Kitty’s Big Trouble by Carrie Vaughn
The Kitty Norville books have been a favorite of mine since the series first debuted. I like the way the supernatural world and the real world learn to deal with each other, because it seems like one of the more realistic portrayals out there. And with the newest installment, Vaughn brings the story close to home for me–specifically, to San Francisco, for a dip into Chinatown’s mythical underworld.
(Description nicked from the back of the book.)
“Kitty Norville is back and in more trouble than ever. Her recent run-in with werewolves traumatized by the horrors of war has made her start wondering how long the United States government may have been covertly using werewolves in combat. Have any famous names in our own history been actually supernatural? She’s got suspicions about William Tecumseh Sherman. Then… an interview with the right vampire puts her on the trial of Wyatt Earp, vampire hunter.
But her investigations lead her to a clue about the enigmatic vampire Roman and the mysterious Long Game played by vampires through the millennia. That clue, plus a call for help from a powerful vampire ally in San Francisco, suddenly puts Kitty and her friends on the supernatural chessboard, turning them into pieces in a dangerously active play. But Kitty Norville is never content to be a pawn…”
This novel is a bit of a departure for Vaughn. Past novels in this series have had a lot to do with pack dynamics, the challenges facing Kitty and Ben as alphas of a newer pack, and the society forming as the “creatures of the night” come out of the woodwork. This book focuses more on the vampires and their “Long Game” than anything else. There’s more concerning the Long Game than in most of the other stories, and the politics of these ancient beings add a deeper layer to the supernatural world.
However, in setting up this aspect, the novel gets off to a rocky start. Kitty begins by investigating the possibility that General Sherman was a werewolf, but that premise gets abandoned in favor of the broader tale taking place in San Francisco’s Chinatown. At the very end of the book, the question about Sherman is resolved, but it feels like the main tale is bookended by this very different plot impetus. I almost wish that the author had stuck with the direction that the novel seemed to be going, because in this universe, the question of famous people as supernatural beings could lead to some gripping fiction.
Regardless, I enjoyed the Chinatown tale. Although Vaughn says that the novel wasn’t inspired by a certain movie that I’m sure we all know and love, the similarities are unmistakable, up to and including the novel’s title. The real life Chinatown certainly has enough myth and mystery to warrant a book, and the persistent stories of tunnels and hidden organizations is enough to fuel any story. The location is also perfect for introducing characters who are, in essence, gods. Like the vampires’ Long Game, it adds depth to Kitty’s world.
The book ends with some hints of things to come, with the enigmatic Roman confronting Kitty and the pack heading for London—a supernatural hotbed if ever there was one. I’m looking forward to seeing where Vaughn takes her feisty little werewolf next. Kitty’s Big Trouble delivers enough mayhem, magic and Chinese myth to satisfy any reader.