White Cat – Dark and Delightful

White Cat by Holly Black

Curse working is illegal because it can so easily be misused and disguised.  Curse workers are able to change your memories, give you good or bad luck, change your emotions, and even change you into something else.  Cassel comes from a family of curse workers who continue to use their gifts illegally.  His mother is currently in prison because she worked someone’s emotions.  His brothers work for one of the crime bosses.  Cassel has deliberately created a life separate from his family.  But he can’t run from the fact that he killed his best friend a few years ago.  Cassel can’t do curse work but that doesn’t stop him from pulling a con.  At his private boarding school, he is a bookie for all sorts of bets.  But things start to fall apart when Cassel wakes up on the roof and can only remember following a white cat in his dreams.  The school sends him home and requires him to see a doctor before he returns.  As Cassel tries to find a way to game the system and return to school, more odd things start to happen, leading Cassel to figure out exactly what his mobster family has been up to. 

Holly Black has created a great mashup of mobsters and fantasy.  In this compelling novel, she has given us a clever and twisted world that is well-built and completely brought to life.  A large piece of her success is her protagonist.  Cassel is charming, intelligent and easily cons readers into liking him.  Thanks to being an outsider in the crime world, he is a great way to introduce readers to this skewed and amazing world that Black has created.  Equally successful is Black’s pacing and story.  The action sequences are inventive and taut, they are contrasted effectively with the slower, subtler moments of the novel.  It is beautifully constructed. 

A crime spree of a novel, this book will have readers clamoring for the second one in the Curse Workers series as soon as they finish the first.  Don’t handle this one with kid gloves!  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

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