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White Cat
White Cat by Holly Black
by Holly Black

Cassal is the oddity in his family of curse workers.  Everyone in his family except Cassal has the power to work curses to change emotions, memories, and luck.  Curse work is illegal, however, so just by their very nature, curse workers are criminals, mobsters and con artists.  Cassal is basically the good kid in a crazy family except that he killed his best friend Lila 3 years ago.  Now, nightmares about a white cat trigger an episode of sleepwalking.  His school can't take the risk.  Cassal needs to figure out a way to get back into school.  When he returns to his family, things he thought he knew seem at odds with the discrepancies he begins to notice.  Can he figure out the mystery of the white cat?  To unravel the mystery, Cassal will have to outcon the conmen.

Holly Black's WHITE CAT, the first in The Curse Workers series, is an intriguing entry into a new dark magical urban fantasy series.  Cassal's voice adds humor and spunk to the first person narration.  Seeing the world, especially the world of his family, through Cassal's eyes helps a reader enter into the spirit of the strange world while also being distant enough from it to see the humor in the reversal of everyday norms.  Cassal's tough exterior masks a sweetness.  Despite the criminal nature of his family, Cassal longs for the many of the same things most people do, such as acceptance by one's family.  He is the outsider wanting to fit into the group even though he has a certain skepticism about that world.  Scenes of mouse torture in the context of a betting pool, even though brief, might disturb readers.  Holly Black does balance this with Cassal's caring actions towards the cat, but this reader did feel troubled by the animal abuse, even that of a mouse, especially given the connections now being made between animal abuse in youth and later crimes.  Likewise, the details of the initiation of one crime family disturbed, but actually less than the mouse scene, because Holly Black ties this detail to memory and a crucial moment in the text that reveals Cassal's determination to hold onto his identity and the truth.  Throughout the book, Holly Black does an excellent job at following earlier threads and interweaving together the various threads.

WHITE CAT creates a fascinating world for her new series.  Cassal is a lovable albeit mischievous guy.  One can't help but root for him.  He is the perfect mixture between cut-up wise guy and sweetness.  Hopefully, Holly Black will develop some of the more fascinating ideas introduced in this book, such as the history of the political decisions against curse workers, as the series develops.  The ending was bit sweet for my taste although it provides a good balance to the darker world surrounding Cassal.   Despite the couple of discomforts mentioned above, Holly Black's WHITE CAT was a wonderfully imaginative fantasy adventure. Humorous and smart, Cassal has a way of reaching one's heart.

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (May 4, 2010)
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Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
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