02 December 2010

Mobs & Curses & Cons, Oh My!

White Cat

Holly Black

5 Stars

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.(quoted from goodreads)

First Sentence:
"I wake up barefoot, standing on cold slate tiles."

This book is evidence that Holly Black is a master of the con. Seriously. I cannot count how many times this book tricked, shocked, and twisted. It is a thing of beauty to read a book so suspenseful and mysterious that you get to the end of it and go, "I cannot believe what just happened. I must reread it now!" and then promptly be conned again by the beautiful writing and subtle intricacies and lifelike characters. Obviously, I loved this book! First of all, it was the unique world that drew me in. It was like nothing I'd ever heard of before - curse workers, people who could force us to love someone we hated or break our leg instantly, just with a single touch. But these workers aren't all-powerful because a) curse-working is illegal and b) they suffer 'blowback' every time they work somebody. Hooked yet? But once I got past  my fascination with the world, it was the characters that I really loved. Each and every one of them was realistic and relatable. Cassel felt like someone who I could perfectly understand, despite his many conflicts and struggles. I really appreciated how difficult it must be for him - having a criminal family but trying to stay normal, hating the working but being enticed by the beauty of a perfect heist or the exhilarating success of a con, despising himself for killing Lila but not being able to move on. The smaller characters were also well-developed and made me feel like I knew them, too. Then, there was the plot itself. Beautifully done. Truly a complex story that gives all sorts of twists and turns, while managing to never be confusing or muddled. It definitely plays some intricate tricks on both your mind and Cassel's. The quality of Holly Black's writing is such that it just draws you into her dark, humorous, and unexpected world to such an extent that you feel it could be your world, that you live and dream in it yourself. And finally, after raving about the premise and characters and plot and gorgeous writing, I have one more thing to gush about - the real-world issues. I adored the way this book didn't just take off on a high-fantasy roller coaster ride, ignoring the laws and ideas of the real world. No, this book faced those issues head-on; one of the important points of the novel is how the government is trying to get curse workers identified (remember, curse working is illegal) and new tests that scientists have developed to determine if you are a worker or not. Another thing that comes up is students banding together and protesting for equal rights for curse workers. Holly Black also doesn't shy away from using the mild racial humor that all real teens use, like having an Asian character say that he'll understand the complicated betting ring Cassel has set up because " 'we Asians are all math geniuses' ". The feel of this book is so real and gritty and has a sort of dark, tongue-in-cheek humor about it - it's absolutely heartwrenching (especially the end!) and mysterious and gorgeous. Definitely one you should pick up! The second book, Red Glove, comes out on April 5, 2011 - cover here.

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