Thoughts: Kitty Goes To War, by Carrie Vaughn

I’ve got a little bit behind on my book thoughts lately, so prepare for a straight run of posts whenever I have time…

As always, I like to talk spoilerishly.

Book 8 in the Kitty Norville series shows no signs of slowing down, plotwise. This book keeps a few balls in the air at once, and, pleasingly, resolves and keeps going a few plot points from earlier books. It’s a book of interweaving subplots more than one overarching story with branching subplots, contributing to the feeling that something big is coming in future instalments.

If I have a problem with it, it continues to be that some of the wrap-up is a bit too pat, and in this book specifically, I guessed a couple of twists. Or not really twists, but reveals, at least. This is weird for me – I’m a terrible guesser. But anyway, more on that later.

Book 8 continues Kitty’s life as a settled werewolf in Denver, with her pack and her job and her marriage all featuring heavily. Ben actually feels more useful in this one, which helped a lot with my resignation to my ship being sunk, and there was a lot of werewolf pack dynamics and behaviour, which I find genuinely interesting. Vaughn does this well, not only having thought through a lot of animal behaviour, but also Kitty’s reconciling her human and animal behaviours, being aware of them and knowing when to switch and when to use one or the other to her advantage.

What happens in Kitty Goes To War is something that was always going to happen eventually – werewolves in the army. We are talking about the US, after all. The book features three PTSD-ridden Afghan War veterans with the worst pack dynamics since Carl and Meg ran the Denver pack, and Kitty, in her capacity as advisor to the government department for supernatural nonsense, is drafted in to help readjust them. Or… not. The very sketchy nature of how the werewolves are dealt with, half-prisoners, half-science experiments, with no actual psychologists or therapists anywhere to be seen, made me wonder if either this was just slightly shoddy writing for the sake of the drama, or if it was intended as a sign of the department’s murky ethics. That sort of doubt doesn’t bode hugely well, I’m aware, though I leaned towards the latter as the story went on. I sort of guessed the fates of the three werewolves very early on, or at least assessed their characters pretty accurately. They did seem more ciphers and case studies than individuals in some ways.

An interesting question this whole subplot raised was werewolf healing – does it work for mental “injuries” as well as for physical ones? It would explain some of how one of the werewolves seemed to be doing so well, at least. Obviously no amount of werewolf healing factor would be able to change some things – tendency to aggression, werewolf instincts gone wrong, existential crises, etc – but I wonder if they’d find it easier to recover from some mental traumas? Stuff like this is what keeps the books from getting stale. Vaughn has a good talent for touching on these interesting facets of the supernatural world, these little thought experiments.

The radio show finally caused some trouble for Kitty, again, in a way that was going to happen eventually. Her newfound fame brings with it a new responsibility: now, when she speculates upon the murky supernatural connections of a chain of grocery shops, it carries weight, and she finds herself on the sharp end of a lawsuit. The franchise owner, Franklin, is fishy right from the start, and his supernatural area of expertise is as well. Maybe it’s because I’ve been researching various Norse mythology a lot recently, but finding a silver charm in the shape of a double-headed axe associated with a man who likes storms had me yelling at the book IT’S A HAMMER, IT’S A HAMMER, IT’S THOR, IT’S NOT AN AXE, IT’S THOR! And I was right – at least in that Franklin was calling on the weather gods. And Franklin isn’t just a Monster Of The Week – he gives Roman the Long Game baddie the excuse to hang around Denver being ominous again, and also complicates the war vet werewolf storyline. It was all really satisfyingly done.

And that’s not all! Cormac, finally back in the game, has a revelation of his own (which I also guessed, go me). After his inquiries after a woman killed in the prison where he was incarcerated, I did wonder if there was a ghost situation, and I did even wonder if he would come out possessed. It helped that he kept making cryptic comments about “catching up”, and all “his” research on everything that’s happened in the last century. I’m very interested to see more of Amelia.

Oh, I do actually have another small pet peeve regarding this kind of urban fantasy: why must they all call their significant others “mates”? It’s really weird. Like, we have human words for relationships anyway, and Kitty’s relationship with Ben is basically just a human relationship. Also, I always read it initially as “friend” and it’s jarring :/

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