Kitty Goes to Washington is the second of the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn. Review of the first book, Kitty and the Midnight Hour is here.
It's been a little while since the events in book one, and Kitty has been touring the United States, driving from one radio station to the next to host her radio talk show about the supernatural, The Midnight Hour. On the way to California, Kitty receives a call from her lawyer, Ben O'Farrell, who gives her the news that she's been subpoenaed by the Senate on a hearing about paranormal affairs. Kitty is apprehensive, but she wants to avoid a witch hunt against shape shifters and vampires, so she goes.
*** mild spoilers for the first book from this point ***
What she finds is a bunch of people in Washington D.C. working towards their own pet agendas regarding the supernatural community. Because this book takes place mostly in Washington, characters and story lines related to her ex-pack and the vampires in Denver don't come into play. We do however see some familiar characters – Ben, Kitty's lawyer, Cormac, the hitman who specializes in werewolves, show up to support Kitty. There is also Dr. Paul Flemming, the head of The Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology, whose press conference at the end of the first book prompted these hearings. Kitty finds his motives suspect but isn't sure what he's really involved in. Finally there's Elijah Smith, a dangerous man no one is sure is human who claims he can cure the supernatural who shows up at the hearings as well. After the death of one of Smith's followers that escaped and called Kitty in the last book, Kitty is determined to expose him, whatever he is.
Kitty also continues learning from other supernaturals. She meets new vampires and shape shifters in Washington, and discovers a very different approach than the werewolf pack and vampire families she had been exposed to. There isn't a shape changer pack, the weres in Washington are independent allies, and rather than a large vampire family with one leader who controls everyone, there is Alette, a beneficent vampire who wants to help Kitty in her own way.
I really like the way that Vaughn writes the real world. I can see Washington, I can see wherever Kitty is and it doesn't feel fabricated. Scientists sound like scientists, politicians sound like politicians, people seem to have layers like in the real world, not like caricatures, and because of this it accepting the supernatural in the story didn't feel very hard. Through the radio show and Kitty's encounters with people of her own kind you see each supernatural creature as individuals coping with their "disease" in their own ways. No one is pure evil, just human.
I'm still curious about Kitty's relationship with her inner wolf. In this book and the last, while most of this book is first person, the narrative switches to third, like the wolf is a separate character, not part of Kitty. Maybe this is to show that Kitty is still differentiating herself from her "other half" because she's a new werewolf and not fully comfortable or in control of herself. I wonder if that will start to change.
As I've said earlier there is very little to no romance in these books, but Kitty has a fling in the middle of things (doesn't seem very serious), and there was one small suggestion of interest in Cormac, but I'm not sure if that's going anywhere, they seem like an odd couple. I suspect a potential love triangle, but maybe I'm just reading more than there is.
Overall: Less dark to me than the first book but still gritty, and an enjoyable continuation of the series. There is strong world-building – the supernatural aspects are explained artlessly, without info-dumping. When Kitty learns something new, it doesn't feel like it's only to progress the plot, but to develop the world further, and I found the description of the world very realistic. The book was a quick read, and pacing was good, particularly the last third of the book, when I was so caught up with what was happening, I stayed up till 1am to finish it! Extra bonus: the short story Kitty Meets the Band at the end of this book.