Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

(2005-11-25)

 

Published by WarnerAspect
ISBN: 0-446-61641-9
259 Pages 

Werewolves are one of the classic monsters in horror/supernatural fantasy, yet there is no definitive version of the creature in literature. Aside from Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf, Robert R. McCammon’s Wolf’s Hour, and Jack Williamson’s Darker than You Think, there hasn’t been nearly as much literature, devoted to the lycanthrope as say, vampires, witches, or Frankenstein’s monster, yet the werewolf has endured for many years on the periphery, almost as a supporting character. Carrie Vaughn is, perhaps, looking to change that as she enters the fray of Supernatural Fantasy with her debut novel, Kitty and the Midnight Hour. The titular Kitty is the radio host of an overnight talk show focusing on, you guessed it, supernatural creatures like vampires and werewolves. At times the conversations with her listeners tend to lose a bit of focus, but for the most part they do offer an interesting device for Vaughn to reveal the "rules" of the supernatural in her world.

This branch of the speculative fiction market is growing considerably, with writers like Laurell K. Hamilton and Jim Butcher at the forefront. Vaughn places the reader in realistic setting, with a heroine who has a familiar job - radio host. Who doesn’t listen to the radio at some point over the course of their day? Hamilton’s best known works focus on vampires, Butcher’s work on a wizard for hire, but by building her world and story around werewolves, Vaughn is giving readers something relatively new in an otherwise familiar market.

The important thing, especially considering this is Vaughn’s debut novel is whether or not she can deliver a good, entertaining story. I wasn’t sure what to expect on this one, though I did have some preconceived notions, with the silhouetted female figure and pink font. That coupled with the blurb from Gene Wolfe intrigued me. What I got was a thoughtful, engaging, entertaining story that surprised me, and to be quite honest, I enjoyed this more than I expected I would. Vaughn’s premise of werewolf packs makes complete sense and I thought her portrayal of Kitty’s evolution in the pack were perhaps some of the strongest portions of the book. The pack is led by the strong-headed alpha male Carl and the alpha female Meg. Vaughn’s depiction of the pack life and politics of the pack are fertile ground for future volumes.

Werewolves were not the only supernatural creatures Kitty had to contend with. Much like a rival mafia family, werewolves in Vaughn’s world are constantly watching their backs for vampires. Though the fanged undead aren’t the focus of Vaughn’s narrative, she built well enough on the accepted knowledge or lore of vampires to fit them seamlessly into the overall story she told.

I also liked how Vaughn started to bring in elements of "science" to explain the existence of vampires and werewolves. This isn’t new territory, exactly, but Vaughn weaves this element into her story naturally enough. I only had a couple of problems with the overall story, one was in how easily the supernatural was revealed as real to the public. The fact that Kitty is a werewolf and that vampires exist in Vaughn’s book seemed to be taken very matter-of-factly by the supporting human characters and the public. However, Vaughn may be exploring this exact contradiction in her follow-up. At times, I found Kitty to be a bit on the whiny and weak side. Granted as the lowest ranking member of the pack she had to do some cow-towing, but at times, it was a bit frustrating.

Having said all of that, I enjoyed the book, Vaughn did a great job in keeping me hooked into the story. I suspect this book will appeal to readers of Butcher, Hamilton, Charlaine Harris and Kim Harrison. This is a strong debut novel while providing closure, also provided fertile ground for future stories about Kitty and here werewolf friends.

© 2005 Rob H. Bedford

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