White Cat (Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black
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.
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First off, I’d like to thank the lovely Tynga for this ARC of White Cat. Her blog is one of my go-to reads and I was thrilled to get this from her.
White Cat is the first Holly Black book I’ve read, though I’ve heard of her work before. I’ve had White Cat sitting on my dresser for a while but wasn’t in the right mood for it until just now.
I really enjoyed this story. I don’t read that many stories with male protagonists, largely because the bulk of urban fantasy protagonists are female, and so male leads are always interesting. I find they’re generally quite well-written, and Cassel is no exception. Holly Black has created a fascinating family history and a very sympathetic lead (who doesn’t really want to be a hero), all against the backdrop of a world in which curse workers commodify their gifts. The world building really did it for me in White Cat — there’s something about the setting that just came together so nicely and seemed very organic. Cassel’s struggles to find his place in this world as the only member of a family of curse workers without magic was so tangible and I can see teens really identifying with his trouble figuring out who he is and how to fit in. I also really liked that he’s fine with walking down a criminal path but maintains his own ideas of what’s right and wrong. It’s very Dark Knight on some levels but not so much on others. Cassel’s family dynamic is also great. His older brothers totally pick on him and their familial bond is realistic and, at times, painful.
The next Curseworkers book, Red Glove, comes out this month and I’m very excited to read it!
*Details on the format are based on the hardcover edition, not the ARC.