Monday, July 04, 2011

The con it comes on little cat feet...

A little late in posting this thanks to the joy of Independence...and a day off. Hope you're having a lovely day!

White Cat (Curse Workers Book #1) by Holly Black:

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.

Summary from GoodReads.

Imagine a world where some had dab hands – some magic ability transferred through touch. Now imagine that these Curse Workers were feared, leading to the general population to wear gloves for protection and for the workers themselves to have no other recourse but the Mob to get by. Now imagine that’s happening here. Now. How would you get if you had the touch? How would you survive if you were the only person in your family who didn’t?

As the only non-curse worker, in a family celebrated for its generations of powers, cons, and mob connections, Cassel Sharpe is anything but a made man. However he did inherit some of his family’s more peculiar mental problems – surely that’s why he killed his best friend, Lila, in his basement in a rage he doesn’t remember – which makes it hard to stay in the family home. In desperation, he cons his way into a private school and some semblance of a normal life, only to be dragged back into the family. Of course, the sleepwalking incident that resulted in him clinging to the dorm roof in his boxers didn’t help matters.

Hey, at least he had some clothing on.

With a white cat haunting his dreams and his family in full scheming mode, Cassel will have to work to stay ahead everyone else to figure out if he’s really going crazy, and what really happened to Lila.

Normal never seemed so far away.

I have a deep love for con artists, and Cassel is definitely one for the books. Not only does have to deal with the typical high school identity problems along with trying to fit in, but he’s got the mob, a possible murder and his mother to cope with as well.* He deals with it all with a hard-boiled, but wry narrative. Cassel knows he’s being conned, but he’s also trying to con us into not noticing that underneath all that sarcasm is someone who just wants to love and trust. Unfortunately love and trust are not synonymous with con men and mobsters.

I enjoyed Cassel’s adventures in this book so much that I immediately went and checked out the second book in the series, Red Glove (review coming soon). Sure in the first book, the mystery wasn’t much as a who done it as a why is it being done, but the characters and their interactions made up for it. It’s killing me that the third novel, Black Heart, will not be out until April 2012. This is one paranormal YA series that I can see myself fan-girling. Cassel’s narrative never falters, and the cast of supporting characters (especially his mother) remain just as well defined long after you’ve finished. Additionally, Cassel’s story and the plight of his friends/family have threads that are easily discernable in our own world.

Recommended for lovers of the con, smart asses, wise guys, reluctant male readers, and anyone who enjoys a good story.

You can purchase White Cat from these fine retailers: Powells, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Your Local Indie, or you can pick it up at your local library.

Book Source: I borrowed my copy from the lovely Rosey of Rosey’s Reviews, but I will be buying my own.

*Paging Joan Crawford.

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