Tuesday, May 17, 2011

White Cat by Holly Black

Title: White Cat
Author: Holly Black
Series: The Curse Workers #1
Published: May 4th, 2010
Publisher: McElderry
Pages: 310 (hardcover)
I purchased this book.

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. --Goodreads


Ok, so my first thought after I finished this book was, “Da-yum, Holly Black wrote this?” Not that I have anything against Holly or anything, but White Cat wasn’t like any of her other work. Though it was dark and charming, it lacked the sort of gritty, under your skin PNR plot that she’s most well known for (think of the Modern Faerie series). But honestly, this feels like her best series yet. Black has created a completely unique magic system that fits into a slightly altered version of our world, with characters that simply thrive in the deception that accompanies it. As a result, most of this book is shrouded in mystery. Awesome, original mystery, like Mafia meets wizarding world kind of mystery. But don’t let the Sopranos vibe scare you off—White Cat is really a story about uncovering the secrets in one’s own family, and having the strength to define yourself even when you don’t fit in.

What I enjoyed the most about the book was Cassel's character. It was a really nice change of pace to read a PNR book (if you would even categorize White Cat as such) with a male main character. Cassel is thoughtful, dark, lonely, loyal, caring, strong—but not in the macho, bad-boy kind of way. I know many authors these days choose to create male leads who have pectorals made of flawless marble with eyes that change color every time they blink, and as a result, we’ve come to expect the bad boy with a heart of gold sort of character in this kind of fiction…which is why I’m happy Holly decided to keep Cassel the way that she did. He felt very real to me. He’s flawed yet likable at the same time, and it made his struggles much more emotionally gripping. It was fun watching him discover what was really happening behind closed doors.

Even though I really enjoyed the book, I wasn't entirely invested in Cassel's story until page 120 or so. There’s lots of back story and explanation about the status of the country with relation to how they deal with Workers. But I can deal, since it all paid off: all of the information that gets fed to the reader paints a very sad backdrop for Cassel (being the only member of his family that isn’t a worker) and the result is you immediately begin to suspect that things aren’t exactly as they seem. Anyway, if you haven’t had a chance to pick up the book, do so. The Curse Workers series is off to an awesome start!