Author: Holly Black
Series: Curse Workers #1
Release Date: May 2010
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Giveaway win
Buy it: Amazon | BookDepository | Barnes&Noble
Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.Review:
Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.
Holly Black has created a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic where a single touch can bring love — or death — and your dreams might be more real than your memories.
I'm not going to lie, I am somewhat obsessed with crime. (Perhaps this is why I write about it, no?) I frequently mimic Don Corleone's accent, I've wasted many hours of my life rewatching American Gangster, I've watched so many episodes of Criminal Minds I can tell you who is what and why in which episode just by looking at the title, and well, I've always had a crippling I'm going to buy this book, I don't even care if it's bad thing with con men. On top of that, well, curse magic is just the icing on the cake.
Yes, Holly Black's WHITE CAT is the first instalment in her CURSE WORKERS series. I haven't read Black before besides the occasional fanning of TITHE'S pages in the bookstore. Unfortunately for me, when I saw this on Goodreads, all I could do was excitedly flap my hands around and then pout and curse when my local stores didn't carry it. (Enter: Trisha, who awarded me with an Amazon.com voucher. Thanks, sweet!)
This book...This book messed with me. You see, I'm one of those people who like to guess what's going to happen, go all Oh yes, Nina. You are sooo clever. Bravo. No one is cleverer than you, you fine reading thing, you. WHITE CAT then came along and, yeah, no.
So, WHITE CAT is told by protagonist Cassel Sharp, who longs for normalcy, despite being the only normal one in his family, who are curse workers with connections to crime families. In Black's reworked history of the world, curse working isn't a secret and is a matter of personal and rather political importance. The norm is for people to wear gloves, as curse working is only applied through physical contact of hand to skin. People can influence emotions, erase memories, manipulate luck, etc. There's talk of legislation and inequality and testing and the like which makes the reader feel more at home in both the protagonist's skin and being immersed in his world.
Over the course of the novel, Cassel slowly comes to the realisation that things are not what they seem and that the con men surrounding him may be conning him. He sort of flexes his toes with smaller cons, building the hype for the big climax (which I won't spoil for you), sort of in the way a superhero would stop a couple bank robbers before taking on his arch-nemesis. In full, the novel is a journey of self-discovery and of dark discoveries and perplexing developments.
The problem with this type of book is that usually, the author is so incompetent that none of the reveals are anything special, the pacing is all wrong, and the amount of information that is fed to the reader is either far too much or way too little. Holly Black is a mastermind, an evil mastermind of Megamind proportions and she deserves for someone to send her some sort of giant blue head hat thing. I got to the point in WHITE CAT where I just stopped guessing. That's something that's pretty hard for an author to do for me, seeing as my critical brain is always on. Black's slow reveal of the end result, but having built up a novel where anything was possible, left me doubting my thoughts, my expectations.
I know that a lot of people are putting down whether they liked WHITE CAT to how well they adapted to the male POV. What about the boys? Wouldn't they have liked to not work so hard to get into a girl's POV? I for one thought Cassel was pretty realistic. But this business of creating a good boy POV because he's likeable yet flawed is absurd. If this is why female POV character are so vapid - WRITE THEM LIKE BOYS, PEOPLE!
As far as the secondary cast goes, I loved Cassel's family, his friends, Zacharov and his people. Especially Barron. I think Barron's a fox. Anyway...Black introduced a cast of perfect size, and his antagonist, Anton, wasn't epically bad. He had one thing that he wanted and he did whatever was necessary to achieve that. Subtle, yet effective.
Concerning what I had problems with, I would say the beginning. I think it was trying to be effective by plunging us into the action head first, but all it did was disorient me. With a what is going on? sort of WTF-ness.
But Black made up for it, so that's all that matters. Aside from that, I really wanted to know where Danica's mother and her little dangling thread of a plotline went. WHERE DID IT GO? I'm ordering RED GLOVE in hope that maybe it's brought up again. I think Black has the opportunity to go where no YA authors in her area seem to want to go - into political and cultural land of intrigue. I believe she can do it, and I believe she can do it with grace and talent.
You know what I loved above everything but the basic premise? The romance. If you've read it, you're probably thinking What romance? Exactly. Lila and Cassel were our leading pair, but the reader has no idea whether they have mutual feelings, or whether it's a big muddle of emotions within a huge, dangerous con. The end result, of course, made me do a Noooooo!, much like the image above. But that's what I loved about it. Instead of following suit with all the other authors, Black put her foot down and let the reader's mind go wild on the relationship instead of on the plot or on the world.
Claps for Holly!
Black can create so much with so few words, you can see how she's mastered imagery with as much fluidity as possible. She had a great premise to work with, but she also allowed the magic, the illegal magic, to take the forefront. Brilliant! While I'm not crazy about the cover, I will definitely say that this could very well be the best thing I've read all year.
This has been a post.
If you've read the book, feel free to share your opinion in the comments below. I love hearing what people thought of the books, even if they do disagree with me!
Until next time: Happy reading!