Friday, 17 June 2011

White Cat Review

White Cat (Curse Workers 1)
-          Holly Black

Publisher: Gollancz

Cassel is cursed. Cursed by the memory of the fourteen year old girl he murdered. Life at school is a constant trial. Life at home even worse. No-one at home is ever going to forget that Cassel is a killer. No-one at home is ever going to forget that he isn't a magic worker. Cassel's family are one of the big five crime families in America. Ever since magic was prohibited in 1929 magic workers have been driven underground and into crime. And while people still need their touch, their curses, their magical killings, their transformations, times have been hard. His granddad has been driven to drink, his mother is in prison and his brothers detest him as the only one of their family who can't do magic. But there is a secret at the centre of Cassel's family and he's about to inherit it. It's terrifying and that's the truth.

I will admit that it took me a while to get into this book. Set in a world where 1% of the population can work magic or ‘curse’ by touching bare skin, Cassel is an oddity in his family being the only non-worker. Cassel’s family work for a major crime boss with most of them workers of some description. As the baby of the family and only non-worker, he feels very much on the outside looking in. As this is all told in first person and he already knows how his world operates, it takes a while before the reader is up the speed on what this all means in terms of having to wear gloves and how much the general population is scared of workers. However, after the first three chapters I suddenly ‘got it’ and was able to relax and enjoy the ride.

This is part mystery, part romance, part magical adventure with a taste of coming of age thrown in. There is an intriguing new system of magic to learn where workers can manipulate dreams, change memories or influence luck, but there is a price to pay for each working so none of it is consequence free. As Cassel struggles to discover the secrets his family hides and come to terms with his own past, we are given insight into a conflicted teenager, who feels like an outsider both at home and at school. Something that most teens feel at some point and makes Cassel relatable. I loved his complex relationships both with his family and his friends and how they change as the story progresses. I also enjoyed the level of wit in the story. It’s not too snarky but feels believable without being over the top. Well written and captivating, this was a great distraction from everyday life!

Recommended for fans of Neil Gaiman and Richelle Mead. 8 out of 10.   


  1. It does sound really good. I saw that the library is getting ..the one before..or this one.

  2. Wow, your cover is so completely different from the US one. Is that the UK edition? I loved White Cat and the sequel, Red Glove, but like you, it took me a good 75 pages for me to get really sucked into the story.

    FYI, when Holly came to my bookstore to do a reading, she told us that she had a friend put her in the trunk of a car and drive around town so that she could feel what it was like before writing about it. Talk about Method!

  3. What I think is funny for me, is I started to like this book better after I read the second one. I don't know why. Perhaps I just enjoyed the world more. I did enjoy Cassel as you did. Totally agree. Glad you enjoyed this one.

  4. It sounds really good but I really don't like reading in first person. I was sold until that. I'll put it on my list any way. Great review.

  5. I think I've heard others say this one took a little to get into, but those also are the ones that absolutely loved book two. :) I hope you enjoy it. Now I have this one on the shelf here to read, but well, you know the story. ;) Thanks for the great review!