It’s not the kind of pairing you’d expect … but White Cat by Holly Black is a thrilling read that combines a delightful dose of The Godfather with a heaping helping of magic. Not only is it a winning combination, but it’s one that’s totally up my alley. (True confessions: I have a long-standing love affair with The Godfather movies. Yes, even the third one.)
White Cat tells the story of Cassel Sharpe, a young man who comes from a family of so-called Curse Workers. They work magic with the simple touch of a hand — and that’s why everyone wears gloves, out of fear of being cursed by an unknown Curse Worker. Oh, and Curse Working is illegal — so Cassel’s family are all mobsters. Con men. Of course, Cassel just so happens to be the only non-Worker in his family. But he’s not the “good kid” in a bad family. He also killed his best friend (and childhood crush) Lila three years earlier.
But after waking up on the roof of his school dorm — and not sure how he got there — Cassel begins to suspect something isn’t quite right. And then there’s the mysterious white cat that keeps showing up. Pretty soon, Cassel is convinced that all is not as it seems.
What’s so great about White Cat is that it keeps you turning the pages with a very cinematic pacing. The story develops quickly and flows smoothly, even as the mystery deepens. You eagerly embark on this journey with Cassel — even happily watching as he works a good con, proving that even as a non-Curse Worker, he’s got the same mobster skills as the rest of his family. It doesn’t matter that he’s doing something illegal (or at least questionable); you want to see him succeed.
One of the things I loved most about White Cat is that it is 100% completely original — and completely different from anything else I’ve ever read, and that’s an extremely refreshing surprise. As I mentioned, I’m a sucker for The Godfather and so I was hooked just by the mobster connections in the story. But the book goes beyond that. It’s about, oddly enough, family — and the choices we make to protect the ones we love, however misguided some of those choices may be … and how, even amongst criminals, family still comes first.
Cassel is one of those intriguing, ever-mysterious bad boys trying to be good. (Or maybe he’s a good boy trying to be bad?) He’s got some of the quirks I loved about Patch in Hush, Hush and Jace in The Mortal Instruments series. And yet, Cassel is so much more. He’s smart and cunning, and yet he’s still learning what it means to have friends and to trust people. He’s learning about love and murder and loyalty. He’s still not fully developed, and it’s fun to watch his journey of self-discovery throughout the novel, in an almost coming-of-age type sense.
Perhaps what is most unique about White Cat amongst a sea of supernaturally-based Young Adult lit is the lack of romance. Okay, true, it’s not gone completely. But the tiny amount of romance that is part of the story is so peripheral, you almost don’t notice it — and in this case, that’s a really good thing. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good romantic plot line. But I’m also a sucker for action, thrills and, yes, mafia movies. It’s nice to see in White Cat that the story is not about a romance; it’s about Cassel and the mystery he unravels about himself, his past and his family. And while there is a romance, it takes a definite back seat to the rest of the plot.
I was on the figurative “edge of my seat” the whole time while reading White Cat, right up until the last page left me gasping (literally) with shock. I’m delighted that this is merely the first book in Holly’s new series, The Curse Workers and I’m eagerly looking forward to what comes in future additions.
White Cat is in stores on Tuesday, May 4th.
To learn more about White Cat and The Curse Workers, check out these links:
Here is the awesome White Cat book trailer by our friend Vania at VLC Productions, followed by the official summary:
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.