Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kitty Takes a Holiday, by Carrie Vaughn

Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville novels are like crack. I would consider them my guilty of guiltiest reading pleasures because on the surface, the Kitty novels are werewolf stories and who wants to be caught reading a werewolf novel in public? Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville novels are not my guilty of guiltiest reading pleasures because they are simply too damn good. I would happily be caught reading Carrie Vaughn in public.

Kitty Norville is a werewolf. A lycanthrope. She is also the host of her own midnight radio show where she takes calls about the supernatural. Kitty and the Midnight Hour was our introduction to Kitty and her world. Kitty Goes to Washington revealed the existence of werewolves and the supernatural to America when Kitty was called to testify in front of Congress. She's had threats to her life from her own kind, from vampires, and just from those who fear what she is and what she signifies to these people.

Frankly, Kitty is tired. She needs to get away. So, in Kitty Takes a Holiday, Kitty does exactly that. She heads to a remote cabin in the Colorado back country and expects to write her memoirs. Her life so far. No radio show, no outside world. Just quiet and reflection. Trouble follows Kitty, however, and trouble begins with dead animals being left on her porch as some sort of sacrifice. A sick joke? Then, Cormac, the mysterious werewolf hunter and possibly friend of Kitty, shows up carrying her wounded lawyer, Ben. Trouble? To say the least.

Carrie Vaughn takes a big risk with Kitty Takes a Holiday because she removes one essential aspect of Kitty's character: the radio show. One incident of this and it isn't a big deal. More than this and Vaughn risks alienating some of her readers who want Kitty to remain the same. In Carrie Vaughn's sure hands, however, there is no danger. Her Kitty Norville is such an interesting character and Vaughn gets across Kitty's doubts about herself and why she could feel such burnout.

What Carrie Vaughn succeeds so well with in this novel is introducing new, interesting, and credible threats, advancing what we know (or think we know) about Kitty, Ben, and Cormac, and move Kitty along in life so that Kitty will be in a place where Vaughn can do something very different in the next Kitty novel and still have it feel authentic. Carrie Vaughn succeeds.

Kitty Takes a Holiday is a fast paced, exciting novel where the protagonist happens to be a werewolf and the story happens to deal with werewolves, but even with this focus on the supernatural it feels like Carrie Vaughn is doing something fresh with this sub-genre and constantly doing something fresh with her characters. The Kitty novels are consistently compelling and as Vaughn introduces new situations where Kitty must grow as a character the Kitty novels continue to improve. Kitty Takes a Holiday is quite possibly the strongest of the three Kitty novels and shows Carrie Vaughn's growth as a novelist.

The most important thing about Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville novels is simply that they are fun to read. Kitty Takes a Holiday is a shining example of this and having read the first two books is helpful but by no means essential. The Kitty novels can likely be categorized in several different ways. I call them a pleasure.

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