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Plot VS. Character Development
on July 11, 2010
I am a HUGE fan of the `Kitty Norville' series. This is one Urban Fantasy in which the heroine has a very discernable character transformation - going from meek werewolf and runt of her pack, to Alpha of her very own werewolf family. Over the course of eight books it has been fascinating and uplifting to read Kitty as she comes into herself. For me, that's been the most fulfilling aspect of the books - Kitty's emotional journey. Especially her finding love with Ben, and entering into a complicated truce with his bounty-hunter cousin, Cormac.
But in this, the eighth Kitty book it feels like Vaughn has sacrificed emotional characterization for an action-packed plot.
In `Kitty Goes to War' there are two major conflicts that Kitty is dealing with. One is a lawsuit brought against her by the owner of a chain-store called `Speedy Mart', whom Kitty has accused on her show of being involved in cultish rituals.
The second is a werewolf-related favour she gets called in for by Dr. Schumacher. Turns out a unit of Green Beret US soldiers who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan were turned lycanthrope by their commanding officer. This soldier thought to start-up his own, unofficial and unsanctioned, werewolf unit. All was fine until said commanding officer got blown up, leaving his pack Alpha-less and in a power vacuum. Dominance fights ensued and now only three remaining members need Kitty's help if they have any chance to rehabilitation into civilian life.
Let me just say, the werewolf soldier plot is fantastic! It makes for really intense drama and a lot of werewolf `what if's' and questions are answered and explored in-depth. Such as - would werewolf soldiers be a breakthrough for the army? How much would pack hierarchy affect their combat training?
I was less in love with the `Speedy Mart' storyline. My disgruntlement was mostly because it was an underdeveloped and second-fiddle storyline to the werewolf soldier's - but also because it felt like `Speedy Mart' took the place of emotional and relationship development in `Kitty Goes to War'.
At the end of `Kitty's House of Horrors' Cormac was released from prison and came home. This was such a huge event - because Cormac and Kitty almost had a romantic entanglement, until Cormac's prejudice and Ben's affections put that on hold. Then Cormac got thrown into jail and it seemed like behind the plexiglas, Cormac had made some profound realizations about his feelings towards Kitty. Then he comes home - home to Ben and Kitty in wedded alpha mate bliss - and lots of fans were wondering how this little love triangle would play out.
But in this eighth book that tension is barely even mentioned. Twice Ben and Cormac make allusions to a possible past romance between Kitty and Cormac... but for the rest of the book it feels as though everyone (Carrie Vaughn, essentially) are walking on eggshells around this triangle.
I don't know if Ms. Vaughn has something big planned regarding this trio, but I went into `Kitty Goes to War' with my fingers crossed for some confrontations and realizations and I got neither.
We don't even get to read much affection (i.e.: smut) between Kitty and Ben. It took me a while to warm up to Ben, I thought he was just a minor secondary character and Cormac would be Kitty's HEA... so when she mated Ben, I was thrown for a loop. But in subsequent books Vaughn really illustrated their affection and dependence on one another, and I really came to like Ben. But in recent books there hasn't been the same warmth between him and Kitty, and I am again wondering if Ben is Kitty's true HEA?
So ultimately this book was a disappointment for me. I may have been less upset by the lack of emotional progress for the characters if I'd had a big pay-out in the seventh book, `Kitty's House of Horrors'. But in that seventh instalment Kitty was by herself in the wilderness, with no Ben and no pack for comfort. So it feels like we've been given 2 books now in which Kitty's relationships and emotional development have been put on hold.
At the end of `Kitty Goes to War', Kitty does ask a rather profound question of Ben, which may have repercussions for future books... but it is literally on the last page and a case of too little too late.