by Holly Black
Original Publication Date: May 4, 2010
Length: 320 pages
Obtained Via: Borrowed from library
Format Read In: audiobook
1st in trilogy
View at the Traffic light:
Cassel comes from a shady, magical family of con artists and grifters. He doesn’t fit in at home or at school, so he’s used to feeling like an outsider. He’s also used to feeling guilty; he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago.
But when Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat, and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila. In his search for answers, he discovers a wicked plot for power that seems certain to succeed. But Cassel has other ideas and a plan to con the conmen.
Well, this was lovely. And by “lovely” I mean “full of betrayal, secrets, danger, cons, and adventures”. White Cat, while outside a genre I typically read(urban fantasy), was a great book. White Cat takes place in a world that seems mostly just like the normal universe–except for the addition of curse workers. There are all different kinds of workers, and it’s something that you’re either born with or your not. There’s luck workers, death workers, love workers, memory workers, etc. Black really takes this idea and runs with it, tying it into the world via history. There are all sorts of laws and mandates against curse workers using their magic, though of course it doesn’t stop most of them. Since curses are worked via touch, everyone wears gloves, but other than that it’s a pretty normal world.
Cassel is an awesome main character–he’s also a bit of an unreliable one, because the lines between his dreams/reality/memories are becoming blurred quickly, and he realizes that early on. He does his best to ward against it, but in a world full of magic with people who can take your memory from you, there’s only so much he can do. Sometimes when books use this type of plot device, I find it tiring and just meant to create suspense for the reader(like in The Maze Runner), but in White Cat it works so well because there’s a definite in-universe example of why Cassel might have trouble remembering certain bits of his life.
This book starts with Cassel of a roof edge, wondering how he got there, and then finding himself temporarily suspended from his school for mental health-related reasons. From there, Cassel starts putting the pieces together and realizes something really isn’t right here. I won’t go too much into the plot because it’s better the kind of thing you discover for yourself, but it’s filled with magic, lies, and most importantly–con men.
White Cat relies a lot on cons and trickery to work, and it does so well. I think this is really to the book’s advantage because if it had focused on JUST the magic system it could have easily fell flat. The way curses work is interesting, but not terribly original. The addition of deceit and crime families, though? It totally took the book to the next level, especially playing on the way Cassel and his brothers interacted with the descendants of the most powerful crime family.
The pacing in White Cat was spot-on. I was thrown right into the story and never wanted to surface. I listened to the audiobook, which just made everything better. It’s narrated by Jesse Eisenberg, who does a fantastic job with Cassel’s voice. Cassel is a bit of a dry and sarcastic character, so it fits really well. I was hooked until the beginning chapter, and there wasn’t a time I was ever disappointed in how the story was going. The latter half of the book especially made good use of side characters and deception.
White Cat was a really great read, especially for being a book outside of my usual go-to genres. The narration was fantastic and I think it made a BIG difference in how much I liked Cassel’s voice by the end. Definitely a good read for fans of books with magic & deception. 4/5 cupcakes.