Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: Kitty Takes a Holiday by Carrie Vaughn. Book 3 of the Kitty Norville Series

After the dramas of Kitty Goes to Washington, including her own kidnapping, Kitty needs a break. In fact she needs a holiday.

So her show is on hold, much of her life in fact, while she takes stock, finds some peace and writes a book of her memoirs (now in much demand after the dramas she’s lived through).
Of course, few things are ever that simple. Especially with curse wielding locals who are not happy to see a werewolf move into the area, unhelpful police and a campaign of intimidation from her magically capable neighbours.

Cormac and Ben show back up to see her – but it’s not a social call. One of Cormac’s jobs has gone badly wrong – Ben has been bitten by a werewolf and Kitty has to introduce him to his new life as well as herself deal with being part of a pack again. And if that wasn’t enough, the threat that Cormac hunted has followed him back to kitty – and they’re faced with the dual problems of supernatural menace and legal consequences hanging over them

And she has to analyse her own motives – is she taking a holiday? Or has she quit entirely? And not just her job, but her humanity – running off to the wilderness and succumbing more to her wolf.

This was an interesting book with a lot happening.  In the past with this series I’ve felt likethere was too much happening in a book, too many storylines squeezed into onebook and none of them given sufficient attention. I didn’t exactly get that feeling here, I think every story got decently developed, but I did feel like we had several stories running that were only tangentially related. They were all connected, but it felt like 4 very short books running one after another. Kitty and her Career Woes. Kitty and her Neighbours, Kitty and Ben the New Werewolf, Kitty and the Skin Walker, Kitty and the Legal Fight to Save Cormac. We seemed to go from one story to the next and each story was such a break from the last that it felt like a short series. It’s not a style I particularly like, in the same way I’m not a lover of short stories. It makes me feel like the author didn’t quite know which story she wanted to tell.

I did love the development of ben into becoming a werewolf. It shows a lot more the difficulties of the transition, the trouble Ben faces and adapting to a whole new set of instincts that have suddenly been dumped into your brain. I like Kitty’s growing pack dynamics and her assumption of an alpha role and even their deepening and developing relationship together (I like this relationship much more than I did the potential relationship between Kitty and Cormac). All in all, it’s a great storyline and I hope to see more of it and more development. It actually serves as a better world building than any amount of lectures or personal naval gazing.

With the magic, the cursing et all I felt vaguely unsatisfied. There’s a lot you could do with the differing magic traditions, a lot that could have been shown. They had a Hispanic Curandero, Native American charms and a New Age caster and none of them were really examined. It was just magic which didn’t sit well with me, especially given kitty’s notorious curiosity – though perhaps her lack of curiosity is an indication of her burn out.

Her burn out was another storyline I liked. When you look back at what she went through in Kitty goes to Washington, it’s understandable that she’d feel fragile and want to get away from things for a while. From her resentment of her rival through to her writer’s block and her constant debate on whether or not to actually resume her career, I thought it was a very realistic, very human portrayal. I think it will annoy me if it goes on for too long though –not that it isn’t realistic, but it’s not very fun to read either.

I was actually interested to see the legal come back played out. Too often in urban fantasy we see people merrily shooting monsters, dumping bodies and generally leaving a trail of corpses 10 miles long behind them. I think this is one of the few times when we have actual legal consequences, full blown, can’t just make it go away legal consequences, it’s a nice new angle. Some things magic can’t solve. I also want to know where this is going.

I can’t say I’m especially happy with the Native American inclusion. We had some native characters, but it was mainly there just to justify the presence of the skinwalker (which served to make Native American magic threatening and dangerous). The people themselves had little depth or analysis, they were there to justify the woo-woo. I suppose it’s better than having just the woo-woo without bothering to include the people and it was nice  that they used Louisa to show a positive and protective aspect to their magic, but it still felt like their only purpose.

It also seems that skinwalkers/naagloshii are becoming the new wendigo. I wonder what drives these fashions in Urban Fantasy?

Other than the Native Americans being present to justify the Skinwalker, there were a couple of other examples of racial diversity in this book. There was a Hispanic prosecutor as a bit character and a Hispanic Curandero  who turned up to try and fight the curse who was a little more developed otherwise it’s all straight, cis and able bodied all the way. I think/hope the Curandero may become a more regular inclusion in the future, but likely a magical helper.

On the whole, I liked this book. There were elements of it that I didn’t enjoy over much, especially stylistically. But otherwise the book was a good story, we had some great character development and some more insight into a steadily growing and expanding world. It’s left me more interested, more intrigued and the characters feeling much more human and real. A good instalment in the series and worth a read.