Thoughts: Kitty Raises Hell, by Carrie Vaughn

Almost halfway through the series!

As always, spoilers abound.

Kitty Raises Hell follows on pretty directly from Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand – she annoyed the Babylonian cultists and the Babylonian cultists are out to get their revenge by hitting Kitty where it hurts.

This is the first time she has to really step up as the pack alpha, and the pack really aren’t sure that she can handle it, so that was interesting to see play out. The dissent doesn’t really go that far, which felt a bit like a safe choice to me? The one open dissenter doesn’t follow Kitty’s instructions for magical protection against the force that’s stalking them, and is essentially killed for it, but by the evil force rather than in a messy wolf showdown, which does spare Kitty from Hard Choices.

Ben also got to show his alpha colours a bit, which was nice. Kitty is absolutely the one in charge here, as the older of the two in werewolf terms, and Ben can feel a bit like dead weight sometimes, so it was good to see him actually back her up. He also proved his worth as a lawyer later on, using connections and making difficult things possible. They’re a good team, for sure (but I still don’t like them as a couple).

As if to cement my dislike of them as a couple, they had a Fifty Shades moment when Kitty forgets to phone him and let him know she’s all right (after promising to do so) and to defuse his anger she pours on the sexy charm. Which is ugh, but to Vaughn’s credit, the issue wasn’t forgotten and they talked it out. Also it wasn’t like a giant deal-breaking relationship issue, just a case of Kitty not being used to living with someone and having someone care about the minutiae of her movements. Of course her mother phones regularly, but living away from home, Kitty gets away with a lot of unquestioned day to day activity, and it’s different when you live with someone. And Ben is still sort of half in bachelor mode as well. I do wonder if this is going to come out at some point, or if they’ll get used to each other. I wonder if Vaughn herself isn’t entirely convinced by the relationship or if this is a deliberate stage of it.

So what I really like about this series is the versatility of it. It doesn’t follow a strict plot formula every time but feels like chapters in a larger story. Kitty herself has changed a lot, as have her responsibilities. And Vaughn dips into all sorts of different subgenres and plays with different mythologies, creating the impression that the world is too big for one person to understand – though Kitty’s going to do her damnedest to find out as much as she can. From the sort of coming-of-age of Kitty and the Midnight Hour, through the politics of Kitty Goes to Washington, through the gothic overtones of Kitty Takes a Holiday, the satisfying reprise feel of Kitty and the Silver Bullet, the flashy showmanship of Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand, and now we get not only djinni (by the way, can we have a story of everyday djinn life one day? Please?) but a proper, full-on ghost hunting episode.

I love ridiculous ghost-hunting nonsense, and I especially love ghost-hunters who are trying to find the real actual truth. I love tricks and illusions. Think Red Lights and The Illusionist. So this book was basically written for me. It’s a slow burn (HO HO HO) plot-wise, but everything comes together in a really satisfying way. I knew Odysseus Grant and his Box Of Cthulhu would come back into play, but that didn’t make it any less good when it did.

The one thing that left me a bit cold this time was the British character. I say “British” but we all know that means “English” when an American says it, and so it is here. Far be it from me to tell you what you can and can’t write, but a good rule of thumb is just, if you’re American and have never talked to a real British person, don’t do it. Just don’t. We can tell. Jules, the ~British~ guy, uses the exact same sentence structure as the Americans do, and before you tell me “But Danni, what if he’s just spent so much time in the US that he’s started to mimic their speech patterns” don’t even bother, because we can tell. Trust me. If this was the intention (which I’m certain it wasn’t), it absolutely did not come off, and that means it still counts as a fail.

Do you know what else you shouldn’t do? Use slang and dialect terms you’re not familiar with. If you can’t tell that “You and every other bloke in the history of the world.” sounds unnatural, then you are not ready to use the word “bloke” in your writing. “Bloke” is not an interchangeable word for “person”.

Anyway, I’m not going to start on that lecture. If you desperately must write British accents you’re not used to, then:

1. Get a real live actual person from the region of your character to read through it – and make sure they’re good at this!
2. Don’t rely on those idiotic lists that circulate Facebook explaining breathlessly how “toilets” are “loos” and “telephones” are “dog and bones”. They’re often incomplete, inaccurate and mix up slang from all kinds of eras, social registers and regions.
3. Don’t refer to the accent as “distinctive and regional”. Dear god.

And that was Kitty Raises Hell!

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