Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In Which Trai Reviews 'Kitty's House of Horrors'

Big warning: this is the seventh book in a series, and my review will spoil (some major) things from the earlier six. If you have any plans to read the series, start with Kitty and the Midnight Hour and do not read this review any further.

The Book: Kitty's House of Horrors (seventh in the Kitty Norville series)

The Author: Carrie Vaughn

How I Found It: I've been a dedicated, adoring fan of the series since the very first book debuted in November 2005.

The Review: My rule: when a new Kitty book comes out, I inhale it. There have been times when I've gotten distracted and have had to set aside the book for a month or two, but inevitably, when I come back to it, I inhale it. Kitty books have traveled with me through freshman Italian class, a road trip to Virginia and Rhode Island, a trip to London, college orientation, and now winter break of my freshman year at college. They've been there for me since my freshman year of high school, and for that reason I love them dearly.

To say a bit about the series: Kitty Norville is a young, twentysomething (I did the math once-- I think by now she's about twenty-six to twenty-nine?) werewolf radio DJ who inadvertently starts the first call-in advice show for supernatural creatures. This show brings her in contact with two of the major characters in the series: Cormac Bennet, a bounty hunter, and Ben O'Farrell, Cormac's lawyer and an eventual werewolf who becomes romantically involved with Kitty, and later becomes her husband.

From the beginning of the series to now, Kitty has evolved from a submissive wolf to a dominant alpha female with her own pack and a husband who serves alongside her as alpha male. The vampires of the series have slowly came into focus as figures who exist to perform powerplays, locked in something called "The Long Game" that appears to be about consolidating political power. All Kitty knows is to stay the hell away.

At the beginning of the novel, Kitty is drawn into a contract with a reality TV show based around keeping supernaturals in a house for two weeks, with the promise that it will bring good publicity to her show. Kitty reluctantly agrees, suspicious, but comforted once she learns that some of her friends from previous adventures will be there.

Vaughn does indeed bring out the cavalry for this one: readers of the series will recognize Jeffrey Miles (Washington), Ariel (Takes a Holiday), Tina, and Odysseus (both from Raises Hell, with Odysseus also from the previous book, Dead Man's Hand), among some new characters. This, along with Vaughn finally expounding on the homo sapiens pinipedia mention at the end of Midnight Hour, made me adore the sheer amount of world-building Vaughn has done over the years.

Once Kitty has settled into the house and gotten familiar with her housemates, she and the others begin to sense that not all is right. Their suspicions are confirmed as an unexplained death occurs, followed by another, more clearly deliberate one. As those still alive are left without power and without any means of contact to the outside world, Kitty and the rest are left to wonder who is causing these deaths-- and what they can do to stop it.

Out of all the seven Kitty books, I have to say that this is the scariest and most emotional one of them all. At first, the deaths were sad, but I could mostly see that Vaughn was killing off red-shirts who had only been introduced to the book for this reason. Vaughn, surprisingly, simply didn't stick to the pattern of killing off only those the readers wouldn't miss. Familiar characters are just as likely to die as the new ones, and even when the new ones died, I was still hit emotionally. I found myself tearing up three times-- I cared about these characters. I've said it before, I'll say it again-- if Kitty were real, she'd be my best friend; I can relate to her easily, and it's partly because of this that I felt so strongly for the characters. Kitty cared and so did I.

As the series has evolved, the books have gotten better and better-- my previous favorite was Silver Bullet, but I think this one has topped them all. I loved the further exploration of Odysseus Grant's character, and I especially liked the new addition, the vampire Anastasia. Carrie Vaughn is doing a good job at building up alliances for Kitty, and part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much was seeing just how Kitty managed away from her normal support system, when she has no clear idea of who she can trust.

I highly recommend this book and the entire series to anyone who wants a strong heroine who can manage well on her own, and whose narrative voice is easy to relate to. The books in the series are: Kitty and the Midnight Hour, Kitty Goes to Washington, Kitty Takes a Holiday, Kitty and the Silver Bullet, Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand, and Kitty Raises Hell.

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