July 31st, 2013

A Purple Straw Hat

The Joys of Pre-Order and Kindle: new Kate Daniels and new Kitty the Vampire

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER. Really. I normally include spoilers, but these are basically plot outlines. You _really_ don't want to read these until after you've read the book, unless you are only willing to read the book if you already know what's happened (I've been there, so you have my sympathy).

_Kitty in the Underworld_, by Carrie Vaughn, is a self-interpreting entry. This sort of thing tends to annoy me, but it is Clever, and readers often do not find this kind of self-interpretation as obvious as I do.

On, BY THE WAY SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS run in fear, now, before you find out how it ends. Or whatever.

Anyway. Kitty gets a phone call from Alette. Antony, Master of Barcelona, had received word that Roman is in Split. Antony dies when he presumably confronts Roman. Roman doesn't leave Split. There are no plans to go try to get Roman, Alette is just telling everyone who needs to know what is going on. Fear ensues.

Kitty interviews a vampire stripper, and gets a tiny additional insight into the "Acting Master" of Denver.

Kitty gets a call from Tom, a member of her pack, who has smelled Suspicious Scents while illicitly running alone in the woods. Kitty and Tom go to investigate. They separate. BECAUSE THIS IS NOW A HORROR MOVIE APPARENTLY. Jeez, you would sort of expect these people to learn. Whatever. Both are tranked; Kitty is taken to a silver mind where she spends some time agonizing over what it is her captors have in mind for her.

She finds out. It involves a not very brilliant plan to locate Roman and then attack him. Kitty figures out a way to escape, and uses it to get a message out to Ben, but then returns to participate in the not very brilliant plan, partly because she does not yet realize how fully stupid the plan is. After part A works, she decides she wants to know the details of part B, because she's getting some inkling of just how in over their head her kidnappers really are. She is not inspired, but continues to play along.

As part B progresses, interesting things happen. People die. The demon comes back, and Kitty steals the demon's goggles (thus blinding the demon, but still, interesting). Kitty receives the spellbook thumb drive from the magic user, as the magic user prepares for her own death/the rescue of the remaining participants in the plan; she also gets the defaced coin from the Kumarbis that once connected him to Roman. She also gets some back story on Roman, and some indication of his future plans. Also, Kitty has a vision of the woman who may have been the original Regina Luporum.

Kitty and the woman shapeshifter survive the battle they lost, and the collapse of the mine. Upon exiting, they meet Cormac/Amelia and Ben, and then a bunch of law enforcement and rescue people.

Throughout this whole book, there's a bunch of myth retelling of people who go to the underworld, spend a few days there and come back changed/transformed/humbled, blah blah bleeping blah. This is the self-interpretation part that sort of bugged me. But okay.

Solid entry. Nothing really amazing. I liked the stripper.

_Magic Rises_, Ilona Andrews

Kate is accosted by a mother of two teenage girls (werewolves) who have gone loup. Kate delays their termination, and enough of the wonder drug panacea is found to save one. Rather than choose, each gets half and one gets better. This is better, but still sucks, then Curran arrives and says all child terminations for loupism are suspended. What has happened?

Someone really, really, really wants Curran, Kate and assorted others to come to Colchis to guard Desandra, who is pregnant with twins by two different fathers. The firstborn will inherit some particularly valuable land (control of a mountain pass) from Desandra's crazy father. Everyone knows this is a trap, but it is baited with a whole bunch of panacea so they go anyway, with Saiman, on his boat, which Kate arranges as payback for rescuing Saiman from a kidnapping-for-ransom. The kidnapping for ransom arc is not in the novel, but is included as a bonus story at the end of the book.

Turns out the someone is

HEY SPOILERS WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU STILL DOING HERE I WARNED YOU ABOVE

Hugh D'Ambay. Gee, didn't see _that_ coming, what with all the foreshadowing and all.

Hugh messes with Kate. Lorelei (she's unimportant) messes with Curran and the Pack as a whole. There are vampires and lamassu (shapeshifters who, after eating human flesh, take on a third form which is really kinda nasty and tough to deal with) and Hugh isn't there by himself; turns out the feckless security are Iron Dogs playing a double game. Antics ensue.

There is a deus ex machina. If you uniformly hate those, you aren't going to like this. But if you are okay with _any_ deus (dei?) ex machina, this one is a blast. He/they are met in the _most classic manner_: Kate rescues one of them when she herself is in dire straits, then when the little guy returns with the bigger guy to rescue her, she has already largely self-rescued. When they ask her what she wants for helping the little guy out, she asks for the power word he used to *stop* the serpent which she then carved up. He gives it to her. Curran shows up, throws a fit, and they make up after a discussion of what has been going on. We learn that Saiman has been around the whole time.

So that's the _meeting/befriending_ of the god, but there's an earlier bit in the novel where Kate tricks Hugh into turning over Christopher, who was locked up and starving in a cage. (It was one of those sparring/fighting things where they almost kill each other and it totally turns Hugh on. On the one hand, these sorts of scenes are inherently incredibly ridiculous. On the other hand, Ilona Andrews almost sold me on it.) While we're waiting to find out what _Christopher_ is good for and the main battle of the book is raging, the Land Avatar and his little buddy show up to rescue the seemingly defeated, trapped and nearly dead Curran and Kate (Hugh saved himself only by teleporting out just before he fried).

When they all leave on the boat and are mysteriously allowed to go by the fleet flying the Iron Dogs flag, they discover all the drums of panacea have been replaced with poison. (Saiman allowed this to happen, stupid contract, etc.) Everyone is sad, because they've had a horrible time and Aunt B. is dead and all for nothing, so Kate is crying.

And then we find out what Christopher is good for: he whips up a batch of panacea from some herbs in his belt pouches in a couple of hours and turns out to be able to teach Kate and maybe some medmages to do so also, thus rendering the Atlanta pack totally independent of Europe (further: turns out Hugh/Roland/wtf were the only source anyway) and in a position to run all of the Americas.

Sweet deal! Also, I'm now expecting pregnant Kate to appear in a short story or two in the future, to be followed by, well, probably Kate post-pregnancy kicking some serious butt but also maybe some cool kids-beating-bad-guys-up stories.

Both of these novels involve Really Big Bad Guys in the background: Roman for Kitty the Vampire and Roland for Kate Daniels. There are assorted small to medium sized bad guys as well, and people of uncertain morals and loyalty who are attempting to engage the attention/affection/wtf of the protagonist and/or her crew. The Big Bad Guy in both stories is intent on World Domination, altho the motives may differ slightly between the two. There are also extended family relationships between the good guys and the bad guys in both novels: Kate is Roland's daughter, Hugh was raised/trained by Kate's adoptive father. The connection to Roman is more amorphous, because it runs through vampire Family and the fabled Regina Lumporum, but the idea that this is a cast of soap-opera like characters is still present.

And both of these entries involve Being Away from Home in a Place One Hates: Kitty is stuck in a silver mine that makes her itch; Kate is stuck in a castle that drives her and everyone else in it a little crazy. Both characters have significant insights in the context of a trek out of where they are trapped -- but not home -- to be alone in the outdoors. Finally, both characters survive their ordeals in part by befriending and assisting those in need of assistance who are not necessarily immediately in need of help, and who appear initially to be useless, dangerous and hostile.

You're on your own for what that all might mean. Well, Carrie Vaughn will help you out with it.

Entertaining entries. I'll continue to read both series.