Black, Holly. White Cat (2010). 336 Pages. Margaret K. McElderry. $7.99
The Curse Workers | Book One
The lovely ladies of Reading In Skirts and I have a pseudo-bookclub. Pseudo because we live very far apart, and because we don’t meet as consistently as we like. (Mostly it’s my fault for having two part-time retail jobs.) Recently we tackled White Cat, (and then agreed to read Red Glove) and this is what I’ve managed to decide, as far as this book is concerned.
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 con men.
I wake up barefoot, standing on cold slate tiles. Looking dizzily down. I suck in a breath of icy air.
Above me are stars. Below me, the bronze statue of Colonel Wallingford makes me realize I’m seeing the quad from the peak of Smythe Hall, my dorm.
I have no memory of climbing the stairs up to the roof. I don’t even know how to get 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.
White Cat grabs your attention by throwing you into the middle of the action. Cassel is trapped on a roof, and he doesn’t know how he got there, or how he’s going to get down. It keeps going, taking advantage of having sucked you in to begin building the world and backstory.
The world is unique; the brush of a bare hand can “curse” you, which is why society dictates everyone wear gloves. There is a brief mention of a sort of “pornography” in which women do not wear gloves, which is shocking and appealing. I actually found that to be fascinating; bare hands are a level of intimacy which are porn-worthy. In other respects, this is a modern world, with cellphones and fast cars and mob bosses.
As far as character-building goes, the story begins here, but it is by no means over. The sequel, Red Glove is out, and will be getting reviewed soon. There is a third book in the works (Black Heart.)
There are some major twists in this book, and though I wasn’t completely shocked at first, I was more and more surprised. No, I can’t say a lot about this without ruining the story. I just can’t. And I really want to. Suffice it to say that I feel like this was a really good book, one which I was a bit surprised by, as my previous encounters with Holly Black have been less-than-great. I feel like this book earns a 4.5/5, for being pretty freaking awesome.