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Archive for December, 2007

Kitty and the Silver Bullet – werewolves done right

Kitty and the Silver Bullet is the newly released fourth werewolf mystery by Carrie Vaughn. Have you read the first 3 books of the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn? If you somehow missed them, go pick them up, and then read the newest release! These books have a wonderful mix of humor (a werewolf named Kitty?), romance, suspense, paranormal creatures, and the realities of the mundane world. If you aren’t one of those people who must read all books in exact order (ahem), each Kitty Norville book is a great stand-alone novel and will fill you in on the prior happenings without boring readers who have been following the series.

The basic concept of the series is that Kitty Norville is the first publicly “outed” werewolf. She creates a supernatural call-in show in her first book Kitty and the Midnight Hour, and in doing so has to leave her Pack in Denver. Kitty moves from city to city with her weekly radio show, and is summoned to Washington DC to testify in front of Congress about werewolves and vampires in book two – Kitty Goes to Washington. In book three Kitty takes a vacation from her radio show to write a book and hang out with nature (a la Walden). Things don’t go exactly according to plan, and she ends up with a supernatural mystery, a romance, her own small Pack, and proof of the adage that “you need a vacation after your vacation” in Kitty Takes a Holiday.

In Kitty and the Silver Bullet (Kitty Norville, Book 4), Kitty’s mother is ill, and she needs to return to her home, Denver. When Kitty left Denver, it was not entirely her idea – if she wanted to leave the Pack, she to leave the area, just like someone leaving an abusive spouse. In fact, Kitty gets involved in Pack politics again when a new werewolf comes to her for help escaping the clutches of Carl and Meg (the dysfunctional and abusive Denver Pack alphas), and things don’t end well. Kitty is determined to right the wrongs that she feels she should have prevented, and gets sucked into the world of paranormal politics.

We have gotten peeks into werewolf and vampire politics in earlier books, and it isn’t all that different from human politics – other than the amount of death involved. Opponents aren’t just beaten, they are permanently removed. In Kitty and the Silver Bullet, we delve deep into the politics and intrigue that is under the polite veneer of the paranormal world. Kitty finds herself challenging her former Pack leaders in an attempt to stabilize the paranormal community in Denver. At first, though, the world becomes completely unstable, and Kitty has to protect her small new Pack, as well as her biological family.

Carrie Vaughn has created a world in which the paranormal community is beginning to interact openly with the mundane world. Vampires and weres are known to exist, and while some people are superstitious or antagonistic, a lot of people are accepting. Each of the characters – even characters you only see a few times – come to life in such a way that you wonder for a moment if Carrie has become a ghostwriter for a real werewolf…

I really like the way Carrie mixes the paranormal with the mundane. Kitty may be a werewolf, but she still has jealous feelings of her sister’s life – married with 2 kids. Her mother is still nosy, and asks polite questions about her daughter’s full moon nights as if Kitty had joined some type of club. Kitty has the reality of needing the income from her radio show, and maintaining a good face for the public. There are problems as Kitty has to balance the paranormal and the mundane, which makes the characters and story Carrie has written come to life even more.

I’ve read many other werewolf books, and each one accepts and rejects different parts of the mythology surrounding weres. This series continues the sense of reality by not idealizing the paranormals. Carrie’s lycanthropes can’t tolerate silver, are very sexual creatures, are very loyal to their Pack, only have vague memories of what the wolf does, and can change at times other than the full moon (but they must change on that night). In the previous books in the Kitty series, she had explored more of her sexual side, but in Kitty and the Silver Bullet, she has found a mate. We wonder, along with Kitty, if this mating is on the human side as well, or if it is just for the good of the Pack… Carrie had foreshadowed this pairing starting from the first book, but the build-up was so slow that I didn’t expect the relationship, even though it felt right.

Kitty’s world, as created by Carrie, is fascinating. Each mystery has twists and turns that even a chronic mystery-reader can’t predict. The stories are engrossing, and it is easy to become so involved in the novel that you forget to eat! Carrie’s weres and vampires aren’t perfect beings- this isn’t an idealized view of the paranormal world. This world is made all the more real because there are pluses and negatives to everything – you can’t get sick as a werewolf, but you can’t maintain a pregnancy, either. The novels are filled with tough choices, and moral ambiguities, all of which contributes to how real it feels. Each character plays an integral part, and they all help develop both the plot and each other’s personalities. It is amazing how surprised you can be by a character, only to look back in the story and see where the path started towards that event. Carrie’s sense of foreshadowing and hidden clues to the mystery is incredible.

I highly recommend Kitty and the Silver Bullet, as well as the rest of the Kitty series to anyone with an interest in mysteries, suspense, werewolves, or just a good, engrossing read. If you haven’t read a werewolf or paranormal book yet, this series is a good place to start, because of the verisimilitude. Give it a try – you’ll end up reading the rest of the series, and then looking for more good paranormal reads!

If you’re still wavering on whether to read Kitty and the Silver Bullet, check out the great storyline and Carrie’s gripping writing in chapter 1 of Kitty and the Silver Bullet, posted as an entry in Carrie’s blog! Excerpts are tricky, though – I just read the excerpt in the back of Kitty and the Silver Bullet, and now I don’t want to wait until Fall 2008 for the next book!

This book was received from the publisher for review, but I bought the first three books myself.