Today's book review is Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn.
This is another book in that suddenly huge genre of books that start from the premise that creatures like werewolves and vampires really exist and try to figure out how they would fit into 21st century society. Unfortunately, the way Vaughn uncritically uses most of the standard definitions of how werewolves work as the starting point makes it very hard to look at this as any serious sort of speculation -- silver bullets and involuntarily changing with the full moon are just too silly. There's a fairly good adventure story, some interesting threads about werewolf and vampire psychology, and even some hint that we're supposed to see the troubles of a werewolf fitting into society as a metaphor for real life. A reasonable allotment of story for one volume, though there's clearly a wider story arc that continues in the next book.
All in all, while I don't find the psychology of the werewolves and vampires quite matching my own personal ideas of those creatures, it is fairly believable, and (at least in the first book) I didn't fall into the uncomfortable hole that I fell into with the Charlene Harris and Laurell Hamilton books I've read, where I come away with the impression that while the vampires, etc., are people, they're by and large bad people I wouldn't want to share my existence with. I really wish that rather than taking the standard mythical elements as gospel, she'd thought about how to give it at least a veneer of believability (shall we say, some hooks to suspend my disbelief from), the way Tanya Huff did with vampires in the Blood series. It would make it easier to get into the interesting issues of society (including the ones that reflect on society here in the mundane world) if I didn't have to damp my critical thinking down all the way to comic book levels.
Still, it was fun, and pretty quick. Worth reading if these books are your cup of tea; if the modern urban vampire genre leaves you cold, not so much. 7 out of 10.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- MASSIVE SPOILERS ****
Kitty is a werewolf working as a late-night radio host when she decides to fill some time by talking about the occult and inviting people to call. The shift generates tremendous feedback, and her boss wants her to do more of it. She starts to work her shift into a regular talk show format, and her pack alpha tells her to stop attracting attention. She buys him off by handing over half the money. And then the local vampire Family starts putting on pressure. There's a grisly murder and a local cop asks her to investigate the crime scene. Her sense of smell tells her that it was done by a werewolf, but not a werewolf she knows -- and there shouldn't be any werewolves in the area who aren't in her pack. One night she gets a caller who claims to be a werewolf killer who is coming to kill her. It sounds like a prank, but Cormac actually shows up, with a gun loaded with silver bullets. Kitty manages to talk him out of shooting her by arguing that he's being used as a pawn in night-creature politics, and manages to start a working relationship with some tinges of romance. Still, she defiantly refuses to give up the show, which has gone into syndication and is becoming popular. She
signs up for a self-defense class, and starts to learn to be more assertive, threatening her relationship with her alphas, which she had been comfortable with before they wanted to control her in a way she didn't want to be controlled. Zan, the werewolf who infected her with lycanthropy, hits on her, and rather than submitting or running, she challenges him to a serious fight and much to the mazement of all, wins. Carl, the alpha male, suggests to her that she should challenge Meg, the alpha female, but she's not willing to try that, and from that point on, Meg seems to be controlling Carl through manipulation. Meg is a real bitch and wants Kitty dead. Meg puts Zan up to trying to attack Kitty at her home. TJ, who is the beta male and Kitty's protector (but not her lover, since he's gay), comes by and saves her, and then kills Zan. The police think Kitty is holding out on them when she won't tell them what happened, but they don't arrest her. There's another murder by the rogue werewolf, and the police think there's a connection. At about this time, the show gets a call from someone who escaped from the traveling charismatic preacher who claims to save people from vampirism and lycanthropy. She manages to learn a little about the enigmatic preacher, but she can't save the vampire, who kills herself. However, her honest effort to save her earns her the gratitude and respect of Arturo, the head of the vampire family, and gets him off her back once and for all. Then Kitty comes to believe that one of her regular callers, a troubled werewolf, is the killer. She arranges with the werewolf hunter to track them down. They have a discussion about what justice should be for the supernatural, and Kitty reluctantly decides that he's right that the police can't handle it (a jail wouldn't hold a werewolf or a vampire). When she meets the rogue, she figures out that Meg made him to be her pawn, apparently planning to have him replace Carl, but he turned out to be crazy so she abandoned him. She goes to Carl and Meg's house to have it out, and ends up fighting with both of them. TJ arrives and saves her again. She gets Meg in her power but can't bring herself to kill, but Carl kills TJ. Kitty concludes that she doesn't want to be alpha, she just wants to leave the pack, and manages to get Carl to let her go. Since TJ is dead, she no longer has to protect him, and lets the cops know the name of Zan's killer. At the end of the book, she's traveling around, doing her show from various remotes.