Sunday, September 25, 2011

White Cat (Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black: review

Goodreads rating: 3.96
Paperback, 310 pages
Published February 8th 2011 by McElderry (first published January 1st 2010)
1416963979 (ISBN13: 9781416963974)
Literary awards
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.

To be honest, I couldn't really get into this one. I felt so detached and I wondered why the author was being so vague. Coincidentally, I went to a book signing in Santa Monica with Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (as a side note: best book signing EVER!!), and Holly explained that as a Noir book, the main character has a crime/mob boss mentality, and so he doesn't often show his emotions. Be that as it may, that wasn't really my problem with this one. He showed his emotions just fine; especially around a certain girl character (if I tell you, it'll ruin everything).
But I just couldn't visualize myself in the places in this story except for the house he grew up in, which was the only place that involved enough detail where I could picture it. I guess his parents were hoarders, and he's helping his Grandad clean it up. Which takes up the whole first half of the story. I was so extremely bored. It's funny because I was thinking this all has to be a set-up for some big thing. And admittedly there were some twists, but I felt like the character was so indifferent that my heart wasn't in it, and so when it came to the climax I was like: really? I wasted my time on the first half for this??? It was a good ending though; really, it was. I made a lot of sense in the plot and it was a page turner. But the beginning just killed it. 
As a side note, this is my first Holly Black book, so I have no idea if her writing is any better or if this is it. Do you have any opinions? I'm hoping Red Glove (the sequel to this which I just featured in my last IMM) will surpass this first one. At the end I was wondering: where can the story go from here?

Well since this book is so wrought with said spoilers, I suppose I'll delve into the big ones.

1) Lila: Hmm, not so big surprise. The white cat (the one on the cover with someone I can so NOT see Cassel being) is in fact Lila, Cassel's childhood friend who he thought he killed maliciously and was happy about it afterward. He thinks he's a monster, but in the end he changes her back. And his two brothers knew the whole time that she hadn't died - they'd kept her locked up in a cage for God's sake - and they let Cassel beat himself up about it. There will be many more examples of the two brothers not acting much like family. I really liked Lila's spunky personality though, and I liked where her and Cassel were going...

2) Speaking of Cassel: He always thought he was the only non-worker in a family of worker's (not really up for explaining what a worker is, but if you're reading this part hopefully you've already read the book and therefore I need no further explanation). Then he finds out that he's changer or a shifter or something like that. Now here's why Lila comes back in. When his brothers ordered Cassel to kill Lila for Anton (check #3), he does it because he's sort of under their spell so to speak. He knows something's up when he starts talking to one of his brother's wife, realizes she's being worked and thinks he may be too. Skipping past everything, he finds out he's worker, takes a small revenge on his brothers and gets the girl. Except, oops, mommy who just got out of jail worked her and now she loves him because the mom charmed her. Yeah, thanks mom! Not the brothers are any better...

3)Philip (a completely normal name) and Barron (all I can think of his Nearly Headless Nick from Harry Potter): So originally we're led to think that Philip is the only bad brother because he's working his wife Maura to basically stay with him and forget everything, and doing something to Cassel thought we're not sure what. But then we find out that Barron is the real betrayer, taking Cassel's memories (and incidentally the blowback takes away some of his; if that's not ironic I don't know what is). They need to do this because they're getting him to basically be a murderer. He can change humans into anything (and that includes non-living), and apparently once you've gone inanimate you can never go back. And then Barron makes him forget he ever did it. He got them at their own game though. Once Cassel figured something was afoot, he cut his skin open (eck) and sowed 3 stone thingy's that are supposed to protect him from being worked, and finds out their using him to kill Zacharov (Lila's father, big crime boss, yadda yadda). So he turns it on them. One thing I thought was brilliant is that Barron writes stuff down in journals so he doesn't forget, and Cassel re-wrote the journals so that he has different memories and would think that him and Philip and Barron were banded together against Anton (even though he was the one that hired them to come up with the plan to kill Zacharov, his uncle, so that he can be in charge).

Okay, I honestly don't see where it can go from here, except for the "thing" between Lila and Cassel. I feel like the bad guy's gone, learned his lesson, whatever. I just wonder how the sequel is going to be any more exciting.


  1. buuuu... This is one of the books I give 5 stars. IT is one of my favourite series. TOo bad it wasnt for you =(

    But let me tell you that Red Globe is even better XD> You may enjoy that one more ;)

    happy reading my dear =)

  2. i don't know I just couldn't get into it... I'm glad Red Glove is going to be better, that at least give me some hope


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