Monday, April 15, 2013

Kitty Rocks the House

Since I don't have the time or energy to write long-ass reviews anymore, I'm suspending my review blog. But since I still read, and still have things to say about the books I read, I'll provide leaner, meaner mini-reviews here for now. With luck, it'll be less filler and more killer.

The fact that I liked the latest Kitty Norville book will surprise nobody. Those who read my review blog will know what a fanboy I am. You'll also know that I've felt the series has been in a slump. Read through the reviews of the past three books, and you find the same overarching theme: entertaining, but the series has "lost it's spark".

Kitty Rocks the House has the spark.

It's not perfect, of course. The middle is slow, and there are missed opportunities along the way; things that could have been awesome, but aren't. It lacks the unbridled creativity that characterized the early books. And I still think this Long Game nonsense is a misstep; dragging the series away from the personal drama that makes it unique in the crowded urban fantasy genre. But for the first time since I can remember, what happened here stuck with me.

We have two plots here, advancing more or less concurrently: the first concerns Darren, a new werewolf who gets offered a place in the Denver pack, then tries to take over. A complaint about the series- one that I've echoed myself- is that after Kitty became the alpha of the Denver pack, Vaughn spent most of the subsequent books having her run off to Vegas or London or San Francisco or Central Nowhere, county of Bumfuck, Montana, 59702. She did precious little with the characters back in Denver. So when Darren shows up and challenges her alpha-dom, there's a strong reality subtext: a major argument against Alpha Norville is that she's been spending so much time travelling and playing conspiracy games with vampires that she's forgotten about taking care of things back home. And Vaughn pulls off this bit meta-commentary without seeming either preachy or apologetic about it. Nice.

That said, I wish that Darren had posed more of a challenge. When it comes to a showdown, Kitty essentially flexes her charisma and gets the entire pack on her side. Even Becky, the main holdout, is easily swayed back to Kitty's side after a brief conversation. Given that Kitty used Becky as bait back in Kitty Goes to War, I expected there to be more conflict here.

The other storyline has Kitty, with Cormac's help, investigating a vampire priest. He shows up in town looking for Rick, and after Kitty brokers a meeting between them, Rick goes missing. This is a generally more interesting story. Rick is one of the constants of the Kitty-verse, and to see him questioning himself and being in danger adds the needed tension that's been missing from recent books. The problem here, however, is that pacing is sluggish. Not terribly much happens here until the end- it's a main cause of the sagging middle that I mentioned. When that end comes, though, it's totally worth it. There is action, and pathos, and revelation, and new ideas that I looked at and thought "Dude, awesome!" And the ending sets up better stories for books to come, and teases the possibility of a spinoff. (Another spinoff, I should say. Cormac's getting his own soon.)

Those who are following this series have already bought Kitty Rocks the House. Those who aren't want to start at the series beginning. But those who were following it and gave up at some point want to give it another chance now, because the series has come home, and I have a feeling good times are ahead.

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