White Cat (Curse Workers, #1) by Holly Black
- Why I picked it up: Hype, author I love, intriguing concept, received ARC
- Disclosure: Received ARC from publisher, no other reimbursement
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.
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 requested an ARC of this book awhile back, but since the publisher never sent me a confirmation email (which of course I was naïve enough to expect), I wasn’t exactly watching my mailbox for it. In fact, I was toying with the idea of pre-ordering a copy since it got such great reviews. Imagine my surprise and delight when my very own ARC came in the mail! Suffice to say it was devoured in a few sittings.
My favorite thing about this book was its world-building. From page one, Holly Black never slips in portraying
Cassel’s dark, dangerous world, and I found myself believing it 100%! The world-building set the stage for everything else, from the characters to the plot to the plot twists, all of which were excellent and engrossing.
Speaking of characters, I loved
Cassel. Oh, man. If he put himself back on the straight and narrow, let me tell you I would be the first in line for his number! In all seriousness, though, I felt he was well-drawn and believable and that the male POV was done perfectly. Ditto for pretty much everyone else. The relationships between the characters sometimes became almost characters in and of themselves, growing and changing as the story progressed, and they were spectacular to watch! The female characters were intriguing in that most of them you loved to hate, Lila especially. By the end of the book I was ready to scream nasty things at Lila. But you never lost sight of where she was coming from, and her nastiness just worked.
Without any spoilers, I will warn you that the ending will leave you wanting more, if not quite leaving you desperately hanging a la Suzanne Collins’s Catching Fire. It was a perfect emotional climax, and I will certainly be reading the next installment as soon as I can.
In typical Holly Black style, this book was pretty dark, but not nearly as dark as I was expecting. The whole thing seemed slick and sweet, just like a perfectly executed con, without the grit of Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside. I have to admit that as much as I enjoy grit, it was kind of a relief not to have to deal with it in this book—the urban fantasy worked just fine without it. I guess, in the end, that all stories are cons—from a book’s cover to its characters and pretty words, everything about it draws you in and invites you to buy in just a little bit more. It’s just that some writers are better at it than others—and Holly Black is undoubtedly one of the best!
The Final Verdict: Smooth, dark, and lots of fun - Holly Black's fans won't be disappointed! Four and a half out of five stars!