meets the European vampire masters at a bloody bacchanal and talks her way under their skin is great—a perfect example of Kitty's use of her talk-show confrontational skills to throw her antagonists off balance.

       This book is transitional in nature, a next-step in the inevitable march to total war within the supernatural world. Even though this is a dialogue-heavy tale, the plot moves along quickly, and brief action scenes are sprinkled throughout the story. We meet many new characters who will undoubtedly be players in the coming hostilities, and some of them are quite interesting. For me, this book is better than the last one, with a nice mix of familiar and unfamiliar characters and a plot that promises dangerous future adventures for Kitty and her crew. Click HERE to read chapter 1.

               NOVEL 11:  Kitty Rocks the House               
     Readers of the series know that Kitty has spent the past several months away from Denver, off on some adventures in California and in England. Unfortunately, her relations with her pack have suffered in her absence, and in this book, she is forced to deal with long-time pack members who are unhappy with her too-busy-for-the-pack schedule. Even Kitty's sister gets into the act as she reprimands Kitty for not paying enough attention to her human family. 

     In the meantime, the ancient vampire, Roman, and his Long Game plan for world domination are ever on Kitty's mind as she and Rick (the master vampire of Denver) meet with representatives of various vampire clans from around the world to solidify their growing list of allies. Kitty's friendship with Rick is a big part of the plot, especially when Father Columban, a mysterious vampire priest, comes to Denver to entice Rick back into the church. Cormac continues to be somewhat of a thorn in Kitty's side as he and his ghostly rider, Amelia, cause some serious problems for Rick and his visitor.

     The plot is evenly divided between Kitty's efforts to determine the truth about Father Columban and her efforts to deal with Darren, a new wolf who asks to join the pack and then makes a practice of constantly challenging Kitty's authority. Through all of this, Kitty and Ben are looking for a house in the suburbs, and Kitty is wondering whether she should just let Darren (or someone else) take over the pack and go off with Ben to a new, more normal life.

     The ending is a cliff hanger as Rick makes a heartbreaking decision and Kitty learns that she and her allies have an enemy who is far more powerful than Roman.

     Like the previous book, this one comes across as transitional, with even less action than book 10. The scenes set during Kitty's Friday-night radio program seem like filler. I'm guessing that those scenes are supposed to provide some comic relief, but they serve more as interruptions because they are totally unrelated to the relatively thin plot. The whole crystal skull story line doesn't amount to much as it fizzles out at the end of the book. All in all, this plot is flat, with lots of talk and little action, whichto be fairis how Kitty likes it. She has always relied on her words rather than her fighting skills to get her out of bad situations, and here, she does that once again. Unfortunately, this stance tends to make her appear somewhat weak and un-alpha-like, and that can be a problem in a heroine. Click HERE to read chapter 1.

               NOVEL 12:  Kitty in the Underworld               
     With the exception of worries about Roman and Rick, Kitty's life is going relatively smoothly as the story opens. She and Ben have moved into their new, suburban house, and both are enjoying the extra space. Kitty is working hard on her new book, which is "going to be about history, stories, and the different ways of interpreting them, because they look different when you know that vampires and lycanthropes are real....From the beginning, people told stories about the ways humans and animals interacted with each otherand the roles of each weren't always clearly defined. Animals talked, people went mad and ran off to the woods, and maybe it wasn't always a metaphor. Maybe Daniel survived the lion's den because he knew how to talk to the lions." (p. 6) Frustrated that her writing process is moving at a glacial pace, Kitty is desperate for a diversion, so when a pack mate picks up some strange supernatural scents in the mountains near Denver, Kitty turns her back on her book and heads out to see what's going on. 

Capitoline Wolf (suckling
Romulus and Remus)
     What's going on is, unfortunately, a trap set to capture Kitty. When she wakes up from a drug-induced sleep (from a tranquilizer dart), she finds herself at the mercy of a four-member cult that is dedicated to destroying Roman. To review: Roman (aka Dux Bellorum, aka Gaius Albinus) is an ancient and powerful vampire who is "the central figure in what vampire called the Long Game: rivals collecting allies and power in attempt to be the Master of them all." (p. 23) Kitty's kidnappers refuse to explain much of their plan at first, but they keep calling her Regina Luporum, the mother of werewolves (aka the Capitoline Wolf), and they claim that Kitty is an avatar for that mythological woman, who was the foster mother of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. 

      Although Kitty and her Wolf are furious with the kidnappers for their callous treatment (drugging and isolating her in an abandoned silver mine), she eventually realizes that her kidnappers have the same goal that she does: getting rid of Roman once and for all. The cult is made up of a female were-lion, a male werewolf (the lion's mate), and a female magician. This motley crew is led by an ancient male vampire, who claims that the group has the knowledge and magical spells to get rid of Roman once and for all, but only if Kitty joins them of her own free will. Deep down, Kitty doesn't believe that any of this nonsense could possibly be true, but what if it is? What if they can destroy Roman? To find out, all she has to do is buy into their scheme...and put her own life on the line. 

     This book moves the series story arc
Roman and his Long Gamealong a step or two, but it is more about Kitty and her state of mind than it is about Roman. As Kitty studies ancient mythologies and ponders Roman'sand her ownplace in supernatural history, she comes to believe that she may have some ties to the ancient world that she never realized existed.

     It's always fun when Kitty is put in an impossible situation and then brainstorms her way to safety, and that's exactly what happens here. As Kitty "interviews" her kidnappers and tries to get under their skins, she reminds us once again why we are drawn to this intelligent, courageous heroine. After the last book's flatness, it's great to discover that this one is a compelling story of faith, bravery, and revelation. Click HERE to read chapter 1.

               NOVEL 13:  Low Midnight               

     For the first time in this series, its heroineKitty Norvilleplays a supporting role in this book. This time around, the hero is Cormac Bennett, who began the series as Kitty's enemy, then became her wannabe lover, and now is a true friend to both Kitty and Ben. As the story opens, Cormac finally finishes up his parole period after having served a prison term for murdering a skin walker several books ago. While he was in prison, he was possessed by the disembodied spirit of Amelia Parker, a young Victorian-era magic user who died in the prison. Amelia was convicted of murder in the late 1800s after being found trying to revive a woman who was butchered by a demon. Of course, no one believed the demon story, so she was blamed for the crime. Cormac and Amelia have come to a compromise in their relationship. He remains in control most of the time, but she takes over his body when she needs to cast a spell. Meanwhile, they communicate in two ways. Most of the time, they converse mentally, but if Cormac goes into a dream-like state, they both appear in an imaginary, but realistic, mountain meadow where they can actually see and touch each other. 

     Now that Cormac is completely free from law enforcement restrictions, he plans to follow up on Amy Scanlon's book of shadows. Amy was a magic user, a member of a group that kidnapped Kitty in the previous book. She died in an explosive cave-in under a mountain, but before she died, she entrusted Kitty with the flash drive containing her journal. Kitty and Cormac believe that the book holds vital information about the Long Game being played out by the current series villain: the evil, two-thousand-year-old vampire, Roman (aka Dux Bellorum, aka Gaius Albinus), whose plans will bring catastrophe to the entire world. Unfortunately, Amy's journal is written in a (so-far) unbreakable code, so Kitty and Cormac have put it up on the Internet to see what kind of responses they get. They have had some comments and questions, but no solution as of yet. Eventually, a seemingly knowledgeable person sends some interesting e-mails, but remains anonymous until the very end of the book.

     Cormac decides that he will go to Manitou, Amy's hometown, to see if her relatives have the key to the code. Amelia isn't very happy about this because Manitou was the town where she was arrested for murder all those decades ago. When the couple finds Amy's aunt, she makes them a deal. She will give them the key to the code if they will investigate a hundred-year-old murder that involved a magical duel between two wizards that took place on a gold claim in a remote location on a near-by mountainside.

     When Cormac begins to investigate the gold claim mystery, he encounters several of his father's former associates. He even runs into his ex-girlfriend—Molly, his teenage sweetheart. Cormac's father was one of those survivalist fanatics who stockpiled weapons, lived off the grid, and threatened to bomb government facilities. Eventually, he went to prison, but some of the younger members of his crew are still living in the area and are still as crazy as ever. As Cormac and Amelia investigate the case, Cormac gets drawn deeper and deeper into old relationships, knowing that he needs to stay away, but wanting to find out what these men are up to and whether it has any connection with the murder mystery on the gold claim. He keeps telling himself things like this: "Just looking can't hurt," "I ought to just walk away," and "he should have refused to help," but he doesn't, because both he and Amelia are too curious about what's going on to turn their backs on a possible adventure.

     Kitty makes one major appearance in the story when she accompanies Cormac on a search for a possible rogue werewolf. That search turns out to be more than they bargained for when the "werewolf" turns out to be something scarier. Although there are minor bits of action, much of the story is an ongoing dialogue between Cormac and Amelia with a scattering of flashback scenes to both characters' pasts. Mostly, this book serves as a source of information about Cormac's and Amelia's past livesCormac's early family life with his outlaw father and Amelia's years of traveling around the 19th century world in search of fairies and other magical creatures. This might have worked if the characters were more interesting, but they really aren't. I've never been a fan of the Amelia-possession story line, and nothing I learned about her in this book made me change my mind. I have to say that this is not one of my favorite KITTY novels. Although Cormac has been a fascinating character when he is serving as Kitty's sounding board and back-up (especially in the pre-prison books), his character is not strong enough to carry the role of the lead hero. The book ends with a major cliff-hanger moment that portends mystery and danger for the next novel. Based on its titleKitty Saves the Worldthat book may well be the last one in the series.

     Click HERE to go to the Low Midnight page on where you can read or listen to an excerpt by clicking on the cover art or the "Listen" icon.

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