Hey, everybody. I gotta say, I’m glad to be done sporking City of Ashes. And since I recently finished slogging my way through an example of bad urban fantasy, I think it’s only fair to recommend some good urban fantasy. And we’ll start off with the first of Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville books, Kitty and the Midnight Hour.

Here’s the blurb, courtesy of Amazon.com.

Kitty Norville is a midnight-shift DJ for a Denver radio station and a werewolf in the closet. Her new late-night advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged is a raging success, but it’s Kitty who can use some help. With one sexy werewolf-hunter and a few homicidal undead on her tail, Kitty may have bitten off more than she can chew?

This book was first published in 2007, so by all rights this is probably one of the big UF series out there. But I feel that this book (heck, the whole series) does something most works in the sub-genre don’t do – bring the supernatural out of the fringes and into everyday life, and explore the repercussions of that.

I also love the fact that Kitty isn’t a detective or in law enforcement – she’s a radio DJ hosting a late-night talk show (if you’ve ever played Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines, you have some idea of the kinds of callers she usually gets). And because of her job, Kitty (and thus Vaughn) address a number of issues that aren’t usually addressed in UF settings.

Still, the book does have a few flaws. For one, I feel that there are just a few too many plot-lines for such a short book (my paperback clocks in at 259 pages, not including the sample chapter from the next book). There’s the Kitty being threatened by local supernaturals; her struggle with her werewolf pack; a somewhat awkward police investigation Kitty gets dragged into; and a mysterious traveling tent revival group who might be able to cure things like lycanthropy and vampirism that’s left dangling for future books.

It’s the last two that bother me the most. The last one is mostly because it gets dropped (again, because it’ll probably come up again in later books), but the police investigation bugs me for two reasons. First, in retrospect it feels a bit cliché – as if Vaughn looked at other UF books published at that time and concluded that she had to include some kind of detective stuff, otherwise it wouldn’t be UF, despite Kitty not being suited for this kind of thing. And second, because [minor spoiler] it intersects with the werewolf pack plot. As an aspiring author, I can’t help but think that jettisoning the tent revival plot streamlining the police procedural plot would have helped the book.

Don’t get me wrong – I’d rather a book have too much plot rather than trying to stretch out a paper-thin one over several hundred pages, and Vaughn does a pretty good job juggling them all. But it does feel like a lot’s going on, especially for the first book in a series.

And I’m definitely going to read more in the series. There are 14 books as of last August, with no apparent plans to write more, so that’s good for all you folks who like to wait until a series is done to start reading.

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  1. swenson on 28 May 2016, 08:49 said:

    I 100% AGREE WITH THIS RECOMMENDATION. The Kitty Norville books are not high literature, but they definitely are fun. Here’s the short story that later got expanded into the first novel.

    The Masquerade gets broken in the first book (and extra broken in the second), so the later books deal with the ramifications of that in a pretty interesting way, everything from healthcare to the legal status of werewolves. As urban fantasy is wont to do, it eventually turns out that there’s ancient conspiracies and whatnot lurking in the background, but they don’t really get going until the sixth book or so.

    I do have a warning for anybody who wants to read the full series (although the first book works fine on its own). Unfortunately the last couple were, in my opinion, sub-par. The last one manages to pull it back together, but the earlier ones are my favorites. I’d still recommend reading the full series, but just be aware of this.

  2. The Smith of Lie on 28 May 2016, 09:31 said:

    (if you’ve ever played Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines, you have some idea of the kinds of callers she usually gets).

    Oh yes. I loved Deb of the Night bits. The best one has to be a conspiracy theory guy who called repeatadly, the last of his ideas being basically the plot of the game itself.