This is my third time reading this book. I first read it back in high school in 2006, when I was in the 11th grade. That was just a year after it was published. I’ve been following the series ever since, and these characters have become some of my favorites. That said, I obviously love the series, but I’m not blind to its flaws.
Since the series is almost finished (the final book releases this summer) I decided to read the entire thing from the start. It’s been a few years since I last read the first book, so it felt fairly fresh to me. There were a lot of things that I had forgotten. Kitty grows so much as a character, but right away I could remember the reasons why I liked her so much. In Kitty and the Midnight Hour, she was a submissive wolf on the bottom of the pecking order. She was timid and abused all the time, but when she accidentally starts a nighttime radio show talking about the supernatural, she discovers success, and with that success comes new confidence. Little Kitty doesn’t want to get pushed around anymore, and this disrupts the status quo.
Witty characters in PNR is hardly groundbreaking–in fact it’s a trope–but with Kitty it’s a little different. In many similar stories, a character might crack a joke, but it’s with too much gravity and disconnect from reality. It’s usually, I’m a “three dimensional character” wisecracking about the supernatural, but hey take me serious at all times because I’m in a dark and gritty world, and my story is art, understand!?Kitty, on the other hand, is a character who recognizes her own flaws, and is not afraid to comment on the absurdity of some of the typical situations you encounter in PNR. It’s self-aware humor, and this book pulls this off because the author herself is a great big nerd (and that’s a compliment!) All you have to do is go to Carrie Vaughn’s blog to see that she is the kind of person who loves all aspects of sci-fi and fantasy, not just the mainstream bits. She’s the kind of nerd who prefers Johnny Mnemonic to Elysium. The kind who recognizes how much Guardians of the Galaxy owes to the original Star Wars trilogy for its success. In short: she’s old school. And old school nerds know one thing: campy humor and fantasy easily go hand-in-hand.
Which is why Vaughn writes such great material. Kitty’s discussions on her radio show sound like the kinds of things fantasy nerds shoot the shit about over drinks on D&D night: “What does life imprisonment mean to a vampire? How can a human maintain a relationship with a werewolf?” These portions of the book are really fun and bring a lot to the story. Kitty utilizes her radio show as a source information at times, hoping to find answers to personal problems. Other times, the show is what introduces plot threads that Kitty finds herself wrestling with throughout the series. It’s really great, because it creates a sense of spontaneity that makes me think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In that example, Joss Whedon often had multiple plots and subplots running concurrently in his show. For the Kitty Norville series, this keeps things fresh and interesting, allowing Vaughn to focus on interesting material and constant action instead of having to make us suffer through awkward filler.
But readers might find themselves frustrated by the basic concept of the book to begin with. Maybe the random radio talk show discussions might annoy you? After all, it’s essentially nerd-talk, and not everybody’s into that. Or perhaps Kitty’s initial submissive nature and gullible decisions might frustrate you? Like any well-rounded character, Kitty has less than admirable traits–including running her mouth and being overly idealistic. The introduction of so many sub-plots so early on might frustrate readers as well. It’s always been my belief that this show would function great as a television show, partly because it already feels like one. So many things are happening, and so many characters are getting tossed into the mix, that fans of the series have come to name and recognize certain story arcs (like my least favorite: The Church of the Pure Faith, which starts in this book.) Another thing that might discourage people is this book’s ending. It’s a bit sudden, and it can be frustrating. To this day, I’m surprised Vaughn decided to begin her series on the note that she did. It was definitely a risk for a first book.
If you think you can forgive some of those things, or if you think they won’t bother you at all, then definitely give Kitty and the Midnight Hour a read. These days, you can get the second book used pretty cheaply, and believe me, you’ll want to immediately after finishing this one!
And while you’re at it, why not give my own fantasy romance novel a try? It’s available on Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes!