The White Cat (Curse Workers, Book 1) by Holly Black
|The White Cat (Curse Workers, Book 1) by Holly Black|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Wonderful start to an interesting new series set in a world where magic has been banned just as alcohol was during Prohibition. Paranoia is rife and everyone wears gloves. Magic, mystery, red herrings aplenty and a wonderful central character. What more could you want?|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: June 2010|
|External links: Author's website|
Cassel Sharpe dreams of a white cat and wakes up on the roof of his school building, perilously close to a fatal fall. Afraid that he's suicidal or otherwise unstable, his principal sends him home, while the school decides whether or not he can stay on as a pupil.
This is completely devastating for Cassel, who is struggling with some major issues. For starters, he's only non-worker in a family of workers. His gloved hands cover useless fingers. His touch doesn't manipulate emotions, remove memories, bring luck, or kill, maim or otherwise injure. Even in a world where working is illegal, it's hard to be the only normal person in your family. It's even harder when your family hire themselves out to one of the country's major crime families, and when you were friends with the beloved daughter of that family, and when you woke up from yet another missing moment covered in blood and standing over her dead body.
So you can see why Cassel's place at Wallingford means so very much to him.
And then the white cat turns up again, this time for real. And Cassel is thrust back into his family's world of curses and memory manipulation, of grifting and cons, of violence and ruthless ambition. Can Cassel pick his way through them? Can he get back to school? And can he find out what really happened with Lila?
I really, really, really, really enjoyed The White Cat. Black thrusts us straight into the middle of the action with a barnstorming opening scene up on the school roof. And she moves swiftly on from there, with clever worldbuilding sewn into each page. The reader needs to catch her up quickly, because she wastes no time on tiresome exposition - you're with Cassel all the way, and right from the get go. The plot is part mystery thriller and part exploration of teen relationships-come-family dynamics, and Black balances the two with consummate ease.
It's very different stuff to Black's faerie worlds in the Modern Faery Tales and Spiderwick Chronicles, but there's still plenty of magic, just with a much grittier edge. There's a kind of alternate timeline going on with curse work providing the same kind of profit-making opportunities for mobsters as Prohibition did in the US during the 1920s and I loved this aspect of it - it's unusual and very clever.
Cassel himself is a tremendously appealing character. He loves the con, just as his mother does, but he's alone in his family in being able to evaluate morally. The dialogue is bright and snappy and the plot has enough twists and turns to satisfy every reader. I'm truly looking forward to book two.
There's a sexiful dedicated website for the book, too - check it out! The trailer rocks.
My thanks to the good people at Gollancz for sending the book.
They might also enjoy Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong, which also blends the supernatural with crime syndicates. And if they find they enjoy the way Holly Black writes, they should look at Ironside: A Modern Faery's Tale.
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