Sunday, December 15, 2013

Kitty and the Midnight Hour (book) by Carrie Vaughn

Kitty and the Midnight Hour is the first book in an urban fantasy series.

There are some spoilers in this post, but nothing major.

Synopsis:

Kitty Norville is a night-shift DJ for a Denver radio show. She's also a werewolf, although nobody knows this but her pack. One night, she starts talking to callers about supernatural stuff, like vampires and werewolves, debating with them about whether any of it's real and occasionally giving advice to people claiming to be supernatural beings themselves. That one night is such a hit that it spawns Kitty's own show, “Kitty and the Midnight Hour.” The show gives her a little more exposure than she bargained for, and it's not long before one of the local cops comes by to ask if she can confirm whether or not a recent “animal attack” was actually the work of a werewolf.

Review:

I picked up an ARC of Kitty's Greatest Hits a while back, but decided to put off reading it until I'd at least read the first book in the series. When I spotted Kitty and the Midnight Hour at a used bookstore, I snatched it up. It was a quick read, and Kitty's “voice” was appealing enough, when she wasn't cringing around Carl. Unfortunately, it didn't really work for me.

The first thing that put me off was Carl, the alpha male of Kitty's pack. I could believe that he was physically strong, but he was in no way an alpha. He should never, ever have been anyone's leader. Ever.

Kitty became all whimpery and submissive around him, supposedly because low-status werewolves like her couldn't help but be that way around alphas. It annoyed me, at first, until I realized that the relationship was essentially an abusive one. Carl had sex with her both because he wanted to and because it was a way to prove his dominance over her. Part of the reason he didn't want Kitty to have her own radio show was because it was inspiring her to become more independent.

Their relationship became even more repugnant when, later in the book, Kitty explained to another character how she became a werewolf: after being raped by a human guy she'd gone out with, she was attacked by a werewolf named Zan. Carl and the rest of the pack took her in, figured out pretty quickly she'd been raped before she'd been attacked...and sometime between then and the beginning of the book, Kitty became one of the low-status werewolves Carl could have sex with anytime he wanted.

It's pretty much a given anymore that urban fantasy, particularly urban fantasy starring a female main character, will feature romance. Please, I said to myself, please don't let Carl be one of Kitty's love interests. He wasn't, thank goodness, but I wasn't much happier with the guy who was.

T.J. would have been perfect for Kitty. She was comfortable around him, and he did his best to watch out for her, even though this often put him in danger. Pretty much the only thing standing between them was the fact that T.J. was gay. I couldn't help but think that he was gay primarily to keep readers from mentally matching Kitty up with the “wrong” guy. So, who was the “right” guy? An assassin who specialized in killing supernatural beings and who first met Kitty shortly after she talked him out of killing her. Kitty continued to call him and visit him after that, because he made her feel safe. Right. That, there, was a good sign of just how dysfunctional Kitty's pack was.

Besides her incredibly dysfunctional pack, there were two main things Kitty had to deal with in this book. One, a request from a vampire to look into a man named Elijah Smith, who claimed he could heal vampirism but who was maybe operating some kind of cult. And two, various murders being committed by a rogue werewolf (I figured out who the rogue was less than halfway through).

The problem was that Kitty was a radio DJ. Here's a quote that best sums how I felt about the part she played much of the story: “I hadn't done anything. I couldn't do anything. I was trapped behind the mike.” (155) Kitty did a bit of research on Elijah Smith, but the real action happened elsewhere. Same with the murders, until the end – Detective Hardin was the one doing the investigating, and Kitty was called in from time to time because she was the only werewolf Hardin knew of. While other people were doing the more interesting stuff, Kitty was busy talking to callers at the radio station.

I'll finish up by talking about the world-building. This had to be the most blah “supernaturals coming out of the closet” story ever. Kitty admitted to being a werewolf while she was on the air, and then didn't even try to lie about it and shrug it off later. If everyone but her crazy (or supernatural) callers had just dismissed it as some kind of publicity stunt, it'd have been one thing, but then Detective Hardin started calling Kitty over to the scenes of murders potentially committed by werewolves and barely seemed fazed by the whole “werewolves are real” thing. And the various supernatural beings didn't seem nearly freaked out enough about Kitty revealing their existence on the radio (late-night radio, but still).

Now that I've read this book, I might finally read Kitty's Greatest Hits, but only because I already have it in my possession. I have no desire to hunt down any of the other books in this series.

Read-alikes:
  • Moon Called (book) by Patricia Briggs - The first book in the Mercy Thompson series. It stars a female mechanic who can shapeshift into a coyote (however, she's not a werecoyote). There's a bit of a love triangle involving Mercy and two werewolves, although I can't remember if that starts in this book or in another one. I liked what I've read of this series, although I have to admit that I prefer Briggs' Alpha & Omega series more.
  • Bitten (book) by Kelley Armstrong - The first book in Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series. The first few books star a female werewolf who was changed against her will and who, in the beginning, wanted nothing more than to be a regular human. There is eventually romance between her and the werewolf who bit her (who, by the way, definitely does not think like a normal human being). This is probably one of my favorite books in the series.
  • Urban Shaman (book) by C.E. Murphy - Another urban fantasy starring a female main character (there are tons of them). This one stars a mechanic who discovers she has shamanic powers and who finds out she has to use those new powers to save the world from the Wild Hunt. The only help available to her is a cryptic coyote who shows up in her dreams.

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