When you read a lot, sometimes you can’t help but notice re-occurring themes. I don’t read much urban fantasy anymore, because it all began to sound the same after a certain point. I do have my Achilles’ Heel. I read Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels series, and while I enjoy it, I won’t pretend that we’re talking about something serious and world changing. We’re talking quality mind candy. However, yes, I’ve seen a lot of tramp-stamped tough women, or fae on the fringes, or supernatural women looking for Mr. Goodbar, and it’s a hard sell getting me to try another one out. I’m not jaded. It’s just that writers have to try harder now, because I’ve seen so much.
Kitty Norville is an early figure in urban fantasy. I had no desire to read about Kitty, but the piece of writing I had critiqued at the Vegas workshop in February had werewolves in it ( The Werehumans, Catherine’s adult then-novella/now-novel about growing up in Southern Iowa, kind of.), and several folks there held Carrie Vaughn’s books up as books that dealt realistically (well, as far as realism and werewolves connect) with werewolves.
And yes, they do.
One of the interesting aspects of Kitty and the Midnight Hour is that the characters are far from idealized. What makes these dysfunctional characters interesting is that the author has seriously sat down and thought about the aspects of pack society, good and bad, and how they would interact with human society. Some of this stuff is ugly. Like, would the alpha male in a wolf pack force the women in his pack to have sex with him? Yes, yes, he probably would. Would he be a bullying ass? Yes, he might. Would a new wolf in the pack begin to assert herself, and would that lead to physical challenges? Sure.
It’s the logical follow through of the natural that makes me appreciate the work Carrie Vaughn invested in her stories. I also appreciate that her scenarios work with werewolves and vampires, but not also every other supernatural critter under the sun. Again, probably I should be grateful to the early days of UF for this, before a lot of books out there read like someone’s White Wolf campaign.
Vaughn does not escape all the UF tropes. Hello, sexy mercenary. I hope to see you again in the rest of the series. Hello salty police officer who interfaces with the supernatural. However, there’s some real thought about the consequences of being supernatural and human in Vaughn’s world that seem to originate in what we understand about the folklore as it has existed over the years. No one is made over. Werewolves are not the new cool. Vampires are not the new black.
So, yeah, the rest of the Kitty Norville series is on my Christmas list. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s writing about supernatural critters, or is writing UF.