White Cat – Holly Black

Release date: 4 May 2010
Goodreads link
Book Depository link
Rating3.5 stars

White Cat (The Curse Workers, #1) blurb:

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 criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn’t got magic, 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.

Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself 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. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to outcon the conmen.

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Super short review today because I am feeling lazy! I have to begin by saying: this was a really different Holly Black book than what I have come to expect since reading all of her Fae books. (And no, I’m not just talking about The Cruel Prince.) This world is completely unique, and being a person who has recorded just shy of 700 books as ‘read’ on Goodreads, that’s pretty amazing.

Let’s talk about my likes first:

  • The Laws of Curse Workers: I really liked the thought that was put into this. While there may be some too-ing and fro-ing around whether curse workers are inherently good or bad, the rules of the how the ‘magic’ works are great – equal amounts of negative to each benefit. That’s good magic world-building there!
  • The Lore of Curse Workers: yup, there’s a bit of a history lesson attached to the story, although I am hoping that we learn slightly more in subsequent books! Also, the family’s skills and backgrounds are pretty cool too!
  • Boarding School setting: yes, for all you school nerds out there, Cassel goes to boarding school. And his roommate is really sweet and kind of funny. And he’s in trouble with the headmaster… pretty frequently!
  • His grandfather is awesome: I mean, the rest of his family leaves a bit to be desired, but his grandfather is pretty cool. He may not always have Cassel’s back – but he’s the best of a bad bunch…

The not-so-good includes:

  • Abusive/neglectful family: I mean, it was written in 2010, so HB was probably ahead of the curveball here… and while it was for plot points, I think it was explained why pretty well (although we’ll likely hear more of mumsy’s tale in latter books). But seriously, I want to punch Cassel’s brothers. A lot.
  • The violence: jeepers! I thought this book was going to borderline the middle-grade reading age… but, um, no. Definitely for ages 14 and up. There’s neglect, physical fighting, physical abuse, torture, guns, murder, and emotional abuse.
  • The romance: I can’t even tell if I like the love interest? Or which one was supposed to BE the love interest? One felt a bit forced, and the other I felt sorry for. I don’t know. I think it was unnecessary.

Quite a few of the plot twists were also fairly predictable (but in saying that, I am probably not the target audience), so don’t expect to be shocked by all the events; however, I think there were one or two that I was surprised by which path the characters chose to wander down.

Look, overall I think this is a good story. It was one of Holly Black’s earlier works, and yes, she has improved since then (but I’d be more concerned if she hadn’t). It has a really interesting premise, and I will definitely be continuing the series (maybe next month?).

For those of you interested in the audiobook, it was narrated by Jesse Eisenberg (yes, he of Lex Luthor fame), and DB says it’s really good!

Thanks to DB’s Guide to the Galaxy for buddy-reading this one with me!

8 thoughts on “White Cat – Holly Black

Add yours

  1. I really love the entire series with my whole heart, although I do agree with the negatives you mentioned, especially with the book(s) being predictable. With the exception of the final book, none of them served me any surprises. I’m pretty sure I rated most, if not all of the books four stars, but somehow by the time I finished the third book I just had so much love for the characters, and of course the world is exceptional. Admittedly, I read it years ago, so who knows what I’d think of it today. Glad you still liked it, and hope you’ll enjoy the rest of the series if/when you read it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Veronika!! Yes, Holly has a way of drawing you in with amazing characters. I remember reading Tithe (not too long ago), and my first impression was “these are good”, and by the end of the trilogy I was sobbing and changing all my ratings to 5 stars! 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It is always interesting to go back and read the first works Meeghan. It makes us realize how they evolved! Excellent “small” review LOL

    Liked by 1 person

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