Hallowread, part 2! Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty and the Midnight Hour
Okay, so again, the book is more Urban Fantasy than Horror, but I’ll get to something properly grindhousey with my next review. Promise.
In any case, I’d never read Carrie Vaughn before, but a friend of mine mentioned liking her work, which got me curious. What got me even more curious was the fact that Carrie Vaughn has published GI JOE fanfiction on Amazon. Which is a thing you can do, apparently! If I get ambitious, I may even try my own hand at it someday. I’ll call it “Shipwreck and Snake Eyes Team Up And Punch Some Ninjas.” It’s a working title.
But I digress!
Kitty and the Midnight Hour is Carrie Vaughn’s first novel, and the first of her “Kitty Norville” series. Kitty is a werewolf with her own late-night radio show, the titular Midnight Hour. She winds up working as a sort of a supernatural Frasier, giving on-air advice to the various vampires and werewolves that call into her show. As one could expect, this doesn’t make her very popular with a lot of movers and shakers in the supernatural community, and thus Kitty gets into all kinds of trouble. Oh, and there’s a rogue werewolf serial killer running around, as well as a sexy rugged werewolf hunter dude who she kind of wants to make out with. Standard stuff.
Still, Kitty and the Midnight Hour does a lot to distinguish itself from the ‘standard’ Urban Fantasy novel. For example, most Urban Fantasy novels feature some kind of cop, or private detective, or just a general monster-hunter as the main character. In comparison, Kitty’s radio talk show is downright normal. Kitty’s main ‘gimmick’ comes from empathy and communication, rather than how well she can punch out the bad guys or solve magic-crimes.
On top of that, Kitty’s lycanthropy is portrayed much differently than the supernatural powers of the standard Urban Fantasy protagonist. It was really interesting to read this book right after Operation Chaos. Steven Matuchek is a heck of a power fantasy, a stuntman/commando/engineer with werewolf superpowers. In comparison, while Kitty is stronger and tougher than a normal human, she’s explicitly at the bottom of her werewolf pack’s pecking order. Kitty’s relationship with ther pack and her pack leader Carl is explicitly portrayed as an abusive relationship. And on top of that, Kitty’s lycanthropy was given to her unwillingly– it’s basically like picking up an STD after being raped. Oh, and it’s worth noting that Kitty also was also raped in her backstory. It’s not played up or focused on in an exploitative manner, thankfully.
So yeah. Heavy stuff. It’s pretty interesting to see the Urban Fantasy genre used for something a little deeper than the standard power fantasy or vampire sexytimes. The book doesn’t get completely bogged down in the various feminist themes, but it’s still a very different take than the ‘standard’ Urban Fantasy novel. I guess it’s just not something I was expecting from what looked like a fluffy (ha, werewolf pun) Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance novel.
Kitty and the Midnight Hour even ends on a down note– the bad guys don’t win, but neither does Kitty. There’s death and crying and exile and such. The thing that gets me is how the book just sort of … ends. It leaves several plot threads dangling, and kind of clumsily so. I understand Vaughn is setting things up for the sequel (she’s on like Kitty book #10 now, not counting short story anthologies) but it still makes the book feel incomplete.
All and all, Kitty and the Midnight Hour is a fairly unique Urban Fantasy novel. Instead of writing a noir/crime book with some wizards and ghosts tacked on, Vaughn goes in a different direction entirely. The book’s incomplete plot comes off as a ‘first novel’ kind of mistake– maybe the later books come together a little more cohesively. Might track one down for next Hallowread.
Or maybe I’ll just read some of her GI JOE fanfic instead.