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Review: White Cat

White Cat by Holly Black is the first book in The Curse Workers series. It was released in hardcover, eBook and audio formats on May 4, 2010 and it will be available in paperback format on February 8, 2011 in the U.S.

It is currently available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as from other online booksellers and in stores. Published by Margaret K. McElderry, the hardcover is 320 pages.

Goodreads description:

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.

It all started with a dream of a white cat. The cat that led me up onto the roof at Wallingford, the boarding school that I attend. A roof that I woke up on needing rescue where I had apparently sleepwalked following that darn cat.

Actually, no. It started with a murder. One that happened years ago. My best friend Lila was killed when I was fourteen. She was the daughter of the head of the Zacharov family. A family that controlled everything and had death workers, like my grandfather, on their payroll. She was also my brother’s girlfriend.

Oh, yeah. And did I forget to mention it? I was the one who killed her.

My name is Cassel Sharpe and I am the only non curse worker in a family of workers. My mother, an emotional worker – one who by a simple touch can alter anyone’s emotions – taught me early on how pull a con. And I thought I was pretty good at it.

I had a nice thing going at school. I managed to stay out of too much trouble while earning money as a bookie. But once I was caught sleepwalking it all fell apart. Wallingford was not too keen on betting on the odds that I wouldn’t sleepwalk again and injure myself in the process. And so for the time being I was O.U.T.

Why did I start sleepwalking again? And what exactly was that white cat trying to tell me in the dream? Was I cursed?

Ahhh…if it weren’t for that white cat. But, you know what they say, once the genie is out of the bottle…

***

White Cat is such an incredibly creative and utterly unique story. The whole premise of the curse workers being these magical and yet feared people that are aligned with criminals and con artists gives this story a dark undercurrent. And the political element adds another dimension that will likely continue in future books.

Author Holly Black is such an inventive writer. She has once again created a world that mimics reality with just a few tweaks. Instead of faeries we now have these characters who, with just the slightest touch of their finger, can bring luck, erase memory, transform or even kill. But not without consequence.

In White Cat we follow Cassel Sharpe as he tries to figure out why he has begun sleepwalking again and what his dreams are trying to tell him. And when moving back into the house his parents used to live in only creates more questions, Cassel must use what skills he has for the con in order to get answers and get his life back.

Cassel Sharpe is very likable, off-beat enough to be interesting, flawed enough to be relatable and sweet, but sarcastic enough to be a very appealing character.

This story is a must read for, well, everyone. It has mystery, backstabbing, plotting, secrets, betrayals and a little bit of love.

Reviewer gives this book [rating=6] Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.

On a personal note:

I am a huge fan of Holly Black’s writing, so my opinion may be slightly skewed in her favor. But, even if I hadn’t known that she was the author I would have loved this book. It is probably the coolest, twistiest story I’ve read. In fact, I loved it so much that I actually had a difficult time writing this review. It was one of those “reviewer feeling too daunted to write something that will do the story justice” moments.

I could have blathered on endlessly and accidentally revealed the entire plot, which not be good at all.

So, I can’t say too much here without revealing key details for the story. But I can say that I was rooting for Cassel the entire book, always believing in him and hoping everything would work out as it should. I will also say, “I knew it!” (No, I won’t say what I knew, but I did know it!)

I am so super excited about reading Red Glove. It’s not a typical cliffhanger-type ending, but there are so many directions this story can go and I, for one, cannot wait to find out.

How I “discovered” this book:

White Cat is a “Just Discovered” just got a chance to read book.

I bought this book a couple months after release date, right around the time I finished reading the author’s Tithe, Valiant and Ironside series. (And yes, I read the series out of sequence! Those of you who have read the series will know why.) I’ve been hoping to hold off reading this book until right before release of Red Glove so I don’t have any waiting time in between and I can just go from one book to the next, but as there is so much talk about book two, I caved.

I had to know what happened, even if it means I’ll have to re-read it in April just before Red Glove‘s release to have it fresh in my mind. Regardless, re-reading anything by Holly Black is never a bad thing.

***

An excerpt of chapter one of White Cat is available to read on the author’s website.

The second book in the series, Red Glove, comes out in hardcover and eBook formats on April 5, 2011 and it is currently available for pre-order in both formats from Amazon and as a hardcover from Barnes & Noble.

Check out Holly Black’s blog on LiveJournal for a few excerpt teasers from Red Glove.

Book trailer for White Cat:

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