Sunday, April 4, 2010

kitty the werewolf (yes, that's her name) ends up in a house of horrors, urban fantasy from author carrie vaughn

Yep, Kitty Norville the werewolf returns. I know, I know, a werewolf called Kitty is more than slightly ironic. Still, for all the millions of 'urban fantasy' titles out there, Carrie Vaughn's radio DJ Kitty is one of the more interesting ones.

In Vaughn's alternate reality, the werewolves, vampires, psychics and witches stick pretty much to type. The werewolves are made by being bitten, as are the vamps, the psychics are humans with extra senses and the witches and sorcerers study for years to gain their powers.
In Kitty's House of Horrors, Vaughn cleverly riffs on the whole reality TV phenomenon, sending Kitty the werewolf into a “group house” with a couple of vampires, two psychics and some other were-animals. Oh, and there's a sceptic as well for good measure.
While they all try to suss each other out, and try to convince the sceptic that they really are vampires, werewolves etc, the production team – headed up by a caricature of the typical slimy entertainment type – film them all. The producers are hoping, of course, that they can get a transformation on tape or a vampire sucking blood, or something else equally sensational.
Everything seems fine... but then people start to go missing.
From there on, Kitty's House of Horrors is relatively formulaic. A few characters die, a few more show their true colours and everyone gets their comeuppance in the end.
Vaughn's books aren't the worst versions of generic urban fantasy being published – I'd nominate the Twilight series for the top of that list – but it's not mind-blowingly good either. It's scope is relatively small.
While Kitty's “ordinariness” is meant to make readers identify with her and her problems, it also, unfortunately, takes away much of the glamour that leads people to read urban fiction.
We don't want a perfectly adjusted werewolf, we want one that either revels or hates their situation; we don't want a werewolf that's happily married, we want one that has to hide their secret from their lover, or something like that.
Compared to the mistress of the genre, Laurell K Hamilton, these books are a little bland. Still, if you love the genre alone, then Vaughn's books are a good read. If you enjoy reading about the world through the eyes of someone like you, who's just a little different, then Kitty is your girl.

Kitty's House of Horrors by Carrie Vaughn is published by Gollancz and is available from all good book stores and online.


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