I’ve been following Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series since book one. I enjoyed the way the author presented her characters and painted a world coming to grips with the supernatural. Up until now, though, I’ve never had a chance to read any of the short stories that are set in this storyline. In Kitty’s Greatest Hits, readers can find all of these tales in one volume.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Kitty Norville, star of a New York Times bestselling series, is everybody’s favorite werewolf DJ and out-of-the-closet supernatural creature. Over the course of eight books she’s fought evil vampires, were-creatures, and some serious black magic. She’s done it all with a sharp wit and the help of a memorable cast of werewolf hunters, psychics, and if-not-good-then-neutral vampires by her side. Kitty’s Greatest Hits not only gives readers some of Kitty’s further adventures, it offers longtime fans a window into the origins of some of their favorite characters.
In ‘Conquistador de la Noche,’ we learn the origin story of Denver’s Master vampire, Rick; with ‘Wild Ride,’ we find out how Kitty’s friend T.J. became a werewolf; and in ‘Life is the Teacher,’ we revisit Emma, the human-turned-unwilling-vampire who serves the aloof vampire Master of Washington, D.C.
This entertaining collection includes two brand-new works: ‘You’re On the Air,’ about one of Kitty’s callers after he hangs up the phone; and the eagerly awaited ‘Long Time Waiting,’ the novella that finally reveals just what happened to Cormac in prison, something every Kitty fan wants to know.”
A critique story by story:
“Il Est Ne”: Kitty is alone on Christmas and encounters a lone werewolf and a man on a murderous rampage. Vaughn does a great job with the atmosphere—she evokes the loneliness of being without family on Christmas and throws in little details like the carols and the movies that come with the holiday. Kitty also gets a chance to help a fellow werewolf and experience something completely the opposite of her former pack.
“A Princess of Spain”: This one might have an unfair advantage with me, because I love Tudor history. Featuring Catherine of Aragon, it delves into a possible reason why her first husband, Arthur, died so young and left Henry VIII on the throne. As you might imagine, I loved this one. It isn’t overly long and doesn’t overplay the supernatural aspect.
“Conquistador de la Noche”: At last, we get Rick’s origin story! Not quite what I expected, but still interesting. Unlike many vampire tales, this one didn’t have Rick turned in a big city, but instead takes the unusual step of having it take place well away from most people.
“The Book of Daniel”: This was one of my least favorites in the anthology. It’s certainly well written, but unfortunately, it seems to be part of a growing trend of making famous figures into supernatural beings. Vaughn did this in her last novel with General Sherman. I prefer to think that normal humans can be just as extraordinary as anything paranormal.
“The Temptation of Robin Green”: Another one that didn’t resonate with me. It just seemed kind of… random, for lack of a better word. Its only connection to the Kitty books was the fact that it had Rick in it, as a captive in a lab. Otherwise, this retelling of the selkie myth broke no new ground and therefore felt a bit stale.
“Looking After Family”: How Cormac and Ben got to be so close. I have mixed feelings about this one: on the one hand, it’s nice to see these two together as teenagers; on the other hand, I’m not sure that the event as written would necessarily bond them as tightly as they are. It was certainly traumatic, but I guess I thought there would be more to it. Cormac is just as reserved as a teenager as he is as an adult, and I think that didn’t help.
“God’s Creatures”: Now this one I really liked. Cormac tracks a cattle-killing werewolf to a Catholic school and convent and has to figure out who the guilty party is. The ending is poignant and understated, and it also gives the enigmatic Cormac a bit more warmth to his character.
“Wild Ride”: The origin story of TJ, a werewolf friend of Kitty. This one starts out well, with TJ getting a diagnosis of HIV positive and trying to figure out how to deal with it, but it loses momentum in the middle. With the drama of the rest of the series, this one was a little anticlimactic.
“Winnowing the Herd”: Vaughn says in her afterward that this was her attempt at a literary short story. It was kind of weird, because it portrays Kitty as contemptuous of her co-workers, and that’s something that has never been evident at all in the novels. Not one of my favorites.
“Kitty and the Mosh Pit of the Damned”: A fun little story of rock and roll and deals with the devil. Nothing too heavy here, but this one works because it’s just a simple “slice of life” for Kitty. Although simple is a matter of perspective!
“Kitty’s Zombie New Year”: This is a creepy one. It’s not your typical zombie story, but hearkens back to the roots of the zombie myth—voodoo. Like “God’s Creatures”, this one has poignancy to it, watching someone struggling with circumstances far beyond their control. Another of the better tales.
“Life is the Teacher”: This one focuses on Emma, one of the secondary vampire characters. She’s newly turned and learning to hunt effectively, and she’s also trying to turn her back on her old life. The story highlights some of the downsides of turning, specifically the need to say goodbye to friends and family.
“You’re on the Air”: This is the first of two new stories, and this one takes a caller to Kitty’s radio show from the very first book and tells what happens after he hangs up. Jake the vampire is someone that you can’t help but root for and the ending of the story is satisfying. It’s nice to get a look behind some of the smaller events in the series.
“Long Time Waiting”: Finally, the crown jewel of the book! Readers will finally get the story of what happened to Cormac in prison. This is long enough to qualify as a novella, and the horrors that Cormac deals with are truly scary. Readers will also get the backstory on Amelia, the ghost witch now sharing headspace with Cormac. This is one that fans of the Kitty novels won’t want to miss!
Overall, I really liked this anthology. It gave the author the opportunity to delve into some areas of Kitty’s world that we don’t get to see in the novels. There’s plenty of background that has only been hinted at, and readers get to have their curiosity satisfied on some of those niggling questions. If you read the Kitty Norville series, this volume is a must-have.