Series: The Curse Workers, #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
What They Say:
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.
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.
What I Say:
So I’ve been looking forward to reading Holly Black’s newest series for a little while now. After she was done writing about faeries, I was interested to see what Black would tackle next. White Cat has mystery, the mafia, major family issues. That said…
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
So when Cassel wakes up from a nightmare hanging from the roof of Wallingford Prep’s dorm, he is pretty much expelled. It’s bad enough that he’s from a family of workers - people who can curse others with a single touch - Wallingford doesn’t need their students trying to off themselves. But Cassel’s strange dreams have a source, someone’s been working him (but who?), and he’s being followed by an odd white cat… Now that Cassel’s out of school, he needs to find his way back in. Being the only non-worker in an infamous crime family, this won’t be easy. But living among criminals all his life, he’s learned a trick or two. Though, as he begins to uncover a family secret he somehow forgot, getting back into Wallingford becomes the least of his problems.
Usually, I don’t like to read crime novels about big-talking mobsters and, well, crime. It just never caught my interest or seemed probable. This book was different, though. A contemporary twist on your Sopranos or Corleones or what have you. There are so many quirks to Black’s alternate world (and I love me some quirks, they keep things fresh) that I kept turning pages, even where the story lulled.
Cassel is a pretty cool guy. Quick with the snark. Though for a tough, sexy kid, he gets beat up a lot. Maybe that’s just because of the whole crime family thing. Sure, he’s the hero of the story, he “saves the day”, because this is a novel. But that doesn’t mean he’s the good guy. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to be the good guy. Complex, right? Haha.
We don’t see all that much of Cassel’s best friend Lila, mostly because he killed her when he was thirteen. Yeah. But we do see a few glimpses here and there, and (of course) when you’re reading an urban fantasy, no one stays dead for long. She’s our average alternative best friend, goading young Cassel into shenanigans and the like, being mysterious and such. Can’t say I actually like her as a character (she doesn’t add much to the story), but I’ll watch her develop as the series continues.
Cassel and Lila - I liked how this story didn’t center around a relationship. It gave more room for the adventure to expand. That said, it leads to the story’s relationship being pretty bad. Pre-killing Lila, the two are “just friends”, with Lila leading Cassel on while running off to hook up with his older brother. Post-killing Lila, it’s awkward and Black doesn’t touch on it at all until the end. (Yeah, I’m leaving key plot points out here to shield your unspoiled eyes, deal with it.)
Special Features: wow
Ooh, alternate universe! I really like the idea of curse workers. Of how everyone wears gloves to avoid touching people or being touched. All the politics behind it. Now that the story-as-I-know-it is over, I’m curious as to how the other books will expand on the curse worker idea. I’m actually impatient, haha. Also, check out this book’s cover. That boy is gorgeous. And the audiobook is narrated by none other than Jesse Eisenberg, making it one of my favorites ever.
"My mother wants to talk with you. She says that what you did was a cry for help."
"It was," I say. "That's why I was yelling 'Heeeelp'! I don't really go in for subtlety."