Thoughts: Kitty Rocks The House, by Carrie Vaughn

Well, it’s been a while since we were back in paranatural Denver. Not because I was avoiding it (though I understand if my last rant might have given that impression) but because when people lend me books they get bumped to the top of my TBR. And that’s why I’m up over 100 on my Goodreads TBR.

Kitty Rocks The House is the eleventh book in the Kitty Norville series, and I think the titles are just randomly generated at this point. I couldn’t work out what the house was at all, literally, figuratively, metaphorically, allegorically. Was it the church? Because technically Kitty didn’t rock that.

Anyway, in book 11 Kitty is back in Denver and well away from the UK, dealing with her own pack – and to Vaughn’s credit that means facing up to the fact that she’s sort of an absentee parent to the pack. Her preoccupation and involvement with these larger world-saving issues, willingly or not, mean that Denver’s wolf pack is a weak point, and soon a wolf comes along to try to take advantage. Kitty’s human family have also noticed her absence, and her sister is feeling the pressure of looking after ageing parents on her own.

While this is going on, Rick is being the worst vampire dad in the world, vanishing for weeks at a time without telling his Family what’s going on, fobbing off his responsibilities on Kitty. And why? Because a vampire claiming to be a real actual priest shows up and offers him the chance to join them and reclaim his faith.

So a lot is happening, but I still didn’t feel like the series was quite back up to its former standards.

Firstly, this is in part because of the problem I noted in the last post I wrote about the series – the higher the stakes get, the smaller they feel. I’ve been trying to work out how to explain this better, because I am a hobby writer myself and I think it’s important to think about things like this. You know how the full moon sometimes appears larger and sometimes smaller (ignoring supermoons). That’s a trick of perspective – the closer the moon is to the horizon, the larger it appears, because we have things to compare it to; buildings, trees, other things that are in the world. When the moon is high and we can’t see anything else around it but sky, it looks small. It’s a similar effect here. It feels like there’s too much space around the stakes, so they look small, whereas another story could take the world-in-danger stakes and make them look huge and frightening.

Secondly, there was stuff coming out of the blue here. Rick’s secret lost faith, for one. Sure, it makes sense that as a Spanish kid back in the day, he was Catholic and probably very devout, but he’s never mentioned it once or betrayed any sense of religious anguish. This is no doubt due to the Kitty-perspective of the novels and the secretive nature of vampires, but it really felt like it came from nowhere. All of a sudden, Rick’s longing to reclaim his Catholicism is one of the biggest plot points in the book.

Thirdly, and this is to do with point one, the politics again. At this point, the anti-Roman people know they need to work together and show a united front. But they’re also mostly immortal vampires (the ones who aren’t werewolves with no self-esteem) with their own agendas and incomprehensible priorities. So when the Mistress of Buenos Aires arrives in Denver to meet with Rick, who skives off the meeting to talk to his new priest friend, and meets Kitty instead, I was expecting something to come of it – Kitty was unprepared, she isn’t a politician, she would do something rash and be manipulated by the Buenos Aires vampire. Or at least a diplomatic incident would go down, seeing as most vampires see werewolves as lesser and this would absolutely come across as an insult to them. But…no? Nothing really happened? Everything was fine? I was expecting – based on Vaughn’s own vampire lore! – that this would be messier, that the good guys would undermine themselves the way you see it happen in real life (just look at the scattered left wing in Europe right now), and the way books like The House of Shattered Wings did so well.

She sort of tries it, with another vampire Master who shows up, disagrees with Kitty and Rick’s suggestions of allying/requests for trust, and immediately sends a werewolf in to disrupt the pack and take it over, which is only really possible because Kitty is just not around that much. But the would-be rebel is an idiot. He doesn’t do his homework, he’s too impatient with his coup attempt and even though the pack is practically being given to him on a silver platter, he doesn’t bother trying to win any grassroots support before trying his big move. This is the sort of easy resolution that you don’t expect at this stage of a series. Kitty is strong enough to earn her victories, and she really didn’t earn this one at all. As the old writing advice says, you can use coincidence to get your characters into trouble, but never out of it.

Fourthly, and this is the big one, I had issues with some character behaviour. Not like “everyone in books should behave themselves” but I felt like there was a lot of out of character stuff going on. Kitty doesn’t resolve anything at all with her sister, and though I understand how overwhelmed she was and that her rage!shifting isn’t something to blame her for morally or anything, she didn’t even try to admit that she’s not been pulling her weight, or admit that maybe Cheryl’s having a tough time herself. And Cheryl didn’t call her out on it. Kitty rage!shifts, runs off, everyone worries about her.

Cormac and Amelia’s trying to poke at the church magic defences through the book was just ridiculous. And Kitty just let it happen. And when they finally broke through and whoops a demon popped out and the ancient anti-Roman Vatican-sanctioned vampire got staked and the Master of Denver left to go and clean up the mess… nothing. Not a single word directed at them. They got one ally killed, drove one away, and nothing. Kitty just shrugs her shoulders and lets them get away with it. Cormac has issues with vampires and werewolves that he needs to address because these are his allies now, and I just don’t see it happening. At this point in the overarching story you expect things to be getting dark. Kitty losing her shit with Cormac for having done a lot of damage for very stupid reasons, cutting that tie even temporarily, would have made things feel more serious.

Possibly fifthly? She tries to raise the stakes yet again. The invincible magician vampire Roman isn’t big and bad enough – the demon hitwoman hints at an even bigger badder bad, pulling Roman’s strings. I have this really awful feeling. Like, earlier on Kitty reiterated her witty comeback about being a minion of Satan*. And the demon** calls her a traitor. Please don’t do this, Vaughn. Please.

I’m still expecting to see Rick come back before the end. Vaughn has sent a good few allies off in their own separate directions, and I’m waiting for them to come riding back in as cavalry during the big showdown. I’m just not sure how big I’m expecting this showdown to be.

* The comeback is “If I was a minion of Satan, don’t you think I’d know myself?” which is an incredibly, stunningly terrible comeback. The people who would truly believe such a thing would probably believe you capable of lies!

** They keep saying “oh demon is just the closest word we have for what she is” but come on, she is a demon.

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