There is no hard and heavy rule to me liking or disliking a book. It just...happens.
I offer up White Cat as evidence.
Holly Black and I have gone through the same dance I perform with most other authors. I pick up a book by her. I skim through it. I decide it Has Promise and carry it home with me, only to abandon it within the wobbling stack of books already beside my desk. (No, it doesn't look any better than last week.) Due to an impending fine/someone else actually wanting to pay attention to it/an Act of God, I'm forced to give it back to the library. Some days later, I return to said library, notice it and pick it up again.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
In this case, I was especially leery of White Cat because I've only once attained reader nirvana (or something close to it in the middle of a particularly loud and "swinging" wedding reception) with a sample of Black's writing - a piece in which a young Asian girl is forced to barter with an "evil" spirit in order to keep her sister from languishing away painfully due to unrequited love. Good stuff, really. But her faerie series just doesn't do it for me, so I wasn't quite sure if I'd like this any better.
Anyway, this time I decided I was going to sit down and give the first chapter a try - and then I ended up in the second chapter. And the third.
I finished the last chapter, closed the book, and decided I am not going out in public without gloves ever again.
Welcome to Cassel's world. Once you're in, Black makes sure you don't know which way to exit. You just hold on and clamp your eyes shut, and hope that at least by the end, you'll know your first name. This is the type of book that makes me want to write, simply to hit the same amount of sheer awesome on my own personal scale. Just so you know how quickly it hooked me.
So, forget my dramatics for a moment. Let's talk about Cassel. He's the type of guy who sits back and watches, observes, cases the joint before he makes a move. He's got a dead best friend (who he has vague memories of murdering, but has no idea how or why), two big brothers that pretty much treat him as a disposable pawn in an endless chess game for power, and a evilly crazy...or is that crazy evil...mom in jail. Also, he's not a Worker - in a world where people can crush your mind, break your bones and make you fall madly in love with an angel-faced sinner...all with the touch of a bare finger.
And he's having dreams about a haunting white cat, a cat that bites out his tongue, scratches at him and speaks in a familiar voice. Telling him things about himself that he's quite sure isn't true.
The supporting cast is as much a focus as Cassel himself. This book gives us a mafia world that Gabrielle Zevin only scratched upon within the pages of All These Things I've Done (which I relatively enjoyed - for me, but not as much as this). Everyone acts within character, you get what I mean? There's not a moment where the reader feels thrown off and goes, "Wait a minute. That type of person wouldn't do that."
Let me tell you...up until I read this book, I wouldn't be sure that an author could throw together mafia families, hereditary talents and hints of old fairytales together and get away with it (at least without sounding completely nutso and pretentious), but Black does it perfectly. There is hardly a hitch in the thread of the story. The story starts with a bang, but it doesn't go out with a whimper.
This is complete mind-bending storytelling at its best.
I'm not sure how many times I can say that without sounding completely nutso and pretentious myself.
One of the main bones I had to pick (and this is rather minor) was White Cat's category. In the inside of the book, it's classified as "Science Fiction". Mr. Scott Westerfield blurbed the back cover. That was enough to make me anticipate genetic engineering, mad inventions and lab-tech hijinks of all sort. What I did get, though, was something more along the lines of a world with a bit of fantasy within its ordinary foundation - special abilities, prophetic dreams.
Not the same thing, people.
Unless there's something I missed. It does happen, you know.
The only other thing is the unhappy ending. For Cassel, at least. Well, maybe it's not an unhappy ending for him as much as for me, because I'm all true love perseveres and the evil witch falls off a tower and happy-happy credits rolling as we exit the movie theater. Holly Black seems to function more realistically - the hero doesn't always get everything he wants. It happens. I know it does. But if you're expecting for everything to magically fall into place and for you to close the book with a satisfying sigh and a hand clutched to your heart with sheer joy and faith in humanity...please don't.
On the bright side, there are two more books to carve through, so I'm not completely writing the poor boy off. Authors can be merciful.
The plot. God, I could wax poetic on it for days and not give it full justice. This is the type of book I want to be able to write.
It took me a good 100 pages to get into this book. Now, mobster-like stories aren't exactly my thing, but after hearing so many good things about the TITHE series, I had to give this book a shot. I could tell immediately that the writing was great. It is told in the present tense with great description and detail. The plot just didn't excite me much. I pushed this book to the side several times but then I told my self, "Hey, you have to read this." So I pushed through the rough parts and was pleasantly surprised.
This book really picks up and gets exciting towards the middle. By that point all the questions you have about 'workers' are pretty much answered. This book has so many unexpected twists. Right when you think that you know what is going on, what do you know, you really don't know what is going on. There are betrayals and deceit beyond what anybody could even fathom.
This book doesn't have a tremendous amount of romance but it has just the right amount to not subtract from the action and make the romance-lovers like myself pleased.
Holly Black obviously knows how to weave clever worlds and words that are so natural they could be real. There are a lot of instances, I've discovered, where withholding information from the reader does not work when it comes to suspense, but Holly Black does an excellent job with that. I found myself munching on my nails and wondering how in the world Cassel was going to get him out of certain situations. Cassel does some things that don't seem to make sense at the time, but then are later explained and I thought, "Ahhh. Clever boy."
I ended up staying up until 3 AM finishing this gripping tale and longing for the sequel.
The Premise. Holly Black has created a world where you cannot trust anybody, really, not even yourself. A world where it is easy to doubt who you really are as a person even when you think you know yourself inside and out. A world where not even your memories are your own. A world where absolutely nothing is as it seems.
The protagonist. I've always loved male protagonists because they have a darker and seemingly more realistic outlook on life. Cassel can't ever seem to keep his mouth closed even when he knows he needs to. He's clever and determined. He is a character very easy to sympathize with when you discover what he thinks he's done, what he really has done, and what he is going to do. I felt myself aching for the boy every step of the way.
The cons. They were clever, necessary, and amusing.
Everything is not what is seems in Holly Blacks Curse Worker world
so you better watch your back because the cons are artfully cunning and
the characters are devilishly tricky.
So lets start
with a little summary of the world Holly has created. From what I
understood the curse worker world is just like ours except that some
people are born with special ability to work magic through their hands
and in one specifically mentions case through their feet after his hands
were cut off. It is not only customary to where gloves when out in
public but also completely and absolutely necessary in order to have a
peaceful society. Well as peaceful as possible considering this world is
full of magical beings and con artist who are always looking for a
mark. Since working magic is illegal most or all curse workers are
connected to one of the six mobster style families one way are another.
The six family names are Nonomura , Goldbloom, Volpe, Rice, Brennan (I
think this is an inside joke between Sara Rees Brennan and Holly since
in Saras book The Demons Lexicon one of her character is named Black
Arthur. I could be reading too much into and it could all be a
coincidence but it was fun to think about) , and the family that Cassel
is connected to the Zachorov.
In the Curse Worker
world , from what I can recall there are about seven kind of workers.
The luck worker (one who can bring good luck), death worker (can kill
with one touch) , body worker (do physical harm to a person with very
little effort) , memory worker (can change, erase or add memories),
dream worker (can enter and control your dreams), emotion worker (can
make you feel specific emotions) and the most unique, transformation
worker (one who can transform any object to another).
Sharpe is the main character and the book is written in his POV. He was
the only person with any kind of sympathy, guilt, or remorse in his
family and Im really glad I got to see this world through is eyes. He
is the youngest of three brothers and has always felt like an outsider
since she is the only one in the family who doesnt have any magic
ability. Philip is the oldest but certainly not the slyest of the
brothers. He is in a dysfunctional marriage to Maura and they have a
young son together. It seems like he truly tries to keep his family safe
and together after their fathers death but when you are in the mob
there is no real way to keep anyone safe. He is Anton's (Zachorovs
nephew) best friend and is considered an asset to the Zachorov family
because he is a physical worker. Barron is the middle brother and is
closest to Cassel. He also works for the Zachorov family and is a luck
worker. Shandra is Cassels mother and she is a emotional worker. She is
in jail for seducing a wealthy man and making him feel as if he was in
love with her. Philip is Cassel's dad. We don't find out much about him
other that he's either dead or disappeared. I have a suspicion we will
see him in the up coming books. Grandpa Desi is a death worker and he
too works for the Zachorov family. Cassel ends up living with him for a
little while after he gets kicked out of school. Lila (Lillian) is
Cassels best friend and love interest. She is also the daughter and
heir to the Zachorov family. She is a worker but Im not going to tell
what kind. You will have to find that out all on your own.
I liked about the book is that is always has you guessing. Its never
boring, well written and pretty easy to follow. I found the curse worker
world fascinating with tons of possibility. The Con as a way of means
to an end is a very interesting concept that. One that I myself do not
have the brains for and hope that I have never fell victim to.
I didnt like about the book is how short it was. I didnt want it to
end and I was left with so many question. The fact that Cassel doesnt
get his revenge in this book really sucked. I'm really hoping those who
did him wrong will get their dues in the next books. And the biggest
disappointment was that there was not enough romance. Yes, there were
two beautiful women in Cassels life but one seemed confused and distant
and the other indecisive and cruel. I wish he had someone to help him
through this time in his life. I know this book is not meant to be a
romance novel but I was still hoping for a little more luvin in the poor
Overall White Cat was an addicting and
intriguing ride and the Curse Worker world is unique and mesmerizing. A
world that I cant wait to read more of.