White Cat by Holly Black
2010; Margaret K. McElderry
*I'm currently on vacation in the sunny Caribbean! This is a scheduled post (I sure hope it actually posts). I don't have Internet access so I won't be able to comment back as I usually try to do. Thanks for visiting though and hope you enjoy the review!
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. (courtesy of Goodreads)
Holly Black creates a fascinating world in White Cat. Most fantasies or paranormal fiction create an entirely new world or a hidden magical world that the ignorant humans know nothing about. Holly's world is much more interesting. This is a world where certain people are born with magic - either to do good or evil. The dark curseworkers function as criminals - an alternate universe mafia. On the surface, the world looks and feels just like modern-day America. Only subtle hints tell you that it's something else. For example, we learn in history class that the ban on curseworkers was put in place in 1929, nine years after prohibition and right before the stock market crashed. People also wear gloves constantly since cursework can only be done with bare hands. I loved seeing how Holly could create an alternate universe by only changing the things necessary for the story.
Cassel is an interesting character. He's the only non-magic member in a family of dark curse-workers. A disfunctional family of curse-workers. His meddling mother is in prison, his father is dead, his grandfather tries to take care of him, his brothers alternate between being bullies and looking after Cassel. Worst of all, Cassel lives with the knowledge that he killed his best friend Lila. He doesn't remember what happened - only holding a bloody knife over her dead body and grinning. Cassel does not come off as an extremely likable character but I grew to like him as I understood him better. He's arrogant, a loner, a minor con artist...but he actually is as smart as he thinks he is, is on a journey of self-discovery, and tries to do good in a big-picture way.
The story begins with a crazy sleepwalking episode that nearly gets Cassel killed. He's suspended from school temporarily and sent home to his crazy family. There goes Cassel's chance at normalcy. Things begin to happen quickly at this point. Cassel's brothers and sister-in-law are acting very strangely. And even weirder, a white cat is randomly following him around. As Cassel investigates his brothers and the cat, he realizes that he's at the center of one of the biggest cons ever. He faces a huge obstacle: who should he protect? Himself? His family? His friends? Should he choose not to protect some?
I enjoyed every page of White Cat. The plot unraveled slowly. There were new twists and revealing information in every chapter to keep my interesting. The beginning, often the weakest area of a book, drew me in quickly, and the middle never dragged. The big ending wasn't particularly surprising after I'd learned a certain amount of information but there was a little twist that totally surprised me. White Cat was my first Holly Black read. I can't wait to go back and read her other books.
Rating: 4.5 / 5