Title: Kitty and the Midnight Hour
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Stand Alone or Series: Book 1 in the Kitty Norville series
Summary: (from 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.
Kitty Norville is a young, twentysomething cute blonde, who DJs late-night for a local radio station. She also happens to be a newly minted werewolf. Bored one night at work, tired of folks requesting lame tunes, Kitty poses a joking question on the air about a tabloid story concerning “Bat Boy”. One caller takes the question very seriously, and says that Bat Boy and other sensationalized tabloid stories are actually a cover up for the truth–that there really are things that go bump in the night. Vampires, Werewolves, you name it. Kitty–a werewolf herself–knows that such things do exist, and she opens the floor to callers, asking if anyone has a story to tell. The reaction is overwhelming. While a lot of callers are crackpots, or do not have much to say, one caller flatly says he is a vampire, and he knows Kitty believes him. And he has a question for her: as a new vamp, and a formerly devout Christian, he is dealing with some serious questions–according to church doctrine, he no longer has a soul. But this is not how he feels–he implores, “Just because my heart has stopped beating doesn’t mean I’ve lost my soul, does it?” Kitty, an english major and neither a priest nor a psychologist, offers the best advice she can to the vampire, and her answer seems to help him.
When Kitty’s shift ends, a whole new chapter in her life starts. The ratings for her midnight spot have jumped through the roof, fan letters and calls start to pour in–and Kitty now has a successful, late night talk show. Syndicated, even. For the first time in her life, Kitty is doing something that she thinks is worthwhile. She’s helping others, and she is completely in control.
Unfortunately for Kitty, her pack Alpha, Carl, and the local Vampire Family head, Arturo, don’t share the enthusiasm for the show, and want her to stop. Someone goes so far to hire a bounty hunter to shut Kitty up permanently (on the air, no less). And to top things off, someone or something is attacking locals and ripping them to shreds. As a public expert on the supernatural, the local police turn to Kitty to lend some perspective. Oh yes, and not to mention, her pack standing is in serious jeopardy.
As a member of the local pack, Kitty is still a “cub”–that is, while she may be twentysome years old in human years, as a wolf she is just about one year old, and relies heavily on the pack Alpha Carl and his beta (who also happens to be her best friend) T.J. for protection. As a cub, Kitty isn’t expected to hunt or fight, or to take a challenge in pack hierarchy. But this also means that Kitty must obey Carl’s every order, and is subject to his own brand of discipline…and when Kitty starts experiencing success on her own, through her radio show, all her relationships begin to change.
More than just your usual whodunit Urban Fantasy (although there is this element present, with the murder mystery), Kitty and the Midnight Hour is most importantly a coming of age story. While Kitty seemed content to roll through life as a perky young coed, meet the right guy, get the right job, move to the suburbs and have 2.5 kids and the golden retriever, the night she becomes a werewolf changes everything and she is reborn so to speak. At the beginning of the novel, Kitty and her Wolf are terrified of everyone and everything. Instead of fighting, Kitty cowers and runs to the protection of her Alpha, or her best friend T.J. Despite this dependent behavior, Kitty’s shows glimmers of rebelliousness, beginning with the innocuous, but then blossoming into a full fledged put-up-or-shut-up stand for what Kitty believes in. For example, early in the book, Kitty goes out to a nightclub without “permission” from Carl, much as a teenager would rebel against strict parents. As the book progresses, Kitty finds her own voice through her radio show, as giving advice to others forces Kitty to examine her own life as a werewolf. When confronted about dropping her show, Kitty digs in and for the first time since being reborn as a were, she chooses to fight her own battle.
Coming of age type stories are a dime a dozen–but I have to say, Kitty and the Midnight Hour is one of the best I have read in a long while. The twist, of Kitty actually being a mature adult but a cub by wolf standards is ingenious, and it works beautifully. The blend of Urban Fantasy here, with the werewolf pack dynamics and radio show as a metaphor for Kitty’s self-discovery is incredibly clever. I loved it.
Notable Quotes/Parts: Kitty is quite clever, I found myself laughing aloud at some of her little witticisms and almost morbid sense of humor. One subplot in this book concerns a modern day “prophet” who claims to have a cure for the supernaturally challenged. In one exchange with a vampire friend, Kitty mulls over why someone would want to lure vampires and weres with a false cure:
“Some people might be attracted by [a cure]. Enticing bait, if someone wanted to lure people like us.”
He shrugged. “To trap them, kill them. Enslave them. Such things have happened before.”
The possibilities he suggested were downright ominous. They incited a nebulous fear of purposes I couldn’t imagine. Witch hunts, pogroms. Reality TV.
Additional Thoughts: Kitty refers to her alter-ego as Wolf. While this book is told in the first person POV, narrated by Kitty, I loved Ms. Vaughn’s choice to write Kitty and her Wolf as different entities. As such, when Kitty transforms and lets her Wolf loose, the narrative style changes as well–in wolf form, Kitty refers to her actions in the third person.
She crouches breathing deep through bared teeth. Teeth and face growing longer, and the hair, and the eyes. The night becomes so clear, seen through the Wolf’s eyes.
Then she leaps, the Wolf is formed and running, four legs feel so natural, so splendid, pads barely touching the earth before they fly again…
I awoke human in the gray of dawn. The Wolf lingered, bleeding into my awareness, and I let her fill my mind because her instincts were better than mine…
Verdict: This book took me by surprise. I was hesitant to pick it up because the blurb didn’t really excite my attention as anything out of the ordinary, and I was somewhat hesitant to read about a wolf called Kitty. But I have to say, I really liked this book, and I immediately rushed out to buy book 2! This is a very, very good book. Highly recommended!
Rating: 8 Excellent
Reading Next: The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold