Monday, July 16, 2012

Review: White Cat by Holly Black

White Cat (The Curse Workers #1)
By Holly Black
Margaret K. McElderry Books

To Sum It Up: Cassel Sharpe doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of his family. Unlike them, he’s not a curse worker; he can’t influence emotions or luck simply by touching someone with his hand. Cassel’s life is anything but ordinary, though. He killed his best friend, Lila Zacharov, the daughter of a powerful crime boss, and can’t recall any of the details. Lately Cassel finds himself sleepwalking and dreaming of a white cat. As he tries to discover why these things are happening to him, Cassel must confront the possibility that his memories have been tampered with, giving him yet another mystery to solve.

Review: White Cat puts a novel spin on magic, or curse work, as it’s called in the book. Curse work is illegal, so those who perform it, including Cassel’s mother, brothers, and grandfather, are criminals. A lack of magical ability doesn’t mean that Cassel is the angel in the family, though; he’s got a little betting operation going on at his tony boarding school and is quite skilled at conning people in general. Watching Cassel wing his way out of a sticky situation can be pretty amusing. I really liked his narrative voice; it was my favorite aspect of the book.

Cassel also has a vulnerable side. At heart, he struggles with being the anomaly in his family. He’s always sought the approval of his older brothers, Philip and Barron, but he’s never really been a part of their little club. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Cassel, especially as the book went on.

I loved Cassel’s grandfather, Desi. He doesn’t mince words, so his comments are often hilarious. He’s the only family member who appears to genuinely care about Cassel, and Cassel really needs someone in his corner. Cassel’s friend, Sam, also seems to be one of the few people whom Cassel can trust. I liked Sam, too; I thought that he and Cassel made a pretty good team.

The world of this book confused me a little. For a while I couldn’t figure out if curse workers were common among the population or not. I also wasn’t sure if Cassel’s school was for non-magical students who knew nothing about the existence of magic. At first I thought that he was at Wallingford to try to fit in with the “regular” kids. There were a few references to characters at the school wearing gloves, though, so I assumed that curse work wasn’t a secret. I felt like I had to work a bit too hard to piece this world together, and it took away from my enjoyment of the story somewhat.

White Cat is notable for its fresh twist on magical abilities and its strong male protagonist. Although he’s not exactly your archetypal hero, Cassel possesses a certain charm that makes you root for him. Shady characters abound, making this a fun, entertaining read.

All in All: This is definitely worth a read if you’re interested in seeing magic crossed with the world of organized crime. I’ve already borrowed the second and third books from the library; they’re just waiting to be read.


  1. I surprisingly enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. I listened to it on audio and it was pretty good. Unfortunately, my library doesn't have the next two on audio yet. Also, I tagged you for an award!

    1. I've actually read all three books in the series now, and I thought that it got better as it went along.


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