Most aspiring authors would be giddy to have one book published. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that even established and popular authors couldn’t get their publishers to release more than one book a year (something about wearing out their popularity), and many resorted to the use of a number of pseudonyms. Dean Koontz is the poster child for this phenomenon.
Fortunately, that trend has recently turned around, and fans don’t always have to wait quite as long to read new books from their favorite writers. But it is still unusual for an author to see two of his or her novels come out in a single week as happened for Carrie Vaughn with Kitty Goes to War (June 29) and Discord’s Apple (July 6). In addition, Voices of Dragons, Vaughn’s first YA novel was released last March.
Kitty Goes to War is the eighth novel in Vaughn’s series starring Kitty Norville, a Denver radio talk show host who just happens to be a werewolf. In fact, Kitty has become the alpha wolf in a Denver pack, a very unusual accomplishment for a female. In this installment, as is common in the series, Kitty is faced with more than one problem, the most prominent in this book being that that government has decided to experiment with creating a squad of werewolf soldiers to fight the war in Afghanistan.
The experiment seems to be successful until the alpha wolf and several others are killed in a mortar attack. The surviving werewolves are then shipped back to Fort Carson near Colorado Springs while the army tries to figure out what to do with them. In typical bungling government fashion, the werewolves are allowed to escape. The pack begins working its way towards Denver and begin infighting to establish a new pack leader, littering the Colorado foothills with the torn bodies of the losers and making them easy to track.
Kitty is called in as a consultant to see if there is any way to save the remaining soldiers and stop the werewolves before they begin to wreak havoc on the civilian population.
To complicate matters, on her talk show, Kitty has discovered that supernatural occurrences have become common at Speedy Mart convenience stores across the country. After discussing several of these happenings with her call-in audience, she receives notice that Harold Franklin, the owner of the chain is suing her for libel.
Kitty has her husband, werewolf Ben, and the rest of her pack with her to help out with the soldiers. And she calls in Ben’s cousin Cormac, freshly released from prison, to investigate Franklin and the strange rumors about Speedy Mart. It turns out that Franklin, in addition to being a multimillionaire, may also be a hit man and a weather wizard with an agenda of his own.
Plan for both plots to come together and mayhem to ensue in the best Kitty adventure yet. Carrie Vaughn is not just a fine writer of urban fantasy. Vaughn is a fine writer period. Her plot development and characterization are superb, and her use of dialogue is natural and never detracts from the narration—one true sign of an author who is accomplished in her craft.
All of these qualities come through in Vaughn’s first non-series and first hardback adult novel, Discord’s Apple. The time is the not-too-distant future. Nuclear warfare has begun in disparate parts of the globe, and Homeland Security has made the United States a near-police state. After attaining success writing the Eagle Eye Commandos, a best-selling comic book series, Evie Walker is called home to Hope’s Fort, Colorado, where her father is dying of cancer.
Evie has always known that strange things are kept in the basement of the farmhouse where her family has lived for generations, but something has kept her from ever exploring the storeroom. Now, with her father’s death looming, she enters for the first time and discovers swords, shields, winged shoes, crowns and jewels, and other ephemera she recognizes from folk tales and mythology.
When people come to the door asking for items from the storeroom, Evie instinctively knows whether there is anything there for them or not.
Vaughn masterfully manipulates and interweaves several subplots as the story progresses: Sinon, a soldier from the Trojan War, arrives in Hope’s Fort to help Evie with her task as keeper of the storeroom, and the tale of how he came to be there is slowly revealed; Britain is falling apart, and Merlin and Arthur arrive on the scene to retrieve Excalibur and lend a hand until they are called away; Hera and several cohorts have come to collect a golden apple that could spell the doom of the planet; and the adventures of the Eagle Eye Commandos are interspersed through the narrative and parallel what is going on in the real world.
The novel works as a fantasy, a love story and a tale of political intrigue. Discord’s Apple proves that Carrie Vaughn can comfortably leave the werewolf world of Kitty Norville and continue brilliantly in other directions. Kitty fans needn’t worry, though—book number 9 in the series, Kitty’s Big Trouble, is due out next year.
Mark Graham reviewed books for the Rocky Mountain News from 1977 until the paper closed its doors in February 2009. His “Unreal Worlds” column on science fiction and fantasy appeared regularly for over two decades. He has reviewed well over 1,000 genre books. If you see a Rocky Mountain News blurb on a book, it is likely from a review or interview he wrote. Graham also created and taught Unreal Literature, a high school science fiction class, for nearly 30 years in the Jefferson County Colorado public schools.