12 April 2010

A Review of Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

Wow. There’s a lot to discuss here. I placed Midnight Hour on hold from the North Carolina Digital Library about a month ago, because a) I thought I was getting an audio book and not an e-book, and b) because I thought it sounded mildly interesting, and if it wasn’t, my mind could just wander and I could let the pulp just wash past me.

Not so. Set in a world described to be the real one, its inhabitants are largely unaware of the supernatural creatures cohabiting this ‘real world’ and instead of working largely to continue the deception and concealment, the plot works toward a revelation – dragging most of the characters with it. This is especially interesting to me, because in my current WIP, I’m doing something similar; I’m almost positive that by the end of my book, the ‘real world’ inhabitants will become painfully aware of my magic-users from an alternate reality.

Vaughn has an interesting and detailed take on werewolves, in some aspects similar to Terry Pratchett in his Night Watch story arcs, most of which feature Sgt. Angua, a female werewolf. In Vaughn’s mythology, her interpretation leads to some rather disturbing sexual elements in the beginning of the story, but as the MC progresses through the story, she also shakes off the exploitation she has been suffering at the hands of her pack’s alpha male. Whereas Pratchett develops an idea of “Good dog/Bad dog” (as in the desire to be a Good Dog and the fear of becoming a Bad Dog), Vaughn explores the idea of needing companionship, needing an alpha, needing the approval of the alpha. In this vain, I was favorably impressed that Kitty separates herself from Carl, the pack leader, and does not enter into a different sexual relationship. Vaughn therefore shows the need for Kitty’s reliance on herself rather than simply on a different and better man than Carl.

Also, throughout the book, the author explores the different balances the individual members of the pack maintain between their “wolf” and “human” selves. Carl is portrayed as almost completely wolf-like, while his “mate” Meg, who schemes throughout the book, is portrayed as more human, therefore having the ability to scheme. Kitty lets her Wolf influence her actions throughout the novel, but in different ways at different plot points. In the beginning, as mentioned earlier, she lets Carl take advantage of her because of her Wolf’s need to please the alpha. Later, however, she completely surrenders to the Wolf’s more aggressive side, attacking and killing a rogue werewolf created by one of Meg’s plots to get rid of Kitty and dethrone Carl.

While I did find the book to be compelling, I have to wonder if the books in the rest of the series will be as good. It's hard to maintain depth of character when there are a lot of books with the same character in them. Once you work out the issues, they're worked out; anything after that seems shallow. The second book is on hold for me, but I have my doubts.

As a note on style, I have to say, Vaughn is excellent when it comes to dialog. She knows just when to have markers and when not.

And we haven’t even discussed the vampires yet! But maybe that’s for another day…

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