21 March 2012

White Cat 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 criminals.  Many become mobsters and con artists.  But not Cassel. He hasn't got magic, 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.

Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself 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.  As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories.  To find out the trust, 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.

A Mixed Bag of Magic

This is the first book of Holly Black's that I've actually finished reading.  For the first, I'm encouraged enough to continue with the series, but aside from Cassel's character and the cleverness of curse workers, I wasn't all that impressed.

The Main Character: Cassel Sharpe, Conman
Nice name.  He was a pretty legit character.  He had motivations, he had flaws, he had a screwed up family, but an awesome grandfather.  I enjoyed reading about his story.  I liked his sense of humor and the depth to his character.

Flimsy Romantic Prospects
I can understand why Cassel would be so in love with Lila, but I wasn't all that impressed with Lila as a character.  The very foundation of Cassel's character was based around her, and yet I didn't get enough depth to her character for any of Cassel's feelings to feel legit.  Lila embodies a cat's aloofness, and that kind of annoyed me.  I probably would have liked her had there had been more about her character.

A So-So Plot and Writing
The backstory woven through the main plot was clever, but it was nearly not enough.  I felt as if Holly Black could have greatly expanded on the story--added more details, deepened the world, done better.  It felt rushed, superficial.  I do like how it ended, though.  It sets up the opening for a next book perfectly.

The writing did hold many nuggets of raw emotion that were brilliant.  Holly Black doesn't pussyfoot around, she doesn't sugar coat anything, and I really liked how that came through in Cassel's character.  I also enjoyed the humor thrown in.

Overall Impression
I liked Cassel and his story, but it would have been better had the book been longer.  I was very interested in the world, but wasn't given enough information, and the plot would have come off even cleverer had there been some real deliberation.

I have no memory of climbing the stairs up to the roof.  I don't even know how to get to where I am, which is a problem since I'm going to have to get down, ideally in a way that doesn't involve dying. (p. 1)
I don't even bother kicking off my shoes or getting under the cover; I just smother my face in the pillow and drop down into sleep like a man finally returning to his grave. (p. 253)
Book Info:

  • pages - hardcover, 310
  • published - May 2010
  • publisher - Margaret K. McElderry
  • genre - urban fantasy
  • received via - school library :)
  • rating - 4/5
  • series - Curse Workers
    • White Cat
    • Red Glove
    • Black Heart