Thursday, January 14, 2016

White Cat by Holly Black

Cassel is a con artist. He learned from the best, but his family has the added benefit of abilities known as curse work. Unfortunately for Cassel, he isn't so lucky. He has to rely on his wit and charm alone to get by. 

When a bad case of sleepwalking forces his boarding school to kick him out (temporarily) as a potential suicide risk, Cassel has to return to the one place he'd hoped he'd never have to go back to: his childhood home. The home holds nothing but bad memories, including the time Cassel accidentally killed his best friend. 

That's right, Cassel killed his best friend. The daughter of a local mafia boss, the very same boss who employed Cassel's grandfather and now Cassel's brother. The official story is that the girl disappeared, but Cassel knows the truth. Or at least he thought he did. The dream responsible for his sleepwalking was only the start, and the dead girl plays a big role in the now recurring nightmares plaguing him. It's almost as thought she's trying to tell Cassel something...

To dive into this particular series from Holly Black meant, at least for me, a certain amount of confusion at the start. It's one of those dropped in the middle stories where the world is slowly revealed to the reader as the tale unfolds. But it is a bit of an intricate world, one in which certain people are born with abilities that are illegal. Abilities that land people like Cassel's mother in jail. Abilities crime bosses, like the boss who employs Cassel's brother, are more than willing to take advantage of. And it's a little confusing until all of the details are explained.

People in Cassel's world can be tested early on to find out if they have such abilities, which is why Cassel knows he's the only unfortunate soul in his family not to have them. People also wear gloves as a habit and fear the touch of those around them - one touch can mean having your memory wiped, being manipulated in some way, or even death.

It's actually a really cool world blended with a Godfather-like mafioso plot line and a little bit of a mystery as well. And it worked for me all the way through to the end. Which is not to say that the end didn't work, but it came a bit too quick and clean for my taste. An ending wrapped up in a nice, neat bow but for the lead in to the second title. I'd have appreciated a little more complication, a little more grit, just based on the way the rest of the book played out. Nice and neat isn't a deal breaker for me. Most of the book, once the world became clear, was pretty great so I think I can comfortably forgive it. I am intrigued by where the series will go next, and am looking forward to starting Red Glove very soon.

White Cat originally released in 2010 and is followed by Red Glove and Black Heart. Saga Press has very recently released brand new editions of the series titles (the cover included here is the new reprint edition).

Rating: 3/5

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