Even though I didn’t really like Holly Black’s fairy books, I decided to give White Cat a try since it’s part of a new series and the premise is pretty interesting. Also, look at the cover of this edition. Isn’t it lovely? I’m not sure if it’s the UK edition but it’s available in trade paperback in Fully Booked for P599.
Here’s the summary from Holly Black’s website:
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.
I liked the worldbuilding in this one – how curse workers can wield their magic with just the touch of a hand. Holly Black created a dark urban fantasy setting and filled up the story with a lot of intrigue. Workers are usually members of the mob and everyone has to wear gloves to avoid getting cursed. Cassel is the only non-worker in his entire family but since he grew up surrounded by con artists, he finds it easy to dupe people. His mom even trained him to con people when he was younger. In his private school, he tries to blend in by staying below the radar and not doing anything to draw attention to himself. Even though he tries to be a regular guy, he can’t help but take advantage of his rich classmates by running a betting ring. His cloak of anonymity comes off when Cassel starts having strange dreams accompanied by sleepwalking.
I enjoyed reading this one more than Holly Black’s fairy books so I recommend this to those who gave up on that other series (I know I did, I didn’t even read the third book). It’s set in a different world but the writing is just as dark and gritty as her other books. I think one of the reasons why I liked this better is because it doesn’t focus on a love story so it has less teenage angst. It focuses more on Cassel and his unusual relationship with his family. Cassel has always felt like an outsider in his family and as he gets more and more clues, he starts to suspect that they’re keeping more from him than normal worker secrets. In a family where each member can manipulate you with the touch of a bare hand, trust is a pretty big issue. The story has a lot of twists and turns and as it progresses, the reader is kept guessing on what’s the truth. While I didn’t find White Cat amazing, I still recommend it to fans of urban fantasy. I have a feeling that other people will like this more than I did.
I love the gloves in this mock advertisement set in White Cat’s world, which I got from here: