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Possible alternate titles: "Kitty Goes To San Francisco" and "Kitty Goes to Chinatown."

So guess where the ever-inquisitive Kitty Norville goes in "Kitty's Big Trouble," a shadowy, frantic scrabble for ancient magical artifacts and even more ancient Chinese deities. The beginning chapters feel rather disconnected from the rest of the story, but once the gang makes it to San Francisco the storyline becomes much smoother.

Kitty begins investigating historical figures --General Sherman, Wyatt Earp -- who may have had connections to the supernatural. And after a nasty encounter with a long-starved vampire, she's left with a coin necklace that may be connected to Roman. Unfortunately, not a lot of vampires know what it is, so she's sent off to find Anastasia in San Francisco.

However, Anastasia is more concerned with the Dragon's Pearl, a priceless artifact that Roman wants so he can expand his army exponentially. Kitty, Ben and the Ameliafied Cormac agree to help her find it before Roman does, and they soon discover that this is a dangerous proposition -- but they may have some allies even more powerful than vampires.

As an urban fantasy, "Kitty's Big Trouble" is solid but not the best of the series. It's a dark, grimy, action-packed story that immerses Kitty even more into the world, but it strays pretty far from Kitty's usual stomping grounds and cast. And there are some aspects of the plot -- Kitty's broken bone, the half-starved vampire -- that feel like they should have been more significant than they were.

However, the story gets much smoother once Kitty and Co. make it to Frisco, forming a tight rope of frenetic action and supernatural drama, but with some lighter moments (Cormac's "I escaped Alcatraz" shirt). And Vaughn splashes it liberally with Chinese folklore and religion, including a nine-tailed fox and a mysterious dude with a staff. I let a fangirl squeal when I read his name. And she doesn't wuss out on the religious implications of Chinese "gods" being real.

It's also interesting to see Kitty delving into the "hidden history," when she isn't showing her iron-hard determination to stop Roman. Without revealing too much, her determination means that she's now one of Roman's top enemies, and is squarely in the middle of the Long Game.

Vaughn also reveals a lot more about the beautiful, icy Anastasia's past -- If you didn't like her already, you will now -- and adds in the motherly Xiwangmu and the adorably quirky Sun Wukong. Here's hoping we'll see them again. However... Grace is ANNOYING. She whines and complains constantly about everything, and keeps bleating about how she didn't expect all this. Just shut up.

But despite a rocky beginning and an annoying human character, "Kitty's Big Trouble" is a decent addition to this series -- not perfect, but enjoyable and important to the story arc.
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